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EditorialsUp Front 06/17

Up Front 06/17

In the aftermath of tragic events like the recent bombing in Manchester, newspapers, television and websites are filled with stories of horror and pain, as well as messages of hope, care and sympathy. Readers are drawn to words, photographs and video in an effort to try to better understand what happened, and most of all to comprehend why. In The Guardian, columnist George Monbiot described the attack as ‘a blow to the heart: an atrocity whose purpose was to kill and maim as many children and teenagers as possible.’ He called on readers to defy terrorism by showing our empathy and cited an article in the journal, Frontiers in Psychology, pointing out that humans are the only species ‘able to imagine the emotional state of people we cannot talk to, or even see.’ In The Times, Daniel Finkelstein also asked why would anyone carry out atrocities like Manchester or mow down tourists or destroy a nightclub and the people in it. However, he takes a different tack on empathy, concerned that too much soul-searching might take our minds off the only line of defence. ‘Resistance and defiance’ he says, are all that we have until terrorism stops. Another Times columnist, Alice Thompson, stood up for the generation of children that seem to be the latest target of terrorist attacks, suggesting that there is a strength and resilience in today’s youth that is often overlooked when people complain about their ‘pampered and soft’ lives. She highlighted a story of a couple from Croydon who stood on Westminster Bridge the day after the Manchester bombing and posed for a wedding photograph. One was a Muslim and the other a Christian. ‘We wanted to make a point,’ the bride said. ‘It’s all of us against a handful of them.’ Perhaps this is part of the empathy that George Monbiot alludes to, but it may be a mistake to suggest that every member of our species has an understanding of empathy. Whilst, in a sense, there may only be a ‘handful’ of psychopaths, there are many who can only understand empathy when it is explained to them, and even then it makes no sense to their view of the world. There is no cut and dry answer to how to follow an attack like Manchester. A combination of understanding and resistance, along with a better awareness of how those around us think, may be our best response. But whether the party that wins the June 8th election can offer that balance is anyone’s guess.

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