Sticky: Cause & effect. Who is in control?

Three years ago I moved from England to Spain. I live peacefully with my partner, her two children and our Labradors; forty-five kilometres north-east of Madrid. Last Thursday’s terrorist attack in Barcelona challenged me to the core.

The question that keeps drowning out all the other noises in my head is; what do I do? I know I do not hold exclusive rights on feeling guilty about personal inaction; many of us do. But the important thing is that I believe guilt is the way we ennoble our lack of courage, and so perpetuate doing nothing. My problem is not that I know what to do and excuse myself with clever foot-work. Neither am I looking the other way with a solipsistic ‘I’m alright, Jack’. I simply feel stuck. I feel too small in the face of this Goliath of evil doing.

I also grapple with a smaller, insidious guilt; that as a member of society, I am culpable, which I believe is true. We are all responsible for each other. But that is not the insidious part of the guilt. The killer thought is that I must be doing something bad to attract such disaster, and I am too weak and need to look to a higher power to forgive and save me. Where could such a self-deprecating belief come from?

The cognitive scientist Steven Pinker often talks of the ‘singular They’; an overwhelming idea that there is a faceless, but all-powerful group of people who have the real intelligence and clarity, and it is only They who can actually do something. But maybe this debilitating creed is simply what They want us to believe so They can keep control. Are we making this easy for them? Is this notion of They simply another way we deflect responsibility like a child to its parents, an employee to their boss or a population to their government.

Just as there is no ‘i’ in team, I suggest that there is no They in a responsible society. This is a major theme in my Bedfellows thriller series; the idea that it is the People (the masses) who have the real power, not the mythical They. But the elite are clever and have brainwashed us into believing that we are too stupid and simple to even understand the problems, let alone be able to come up with any solutions.

But if I am suggesting that we are not stupid or weak, how do the elite keep this myth alive? They ply us with ‘bread and circuses’. Like a drug pusher they convince us that we need them, that we need their protection and hand-outs, that without their stewardship we will fall down and die. It is a lie. The majority have always, and will always, have the power. They are nothing without us, but we remain everything whether they exist or not.

To keep us anaesthetised we are kept in a perpetual state of fear. The elite convince young impressionable men that they need to carry-out urban terrorism, and then they turn to us with benevolent arms outstretched declaring that they will protect us. They are offering protection from a danger of their making.

We are society, not They. We can make this world anything we want it to be. We do not need them because in reality it is us that actually do everything. It is the People who invent everything. It is the People who produce everything in factories. And it is the People who will decide what kind of society we want.

They are a handful of selfish dictators, we are seven billion passionate, creative and powerful souls. If I ever find myself believing that there is nothing we can do to correct society when it veers towards the cliff edge, I simply need to remind myself how amazing we really are. All we have to do is stop listening to They, stop believing the lies they tell us, and believe – really believe the truth – we can do this!

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