Volunteerism and a culture of resilience takes the "terror" out of Terrorism

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Frank Furedi's book, "Invitation To Terror: The Expanding Empire of the Unknown" explores the culture of fear which has developed around terrorism and the ways in which we do the work of the Terrorist for them. As Schmid's definition of terrorism starts:

Terrorism refers on the one hand to a doctrine about the presumed effectiveness of a special form or tactic of fear-generating, coercive political violence...[Academic Consensus Definition of Terorism (ACDT 2011)]

If we invite them to terrorize us, we make those ends easier; If we refuse to be terrorized, we make terrorism less useful as a political tool.

How Resilience Defeats Terror

His last chapter, in the section "Role of the Public" starting on pp 180, Furedi discusses the role of community resilience in thwarting the goals of the terrorist. If we are more resilient in the face of crisis, we experience less terror and the attacks fail to achieve their goals. Resilience, in this sense, requires the public to have a role in its own recovery and to feel competent in its own ability to deal with a crisis.

Where Resilience Comes From

Unfortunately, Furedi points out, the approach of Emergency Management and policy makers is often to promote resilience top down, which backfires:

The question at issue is not whether one chooses vulnerability or resilience as the norm or defining condition of individuals and their community. Rather the problem is the representation of resilience merely as the antidote to a prior problem. Downsizing the status of resilience to a secondary role also indicates that far from being natural it is a reaction which needs to be stimulated from the outside. If resilience is seen as a kind of cultural pain-relief to a community suffering from an illness, it will lack any organic relationship to society. This orientation inevitably turns resilience into a secondary and rather minor dimension of a community's response. Yet as the experience of the 7 July bombings indicates [in Britain: Furedi is writing this across the Pond], for example, people have 'natural coping mechanisms' and resilience can thrive during and even in the aftermath of a terrorist incident.[Frank Furedi. "Invitation To Terror: The Expanding Empire of the Unknown. Continuum Books. London. 2006. pp 181 (emphasis mine)].

Resilience Comes From the Community Itself

In Southwest Missouri, the Joplin Tornado response is the perfect example of our innate strength as a community, especially when contrasted with the response to Hurricane Katrina. Furedi continues:

The tendency for policy makers and experts to both internalize and recycle the paradigm of vulnerability is also regrettable because it uncritically serves to reinforce the passive side of public life. Disasters are of course terrible tragedies that can have devastating consequences for individuals and the community alike. But disasters also provide an opportunity for a community to come to know itself and discover not only its weaknesses but also its strengths. Experience indicates that this process is invariably realized through the emerging informal organizations that come to being in the aftermath of the disaster. As Kendra and Wachtendorf's study of resilience in the aftermath of the 9/11 argues, 'creative thinking, flexibility, and the ability to improvise in newly emergent situations is vital'. These responses are often a product of informal solutions arrived at under the pressure of unexpected events. It is a process through which individuals, local institutions and communities learn to develop their resilience. Unfortunately, the tendency to professionalize disaster response may deprive a community of an opportunity to develop its resilience and inadvertently reinforce a sense of passivity and helplessness. [Ibid. internal citations removed, emphasis mine.]

This is one of the reasons why volunteers are critical to the problem of terrorism--- a topic it is usually insisted be left to professionals--- not just volunteer organizations, but saturation within the community of sufficient training (i.e. First Aid, Communications, Self-Defense) to enable spontaneous response to a crisis. When a disaster like the Paris Attacks (or the Joplin Tornado) occurs, it is that spontaneous response, shared goals, and mutually-understood doctrine that victims depend on in those first moments, and it is pride in that response which enables later healing.

Southwest Missouri is justifiably proud of its tornado response, and this has further strengthened us as a community. The initial response of bystanders of the Bataclan attacks in Paris in the video we posted to our Facebook page does not exhibit this kind of resiliency. If the community feels competent in its abilities to deal with the unknown, unexpected, and even the horrific, they are less likely to panic, and more likely to save lives--- and souls--- at that critical juncture.

The Role of the Auxiliary In Community Resilience

Building this feeling of competence in our own abilities is why the Sheriff's Auxiliary includes the promotion of emergency response training in the community at large in its core mission. But that, by itself is not enough. In order to build resiliency, the community must take ownership of the Auxiliary and other efforts like us: Lawrence County CERT, the Amateur Radio Emergency Services, the Missouri State Guard efforts, the volunteer paramedics and fire companies, the neighborhood watches, the ministerial alliance: we do not merely serve you, we are you.

This is one of the reasons the tactical medical training we have brought into the community is a critical milestone in the evolution of your Sheriff's Auxiliary. Not only does it make our volunteers more capable in responding to the worst-case scenarios, not only does it give us a better ability to assist the deputies we work alongside, not only does it meet our core responsibility of bringing new training into the community, but it was attended by your volunteers, paid for by our local businesses and organizations, taught in one of our local churches, and helped regional instructors develop something new.

This is real resilience coming full circle, and it is just the beginning of what we can do together.


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