Afternoon Dust

On looking back in anger

I love the discussions at my barber’s, where I learn a lot more than I do from national media. As I sat waiting for my turn this morning, the guy currently occupying the barber’s chair made a very good point: he couldn’t understand why Manchester United fans at their mid-week match were singing ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ in response to the 22 May Manchester Arena bombing, when anger would seem to be an entirely appropriate human response to the violent murder of children. He was of course absolutely right: I couldn’t imagine not feeling angry if someone attacked my friends or family, and I wouldn’t want to be the sort of person who wouldn’t feel anger towards the aggressor in such circumstances.

One answer, which sat in my mouth but never left it, was that perhaps those singing Mancunians too understood something important, something better expressed in vox pops on the streets on the morning after the attack: that is, that the strategic aim of the bombing’s organisers — perhaps not of the gullible and brainwashed young man who pushed the trigger, but certainly of the crooked political and religious leaders that inspired him to do it — is to provoke us into turning against each other, to incite civil conflict between the various racial, religious, and ideological affinities that make up UK society, and to create a chaos that they can then exploit in the same way they did in Syria and elsewhere. Perhaps it was in response to this provocation that those United supporters chose not to see red, which again would seem to be an entirely appropriate and, dare I say it, smart choice. But I was challenged by the reminder that anger too needs to be respected and given constructive expression in the aftermath of terrible events.