When I was growing up, we had two channels on TV that supplied us with news, the radio and the papers. We heard about the Miner’s strike, we saw public campaigns about the spread of Aids, but very little about Nelson Mandela, until a few years later; I remember the shooting of John Lennon, the Falklands war, but not four would be attackers being shot in a New York subway by Bernhard Goetz or countless other similar incidents. This week, I watched my kids become aware of the terrible atrocities in Las Vegas, discuss the awful stabbings in Marseille and the clashes that occurred in Catalonia. It struck me how small the world is for them but also how the news is now worldwide, graphic, up to the minute and in such huge quantity and detail it can be utterly terrifying and overwhelming, and in fact I was asked that very question ‘how can we prevent ourselves from being overwhelmed by global atrocities?’.
It really made me think, my natural instinct is to change my behaviour, be less adventurous, travel less, not put myself in any position that could potentially be risky but is that really the answer? It reminded me of when I travelled to South America and we were on a boat with two Americans sailing around the Galapagos, when they realised where we came from they expressed how much they would love to go to the UK but it was far too dangerous (the IRA had recently bombed the Arndale Centre in Manchester) that they daren’t. We asked them where they wanted to go and they said Scotland. To us this seemed ridiculous as Scotland was miles away, but to them the UK was a tiny Island compared to the States and so the risk to travel there was far too high. On reflection now, it seemed to me that in many ways the world can seem as though it is now the perceived size of the UK, that danger is happening on our doorstep and at any given moment our lives and those of whom we love are at risk. Our natural instinct is to survive, our brains are on the lookout to protect and preserve life and it is so easy to imagine what awful thing could happen next, could it be on the train that I am travelling on? The cafe where I am drinking coffee? Or the plaza where I am sat? Our understandable conclusion is to avoid them all, just in case, because then we are safe.
But to me that isn’t living, just like the couple who wouldn’t visit what is one of the most beautiful countries that I have seen, by scaring ourselves by ‘what if’ we will undoubtedly miss a beautiful life. So how do we stop being overwhelmed? Be safe, take the advice that keeps you safe, but don’t listen to your fears, your worries, or your ‘what ifs’ because sometimes their version of safe isn’t a life at all.
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