On Tragedy & Violence
Today, we watch yet another series of tragic events unfold on the news. The recent attacks in Manchester, Melbourne, Portland, Manila, London, Alexandria and San Francisco are an absolute outrage, and underscore the need to be prepared for the realities of potential violence.
As the story lines develop and the facts become clear, we will hear breaking news about those involved – victims, attackers, first responders, family members, and more. We will learn details on how these things happened, hear about the heroic actions of those who intervened, and various experts will do multiple types of post-event analysis.
It is important to note that for the people involved in these events, these stories are more than a headline – they are heartbreaking and terrifying incidents that they passed through in real-time, and which now form a part of their personal life story. Our hearts go out to each of them, their families, and all who are still reeling from these atrocities.
At some point, the news will begin to ask, “What could we have done?” Discussions will revolve around things like "leakage", situational awareness, profiling, culture, legal issues, physical security, building structures, the actions of bystanders and first responders, and other critical topics. Some will take the opportunity to discuss various political issues.
The fact is, for those who have suffered and continue to suffer through these types of events, none of those things matter. The moment has passed, and all of those things ultimately will devolve into some form of the assignment of either praise or blame.
What does matter, to all of us, is our collective response.
I present a simple thesis:
We must shift our discomfort in discussing the potential of violence, and make room within our society and ourselves for meaningful discussions about preparation – those things we can and are doing ahead of time, before an event. The discussions we have after an event hold value only in the lessons we’ve learned, and the application of that knowledge is the very definition of wisdom as related to this topic.
Like many, I am a collector of quotes. There are several which have sprung to mind repeatedly over the last few weeks, but I'll share two here:
"In life's small things, be resolute and great to keep thy muscle trained. Knows't thou when fate thy measure takes, or when she'll say to thee, "I find thee worthy; do this thing for me"? ~ James Russell Lowell
"Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to the eyes of men. Silently and imperceptibly, as we wake or sleep, we grow strong or weak; and at last some crisis shows what we have become." ~ Brooke Foss Westcott
Too often, normalcy bias keeps us believing that violence can't and won't happen to us.
The importance of prior preparation and training -- as communities, as businesses and as individuals -- cannot be overstated. Please take a moment to honestly evaluate the level of preparedness around you. Please have the courage to engage in what may be uncomfortable conversations, and the foresight to make any changes needed to be "real-world ready" should an event unfold. The opposite of fear is not avoidance, it is preparedness.
Ben Kincaid is the founder of Complete Threat Preparedness LLC – a Threat Mitigation / Emergency Management Consulting Firm with offices in Nevada and Oregon
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