In the wake of the recent attacks in Paris, Mali and now San Bernardino, I asked myself the question raised by many Americans and specifically those living and working in major metropolitan cities: do I/we possess the social resilience to overcome what feels like a case of chronic terrorism? As a company owner who practices in the realm of safety and security every day, I feel compelled this holiday season to share my own vulnerabilities and perspective on how to combat the helpless and sometime demoralized effects of terrorism. This message has no tactical knowledge or fancy app to go along with it; this is about the essence of unity and the spirit of solidarity that triumphs over evil.
The likelihood of completely eliminating terrorism—a religious and political violence that dates back thousands of years—is slim; therefore, in addition to the counter-terrorism and tactical preparedness, it is essential that we devote our attention to the effects of terrorism so that we are better prepared to deal and cope with these effects. Although there are times terrorists appear to be highly organized and well-armed, ask yourself: if they really were able to take over the world and possessed the weapons to do it, why not just do it? With over 600 million people between the United States and the European Union, who is really in control? History has shown us that terrorists, their organizations and their belief systems lack social integrity and appeal. Over time, they lose traction and followers.
The concept of social resilience or what I like to refer to as “grit” helps explain why certain societies, entrenched in prolonged terrorism, are not demoralized by repeated terrorist attacks despite the serious effects these attacks have on them. I will not call out in this message who those countries are, but not withstanding cultural, religious and political differences, these societies focus on interconnection through social trust to help combat and cope with these random violent events. More importantly, these societies that thrive under the threat of terrorism possess devout patriotism, unity to cause and a willingness to commit personally on a high level.
Yes, no one can argue the terrible tragedy associated with the 130 lives lost in the Paris attacks and the 14 individuals who were murdered in San Bernardino, but the most efficient way we can all contribute to reducing the benefits of terrorism is to stop overreacting. According to a piece authored by Rosa Brooks from foreignpolicy.com, terrorism is not a unique phenomenon to our western culture, and with 16,000 people in the United States murdered each year in “ordinary” homicides, 30,000 by accidental falls, 35,000 in car crashes, and 39,000 from accidental poisoning, aren’t we really avoiding the larger conversation? By allowing the media to exploit our fear and vulnerabilities, our panic and overreaction simply fuels the passion of more terrorism.
So the next time you are overcome by anxiety and are ready to stand down to the fear associated with the latest terrorist attack, grab a friend, neighbor, co-worker, or loved one and create community and unity of one consciousness. Recognize the path you take is the one that stands between the short-term successes of terrorism and the long-term values of a free world.