The Four Stages of Response

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The four stages of response to any shock are Denial-Anger-Despair-Acceptance. Most of us found ourselves passing through the denial stage of the Mumbai attack during the event through to Saturday and even beyond. “This can’t be happening – not in Mumbai?” was the most common thread in most people’s response.

Although different people move through the four stages at different speeds, it seems clear now that in many cases, this is now turning to anger. A good deal of this was aimed yesterday at hapless producer-director Ram Gopal Varma as he was shown around the destruction of the Taj by Chief Minister Vilisrao Deshmukh. Terror tourism is how it was described in India’s more vocal press. The two are friends – the chief minister (soon possibly ex-chief minister) being the father of Reitish Deshmukh. Of course, this tour was very tactless – but weighed against the enormity of the event, really little more than a focus for other people’s anger.

More significant was the anger expressed towards Pakistan. Even though the Pakistan government, struggling with economic crisis, the problems of bedding in a new democracy and the threat of escalating violence on its western border, would have to be completely cuckoo to promote such an event, this didn’t stop fingers being pointed from the more irresponsible politicians in India.

Despair will be the next stage – a sense of hopelessness, a feeling that it could happen anywhere in India at any time. Checks will be tightened, new homeland security measures will be brought in, airport baggage perusals will increase. All of these relatively pointless when a single bomb in a market, a bus, or a railway station could kill over a hundred as we’ve seen in Iraq, Spain, Britain……

Eventually, there will be acceptance. An understanding that events like this stem from a deep sense of alienation and resentment, born from years, decades perhaps, of persecution, repression and unfair treatment. Hopefully, then, saner heads will prevail and serious and constructive attempts will be made to resolve the underlying political conflicts that ring the northern borders of India; to reduce the inequality and discrimination faced by some communities within India itself – and the reflections of these problems and attitudes in the Middle East and the wider international community, all of which are relevant causes in the tragic death of the many innocent people caught up in this event.

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