Sunday, July 24, 2005

Dying for freedom

A poster called peppery posed this question on the urban 75 boards where much passionate discussion continues about recent events.

'Would you be willing to live with a greater chance of being killed by a terrorist if it meant your liberties were untouched?'

I posted this in reply.

'Oh God. This is the question I've been thinking about non stop.My life feels 'free' to me if lived without fear. At the moment, I and many other people feel fearful, which is a (self) limiting way of being. But that fear can be mastered and my reactions can be controlled. I can feel the fear but do it anyway: get dressed, get on the tube, go to work, go to the pub...despite the fear.

My sickening fear at the moment is like an injury; I know in time it will heal, it will fade but it is somewhat incapacitating right now. I am aware of that and I can keep a careful, compassionate watch on my reactions to events/other people because I know I am suffering from fear, like suffering from flu and my judgement is therefore impaired.

I can also make small but necessary changes where necessary to try to protect myself and minimise danger. And I can try not to fly off the handle, because that is dangerous and destabilising for myself and others.

I believe that this line of reasoning applies not just to me in microcosm but to everybody, citizens, politicians, police. It's what we said to each other in the bombed train. Keep calm. Hold hands. Don't panic. We will get out of this darkness. And we did. Nobody panicked or stampeded, people helped each other. In a dangerous, crisis situation, the will to help each other and protect each other, not just the selfish urge to survive, was stronger than the fear.

There's a jump from there to 'Would you die for freedom?'. I don't know how my death would further the cause of freedom. I would rather think about ways of living for freedom . Living freely. Living collectively, sociably, compassionately, responsibly. Calmly. Trying not to live as if maddened and ill with the sickness of fear. Of terror. Because that's no way to live. If you live like that, you are not free. The terrorists and all of those who feed on the fear have won.

Terrorists are not the only ones who feed on fear; many rulers, many politicians do. In fact, anyone who wants to have power over other humans, to feed their ego by feeling powerful themselves, will try actively to encourage fear or to exploit it once it takes hold.

But balanced against that, the desire for freedom is so strong that people still say they are willing to die for it. And many do die. I suppose the suicide bombers convinced themselves they died for it.

Yet I know, I have seen, I have experienced that the desire to look after each other is stronger than the selfish desire to fight for individual survival and to stampede off the bombed train first.

I hold onto that. I would die, I think to protect that, if my death would do anything to aid it. But I don't see how any death does much, if someone cares so passionately for freedom that they are willing to die for it, then I'd rather that person lived and used that passion in their life: I work on the assumption that we only have one and that all lives are precious.

I would rather live as if what I just said is true: that the darkness and the fear can be beaten. That there is always hope. That collectively we are sane and civilised.


Would you be willing to live with a greater chance of being killed by a terrorist if it meant your liberties were untouched?

Yes. And by living this way, by as many as possible of us living this way, I believe that we are actively helping to reduce the chance of being killed by a terrorist. Actively choose to live as if you are not terrorised. Use your liberties to live freely. Then you've won. Then we've all won.'


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I used to live in Finsbury Park and took that tube many many times. A friend from Turnpike Lane was in the same carriage as you and survived; a friend of a friend was also there and did not. I have found it inspirational reading your blog. I thought you might like this poem:


The White Stone of Lewis

Do not attempt
to lift the white stone.
It is smooth quartzite
and weighs a lifetime.

You would prove your back
could take the strain:
brave, ambitious
you can handle any challenge.

But other strengths are more sustaining:
able to change and take changes
lift old habits from heavy soil
get to grips with the smooth surface
of self deception.

Let others do the heaving and shoving
who shoulder burdens they cannot manage
and set their sights on defeating others
in pointless shows of strength.

You carry the stone with you:
crystal with hope
light with humour
smooth with complete integrity.

Tessa Ransford

July 25, 2005 5:06 am  
Anonymous seth said...

hi rachel,

hope you have a had a good weekend..all is ok here,went to the beach yesterday..decided to rent a car for the day because they have now have bag searches on the subway,and i didnt want to possibly be hassled,,with picnic cooler,blanket,etc

when i got to the beach i decided to stay away from the big crowd near the restrooms and concession stand...figuring that would be safer....and i couldnt help but think ..sadly....what kind of a sick world we now live in...and then the news that the man who was killed wasnt a terriorist at all.

by the way, i have now started to read the BBC,Guardian,FT and other sites for the latest london news because i dont think american media..except for the ny doing that good of a job reporting.

July 25, 2005 11:19 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Thank you for that poem, Tessa. It is lovely. I have printed it out and put it in my purse. It feels incredibly poignant today. It has made me cry a bit. Really, thank you, a lot.

Seth, they search bags on the subway? If they did that here no one would ever make it to work. Anyway, the bombers got on and blew themselves up 60 seconds later. So seaching bags would be a case of '...excuse me, sir, can I see your...''...BANG!'. Futile. Still, if it cheers people up...

Nice media choices though *wink*. YOu didn't strike me as a Fox News Man. I have a link for you. I'll post it up-blog.

Thank you for dropping by.


July 26, 2005 9:04 pm  
Anonymous seth said...

hello rachel,

yes...they now do "random" bag checks on the subway.every 5th or every 10th person supposedly...i have not been stopped.yet..they say it takes anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes so so far there has been little effect on commuting times.

i agree with you..i think its just public relations fluff and will do little,if anything to stop a would-be determined nut.

in the u.s. fox news is about as right-wing as you can get so i say thanks but no thanks...i look forward to the link u mentioned..

ta ta for now,


July 26, 2005 9:46 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Rachel
Really glad you liked the poem. Sadly, much as I'd like to, I can't claim authorship - Tessa Ransford is the author, not me, and I weaselly signed off as "L".
Which on reflection wasn't obvious.

I'm sorry you are feeling down and finding this tough. Of course you are! You should know your responsibility in this is not to anyone but yourself and you can allow yourself to find it hard going sometimes.

I hope some of the good will evidenced in the response to your blog has helped to sustain you. Take what you want and ignore the rest.

All the best,


July 27, 2005 7:15 am  

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