I went out to a meeting this afternoon taking London buses in both directions. I won’t pretend I didn’t feel nervous; I did. There were a lot of buses with not many passengers and I sense my nervousness was quite general. Londoners are stoic – they are not without feeling.
Does this mean London has been cowed by the terrorists? No I don’t read it that way. I was thinking of Shakespeare: If you prick us do we not bleed? If you bomb our trains and buses, we will be hurt and we will feel fear. No need to pretend otherwise. Indeed, to the contrary, to feel fear under such viscious attack is the natural human response, it would be unnatural to pretend otherwise. We can leave the grandiose pretence of being above mere humanity to the deluded scum who perpetrated these acts.
On the bus home, at one point a disabled person in a wheelchair was helped aboard by the driver and a passenger. Later, after she alighted, a mother boarded with a three year old on one arm, and with a small baby in a pram. These are among the people who routinely use a London bus. They use it even in the wake of atrocities. We are a soft target, we don’t pretend to be anything else. Only the most devious and twisted of imaginations could possibly regard bombing such people as proof of any kind of virtue.
And if you attack such people, we will be hurt and we will be frightened. Because we are in touch with our frail humanity. Please don’t confuse the opposite of this, the denial of human vulnerability, with courage. That would be a big mistake.
And as well as fear, we will feel anger. This evening, no words can possibly convey the depth of my contempt for those who attacked London yesterday.