A recent pre-election chat with my 23 year old journalist niece, H, made me realise that some young people are pretty angry and think that things can barely get any worse…we are in a dark place she said. The terror attacks are…terrifying. Different to other terror attacks, she says. H also says the baby boomers voted to increase university fees and effectively tax her generation’s education, while they themselves received a free tertiary education…but have left her £50,000 in debt. I guess that does sound pretty bad. She says her generation will be the first to be poorer than their parents, and will never own their own home. Not great. I’m not claiming to know any more than anyone else..but age does give you some sort of perspective. Husband J is fantastically good at history, so when I told him this, we decided to review the last century or so and find out just exactly how bad things are now. Imagine a huge expanse of calm sea …with the shiny tip of a shark’s fin in the distance…the news is the fin (cos it’s unusual!! that’s why it’s news!)…the everyday reality is surely the mass of calm water…
I’ve researched(!) the stats and present them here…but I’m also going to go anecdotal/from personal observation over my 50-something life. So – UK 1900: Male life expectancy – about 47. By 2010, it’s about 79…that’s better…and worse – cos it impacts the pension and elderly care cost burden, so – a double-edged sword. But even those 20-somethings will be happy that they are likely to live to 79 rather than 47, no? World War I (1914-1918) – the first German Zeppelin raid over London bombed Stoke Newington, Dalston (including Balls Pond Road), Southgate Grove, Hoxton, Shoreditch and Leytonstone…all very familiar places to me. In all about 900,000 British soldiers were killed and about 110,000 civilians (wikipedia)…1 million Brits killed over the 4 year period of WWI. Imagine that happening now. WWII (1939-1945): 380,000 soldiers and 67,000 civilians killed – even war deaths are improving – but still horrific. 43,000 civilians died during The Blitz of WWII alone (Sept. 1940 – May 1941), including approx. 20,000 Londoners. 20,000 Londoners. Yep, 20,000. Mostly in constant day and night bombing raids. That’s bad. When you walk down the streets near my house, you may wonder why the odd block of 1960s flats breaks up an otherwise beautiful row of Victorian terraces…then you realise that these blocks coincide with the map of WWII London bomb sites (http://www.bombsight.org/#14/51.5049/-0.0900). Bombs. Right smack on my doorstep. Both the then residents and my house would have literally shuddered with fear and terror. From the 1960s through to the 1980s – nuclear attack was a distinct possibility – check this government produced ‘Protect and Survive’ leaflet http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4319466/How-survive-nuclear-war-1980-Government-leaflet.html if you want to scare yourself. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) regularly bombed London from the 1970s through to the 1990s. In the mid-1970s as a teenager, I left my little handbag in a fashion boutique on Oxford Street in London’s West End. I nearly shut down the whole street as police were called to deal with a suspect bomb until I wandered back to collect it. They bombed Harrods in the 1980s….but didn’t stop us going shopping. My husband was regularly warned as he boarded planes alone as a youngster in the 1970s and 80s, to be aware of possible hi-jackings. But here’s some interesting information – the number of people killed by terror attacks in the UK has been going down: http://metro.co.uk/2017/03/24/terror-attack-related-deaths-are-actually-decreasing-in-the-uk-6531750/. How likely are you to die just by being in London? Around 2000 people were killed or seriously injured on London’s roads in 2015 – about 130 of which were fatalities. Apparently around 10,000 people in London die each year from air pollution..10,000. Maybe we should be afraid of that and take immediate action. I could go on…and I’ve posted this link before I think…but if you want to see the reality of just how much better things are generally – you really need to check this Hans Rosling video out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbkSRLYSojo. A Brazilian friend of mine lives in London and forgoes the beaches and constant glorious sunshine of her home country because, aside from the fact that she has greater opportunities here, she feels far, far safer and more protected than being in Brazil. The immigrants know what we’ve got.
My behaviour has changed as a result of the terror attacks….I now make absolutely sure that I kiss my husband and tell him I love him before he leaves for work…and the best bit is the lovely smile I get when I do so. We can of course choose to believe that things are significantly worse/more dangerous/terrible. We always want to be right, don’t we? So we will heat-seek and focus on and click on links that support our beliefs. The terrorists are very, very unlikely to kill us, so they (and most newspapers) want to do their best to at least depress us (and sell more newspapers). People say ‘be safe’. I regularly venture into central London…and to very famous possible terror targets. But we have absolutely amazing security services…and so, there’s a vast expanse of calm sea, and I am aware of the shark fin, but I’m in the boat…and in reality, I am overwhelmingly safe.