Friday, July 08, 2005


Having stayed in the pub until the early hours watching Sky news; seeing the pale, shocked face of Tony Blair, and the walls of Tavistock Square an unnatural blood-spattered pink, it was hard to know how anyone could be reacting in any way which could be described as stoic. And yet that adjective was used time after time by correspondants and politicians. The reaction of many seems to have been typically, upliftingly 'Londoner', and perhaps what is being called stoicism is best illustrated by the follwing snippets.

A London taxi driver said: "...people are getting on with it. It's marvellous that they're showing their backbone. The thing is, with us Londoners, we're used to the IRA. We don't know anything else. You don't like it, but you learn to deal with it."

The IHT reports that yesterday afternoon, there were cues of people waiting to give blood on Edgeware road.

A Swedish woman who was on one of the tube trains said: "The car quickly filled with smoke, and a lot of people used their umbrellas to try to break the windows so that we could get air."

To not let terrorists win, life must go on. Seeing Brian Paddick at a news conference yesterday reminded me of the interview he had given after the Old Compton Street nail bombing. That has not been forgotten, but Soho is again vibrant and busy. London will recover from this, but perhaps the most important thing is that it does not colour our views: on Iraq, on ID cards, on the war on terror, on immigration.

As for stoicism, the ability to help each other keep on keeping on is only a small part of it. The deeper challenge presented by Stoicism will be much more difficult, but no less important. As Marcus Aurelius puts it:

"When people injure you, ask yourself what good or harm they thought would come of it. If you understand that, you'll feel sympathy rather than outrage or anger. Your sense of good and evil may be the same as theirs, or near it, in which case you have to excuse them. Or your sense of good and evil may differ from theirs. In which case they're misguided and deserve your compassion. Is that so hard?"

Of course it is so hard, with people still trapped in the tunnel between Kings Cross and Russel Square. But one thing we cannot and will not do is fight hate with hate.


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