If you prick us, do we not bleed?

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.

7 thoughts on “If you prick us, do we not bleed?

  1. Chris Corrigan

    You’re not alone in that city. Wouldn’t it be great for someone to convene a gathering of people who lived through the Blitz and get them together with London citizens too young to know that violence, and exchange stories about we cope with fear and loathing and contempt in the face of indiscriminate destruction? That would be a very cool gathering to be a part of.

    Draw on the resources you have walking amongst you. Others have felt this before. How did they see through? What IS that unflappable London spirit that quakes and shivers and still gets things done? What can the generations learn from each other?

  2. Elise

    I am a New Yorker and experienced 9/11. It is still amazing how people working in the high rise office buildings on Wall Street are still governed by the fear of that experience. I know there were some psychotherapy services provided to direct victims of 9/11. How about all the rest of us? Weren’t we victims also. I wonder still if any of us felt anger. Have we made the time to do that? I think understanding the fear is a good place to start. I am not sure that many of us have understood the anger. As I walk in New York City since this London tragedy I see depression and renewed fear in the shadow of helmeted squad teams that display ‘protection’.

  3. Tom Asacker


    It brings hope

    courage has strength

    it brings faith

    courage conquers hate

    it brings joy

    courage is will.

    Ayaan Malik

    You are indeed a courageous community.

    My best wishes,



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