These terrorists took on the wrong 'enemy'. They thought and hoped the Brits would freak out and panic, and that our society would be 'under attack'. Truth is, we've quite a bit of practice with this, and we are not moved. In fact, it's a gift. Our nation is good at pulling together when there's a crisis. What's bad for us is comfortable, regularised normality!
Remember, far more people die as a result of car accidents than bombings. So the net effect of these bombings is quite positive - except, of course, for those who have lost their lives and loved ones. But, even here, we've had stuff like this before.
My mum, now 88, hid under the kitchen table every night for two years during WW2, under the bombings of the Battle of Britain, never knowing whether she would come out alive. This kind of experience generated what in Britain we call 'World War Two Spirit' and, even for younger generations born since the 1940s, this spirit is still alive. This is why we're good at rock festivals, the death of princesses, general strikes and engagement in wars - we're a warrior nation that tackles hardship full-on. This warrior nature causes trouble in some instances, such as our questionable involvement in Iraq, yet, even here, few would complain that, in Iraq, British troops are doing well in difficult circumstances, drawing on a lot of experience and on that strange element of British decency which, when called upon, works well.
One interesting consequence of the recent bombings is that there is no over-reaction. If anything, there is a public recognition of the multicultural nature of our country, and that we accept and include Muslims and all others as part of our society.
We have seen racism in our country in past decades, but it has subsided to small proportions - which shows that racism has strong roots in lack of experience of others, and when that experience grows, racism subsides.
The bombings came at a time when Britain has been fair buzzing. Fate has had it that we currently hold the presidency of the EU, of the G8, that we're marking 60 years from WW2, and 200 years from the Battle of Trafalgar, we've had the Live8 concerts and campaigns, London won the Olympic bids for 2012, and now this - all in a few weeks. What the full meaning of this is, is unclear, but something is shifting in our history. It's funny how (with the Trafalgar celebrations) Britain had the biggest firework display in its history, and then we had bombings soon after - lots of whizz-bang going on.
It's also symbolic that Bob Geldof, now a knight of the realm and a leading public figure here, came from Ireland as an unqualified nobody, a cheeky punk who swears profusely - and has made it into the pantheon of our public gods. There are many symbolic nuances happening at present. There's something here about re-evaluating our imperial and military history: public empathy for Africa is high and, while we're crunching and grating through frictions with our old enemies France and Germany, the general trend is positive and progressive, bonding us with people 'over there'. This emotional bonding represents an historic shift. Symbolically, during a ceremonial helicopter fly-past in London yesterday, marking 60 years from WW2 and presided over by Queen Elizabeth, the helicopters were all crewed and flown by women.
Where this leads I do not know. There's probably more to come. As one of the source-points of western capitalism and globalisation, Britain is heading for a big crisis as the decline of the West kicks in, and as the world heads toward an enormous crunch and readjustment prompted by global social-economic-ecological and ultimately spiritual imperatives. Yet, ask members of the oldest generation of Brits what part of their lives gave them most happiness and fulfilment, and most of them will say 'World War Two'. My father lost a leg in WW2 (after having been a promising Welsh rugby player), but he still thinks this. It changed him, and the change was good.
In my writings over the last 15 years I've mentioned that when the economy goes up, society goes down (and vice versa). Well, perhaps we're now going through a tidal-change: perhaps our society is now on the rise, and perhaps our prosperous economy is about to change. Yet there's something positive about this: perhaps we'll have more time for each other and for others, instead of scurrying around generating economic wealth and power, getting our fingers sticky by engaging in dubious money-spinning practices. Perhaps 'WW2 Spirit' is coming back. Perhaps the Olympics in 2012 might not bring the grandiose economic benefits people now hope for, but then, in the light of what might be happening around 2012, perhaps Britain might be one of the best places to host the games at that time. Because we know what crises look like, and there's something in the spirit of the nation which rises to the occasion and meets it full on.
These terrorists caused a few ripples, but they've taken on the wrong customer. In terms of the wider effects they're clearly aiming for - media horror, extreme security clamp-downs and a tightening of the relative freedoms Westerners enjoy - they've failed. We are not moved. When faced with a crisis, Brits just put the kettle on, have a cup of tea, and get on with life. The terrorists (and whoever sponsored them) failed. They might have a second try, and the same will be the case again.
And one thing that's changed since WW2 is that we now have over a million British Muslims, a few of whom were killed in the bombings, as part of our nation. The talk in Britain is to stand up for social freedoms, openness and inclusivity, resilience and understanding, not a clamp-down. Our people don't buy the 'war on terror' logic.
I'd suggest that terrorism is now on the wane. This might not appear to be the case, but it could be true. In WW2, as soon as Hitler lost the Battle of Britain (and Stalingrad and el Alamein) in 1942, it was just a matter of time before he lost his whole agenda. True, some of the worst atrocities of WW2 occurred in the last two years of that war, but the tide turned in 1942. Similarly with terrorism: the bombings in London were, in reality, a relative non-event, and this is a sign that the tide has turned. The terrorists pulled off a stunt that was technically near-perfect, but the consequences are that they've made life more difficult for themselves and they have helped to unite our nation.
All this said, our rugby team still gets thrashed. But you can't have it all ways. And, when it comes down to it, we're just an ordinary nation, and 60 million people is the population of just one region in China. Even so, the British people are edging, step by step, toward redeeming our warrior history, and becoming a nation of proactive peace-freaks. For this, we must thank our assailants and our victims, for the lessons they have taught us. We won't be building a security wall around us.
If this little island nation, tacked on the far end of Eurasia, has one more global contribution to make, may it be to play our part in bringing real, factual peace to the world.
Perhaps the biggest single thing we could do toward this is to deconstruct our arms trade, and dedicate our army clearly and solely to doing frontline work in the cause of peace and resolution. This isn't wishful idealism: it's a pragmatic issue which sees things in correct proportion.
The battle of the 21st Century is not military, and the 21st Century agenda demands putting warfare behind us. There are far more important things to tackle.
Copyright Palden Jenkins 2005. This article may be forwarded freely and printed out in single copies for personal use. All other uses require permission from the author.
Read more of Palden's articles reprinted with his kind permission here at Satya Center in the Palden Jenkins Archive. Check out Palden's websiteand his new book, "Healing the Hurts of Nations: The Human Side of Globalization".