OUR world seems ever more defined by threat.
Whether that threat is imagined, exaggerated, exploited or real seems almost irrelevant. The known knowns and the known unknowns create an atmosphere of something approaching dread, of something that drains optimism and curtails ambition. That of course is the primary objective of making a threat — cower an opponent so they might not reach their higher goals. Or, as the case may be, their baser goals.
Just yesterday Paris police — and who could blame them for being on edge? — shot dead a knife-wielding man who tried to enter a police station. The incident took place just minutes after president François Hollande gave a speech marking the first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
“The man may have been wearing something that could be a suicide belt,” said an interior ministry spokesman, though police later said the belt appeared fake. Nevertheless, police felt threatened and a man died.
This week’s announcement from North Korea that it has successfully tested a hydrogen bomb represents an entirely different order of threat, one recognised by the unanimous international condemnation of the exercise. Saudi Arabia’s execution of 47 people last week must add to the threat faced by a region already teetering on the very edge of anarchy — a possibility brought all the closer by yesterday’s apparent suicide bombing that killed at least 60 people at a police training centre in the western Libyan town of Zliten. A Zliten hospital spokesman said 60 bodies had been pulled from the wreckage but they believed there could be dozens more dead.
American presidential hopeful Donald Trump is, like any amoral, bullying demagogue, exploiting a toxic mixture of fear and ignorance to sharpen the sense of threat felt by American voters. He is doing this despite the hopes of the great and good that a white knight candidate might emerge and topple the odious Trump even if the window of opportunity for that welcome prospect narrows by the week.
This week’s Garda briefing on the capabilities of dissident republican groups shows that threat can be homegrown too. It is not unreasonable to imagine that these deluded and dangerous people will use the 1916 centenary celebrations to show that “they haven’t gone away you know”.
It’s just over a month since relentless rainfall began to have an impact on people’s lives, especially those living in the Shannon catchment area and in South Galway. Homes, businesses, schools and farms have been flooded. Roads have been destroyed and hundreds of millions will be needed to repair them. It is impossible not to have every sympathy for those so overwhelmed but it is possible too to recognise that many of those describing their terrible plight have begun to see that this may be their new reality — a cold reality brought about by the greatest threat facing us all — climate change.
We can change our habits to avert some of these threats but a threat-free world seems an impossible, lotus-garden dream. Maybe it’s time we gave more thought to how we prepare ourselves, and especially how we prepare our children, to be more robust, and more resilient, in a world riven by fear.
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