"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…"
Rudyard Kipling, 1910

Never before have those words seemed so apt. For my fear today is that the country is starting to lose its head in its reaction to the second round of attempted bombings (21st July) and today’s shooting at Stockwell station.

[UPDATED]: The Guardian on 25.07.2005 has an excellent column by Peter Preston about how little we know about what is going on – one of the best things written about the bombings so far.

We have to put all of what has happened in perspective. While the attacks are gruesome, and must be condemned with utmost vehemence, we must simply not let our heads be bowed, and to make changes to the way of life we appreciate in face of these assaults.

Today even museums in London have started to check visitors’ bags. The New York underground has banned the use of mobile phones, lest they be used to trigger a bomb. What is going on? If terrorists are keen to blow things and people up, they will manage to do so. Even if we made the Underground secure somehow, then what would stop someone targeting a string of shoppers are the Sainsbury’s Local. And if you made that secure, then the people waiting at a doctor’s surgery?

It’s completely clear to me that we just cannot make our cities free of these dangers, whether we like it or not. The price – both in terms of technology and changing our way of living – is just too high.

So instead we have to deal with the terrorist threat on two fronts. We need the best possible investment in intelligence to track where the dangers are coming from. And secondly, we need to really get to the root causes of why people want to blow themselves up, namely religious extremism and ghettoised societies that marginalise many young people.

So let’s get a grip, not lose our heads, stand up for the way of living that is important to us, and think of what could be done with the money before we call for the installation of yet another bag scanner.

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