July 13, 2007

"We'll Just Set Aboot Ye"

John Smeaton is the Scottish airport baggage handler who was involved in thwarting the recent terror attack at the Glasgow airport. A friend who was born in Scotland sent me a funny email comparing a hypothetical American's (sounds like a fellow neurotic Noo Yawkuh) eyewitness account to a Glaswegian's. Example:

America: "I'm too traumatized even to speak, I thought I was gonna die."

Glasgow: "'Ere mate, gies two minutes till ah phone ma auld dear, if ahm gonna be oan the telly ah want 'er tae tape it."

When asked by ITV news for a message for the bombers, Smeaton replied,

"Glesgo doesna accept this. Tha's just Glesgo; we'll set aboot ye."[ (Translation: "We'll deck you.")

Smeaton has become an icon of no-victimhood worldwide. Even Weegies, not always fond of their city's reputation as a rough, Trainspotting kind of place, are adopting Smeaton's words as a motto.

There are those who would say that Smeaton's reaction was not a peaceful solution and therefore not the best solution (while he pulled someone out of the way of a burning vehicle, he also "set aboot" one of the attackers who was going after a policeman), and I would say that right action is determined by what is needed at the time. I probably would have run screaming, myself...and I am thankful that this man—who did what he knew to do, and does not see himself as a hero—did not, possibly saving lives.

But what about the rest of the time? Must we always be armed to the teeth, threatening consequences, in order to feel safe? How can we put a halt to violence without being poised for violence?

When I facilitated a two-day workshop in Cali, Colombia several years ago, I thought it would be a good idea to spend some time talking about terrorism. However, we may have spent about ten minutes total on the drug lords, kidnappers, and guerilleros that are the daily reality in this turbulent country with its 50-plus year history of crime, violence, social injustice, and political unrest. The participants mostly wanted to talk about their spouses, their bosses, their health, and their kids. That's where the threat of war felt closest to them.

I had the same experience at my first School for The Work in September of 2001, right after 9-11, as a downtown New Yorker with the sights, sounds, and smells of the terror attack on the World Trade Center fresh in my senses and psyche. I was having some cognitive dissonance about the event, feeling an unreality about the whole thing that may or may not have been shell shock (I'll write about that another time), but I thought I still needed to "process" it, as every other New Yorker of my acquaintance was doing. After a day or so, I was judging my body, my parents, and my cat along with the rest of the group. Byron Katie tells me this happens all over the world, whether in comfortable living rooms or in more obvious war zones.

War means that we want situations and people to be different so that we can be happy. All large-scale wars arise out of this. What "should" our parents, partners, teachers, friends, children, colleagues, supervisors, direct reports, vendors and clients do differently? Do we work things out peacefully, or "set aboot 'em"? Does living under the threat of attack of any kind bring peace or stress into your life? If the answer is "stress," welcome to The Work of Byron Katie.

©2007 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

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