“He said ‘Don’t move’. I threw myself on the ground … I knew it wasn’t firecrackers.”
Vinson crawled towards some offices when the door of the editorial office burst open and a man cried: “Allahu akbar … where is Charb?”
“I heard gunfire. I didn’t look back, I didn’t want to stare death in the face and I was sure I was going to die,” she said.
She joined other staff hiding in a colleague’s office where they could hear but not see the killing spree.
“They didn’t fire in bursts, they shot one bullet after another. Slowly. Nobody shouted. Everyone must have been taken completely by surprise,”
Vinson heard footsteps and more gunfire. One of the gunmen, later identified as Saïd Kouachi, looked around an office wall and took aim.
“I looked at him. He had big dark eyes, a gentle look. I felt he was slightly troubled, like he was searching for my name,”
This is the chilling account of Sigolène Vinsonh from the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris.
Even with data showing that there are less deaths in modern day conflicts compared to the past, the psychological impact on normal citizens is very different. In the past, there were front lines, rules of engagement, young men made up most of the casualties in those conflicts and, if it was not a total war, home was a place to de-stress and be relatively safe from attack. Now, all rules are off and everyone and anyone can be a target in any place. Terrorism is nothing new in modern history. From the religious radical, leftist movement to separatism, few movements can claim that they have achieved their goals though terrorism. However, the frequency and randomness of what we are seeing in the Western world is a completely new threat.
What happened in Paris and Sydney is merely a start. We will face more and more attacks like these in our streets, coffee shops, theaters and schools. There is no front line and radicalization will only get worse as time progresses. Terrorist organizations like ISIS and Al Qaeda, with its own online publication such as Daqib (struggle), have successfully “inspired“ young people in the Western world to commit atrocities like attacks on Charlie Hebdo. This magazine’s quality of images and arrangements can put most commercial publications to shame. Articles on how to make car bombs and justifying the killing of innocent people can provide tools on both the spiritual and tactical level for radical young people. Now anyone with the will can be a terrorist and this is why this new type of terrorism is abhorred and feared by all. In the past, you could stop a terrorist organization by killing its ringleaders, bomb makers or suppliers. Now, anyone can be a ringleader, bomb maker and executioner all at once, and the time from planning to execution is very short. The authorities have very little time to gather evidence and arrest suspects with no past history or connection until the attack has already happened. These types of attacks do not have to be specific. The murder of British soldier Fusilier Lee Rigby in 2013 is an example of these types of random terror attacks. Two of the attackers, Michael Olumide Adebblaio and Michael Oluwatobi Adebowale, pulled off the attack with only cars, knives and a meat cleaver. A terror attack does not have to be on a massive scale like 911 but simply needs to strike fear into the general public’s psyche.
There is not much we can do regarding radical ideology. Radical ideology is radical because it is based upon emotions instead of logic. The root of these emotions can be traced back centuries. What we can do is for everyone to be mentally ready for the attacks and be prepared to handle them physically.
- Mentally Ready
Since the dawn of the age, men and women understood that they need to defend themselves from other humans, natural elements, etc. The right to defend one’s life is as inherent as life itself. The right to defense of self is as natural as breathing; however, in the modern day with all the comforts and security of Western civilization, people tend to forget their duty and their right. We’ve become comfortable and we’ve become complacent. Western society takes a much more liberal approach within its own society and castrates our ability and mentality to fight for our lives. Ironically, Western society has a very different approach in its state-to-state affairs. This diverse difference domestically and externally of Western society gives us the Wolf, Sheep and Sheepdog. In this society, you are either a Wolf (bad guy), a Sheep (civilians who cannot fight back), or a Sheepdog (police and military). This idea creates two different classes within a country’s citizens: Sheep and Sheepdog. An average untrained civilian (Sheep) relies on the professional (Sheepdog) for his or her life, safety and well-being and, in return, the Sheep pays taxes and becomes a good citizen. This type of system was only made possible in the last 30 years because we were not in any major conflict, our society was not under constant threat, and we’ve had a relatively low crime rate. This was not always the case. After all, nations did not mobilize Sheep in the last two major world wars, but strong proud citizen soldiers. In addition, nowadays, Wolves are hidden among the Sheep and they strike whenever and wherever. The very idea of Sheep and Sheepdog is a very lazy way of thinking. We do not entrust others to eat our food or drink our water for our own bodies, so why would citizens rely on others to protect their own lives. One may argue that it is because a Sheepdog has training, etc., but that’s the key point – the only difference between an average citizen and a professional is “training“ and “will to act.“ The second should be inherently built into our human DNA. When our ancestors picked up the first stick, they made the conscious decision that they wanted to live and that’s the “will“ itself.
In almost every terror attack in the past few months, there were instances when untrained and unarmed citizens seized the chance to fight off terrorists, and some perished during the process, such as the two people in the Sydney cafe shop in December 2014, and one man in the Kosher Supermarket in Paris in January 2015. These instances prove that ordinarily citizens will act in extreme circumstances.
1. Physical Fitness
Physical fitness is the foundation of everything, including your mental health. The fitter you are, the quicker you can react and the more stress you can handle. Fitness is directly related to the fight or flight response. The relation between fitness and fight is self-explanatory and, of course, the fitter you are the faster you can run away from danger.
2. Hand-to-Hand Combat
Here I mean a hand-to-hand combat discipline and not a martial art. Such disciplines include boxing, Muay Thai, MMA, grappling and, of course, Krav Maga (if taught in the right way). There is nothing artistic and spiritual about conflict and violence. It is both physical and emotional. A lot of hidden emotions; fear, anger and regrets will surface in a fight. A good hand-to- hand combat training session will help you reveal , and then condition, those feelings and thoughts. Physically, you will be bruised and injured. Last, but not least, you will be punched in the face. The training is tough and unpleasant, but this type of training will condition both your body and mind to be tough in response to dangers.
As time progresses, after you have a strong base of rigorous training, it is time to learn techniques. Of course, these techniques have to be relevant to real life situations and be practical. Many systems like Krav Maga, Defendo, Systema, Combat Sambo and even modern Kung Fu has great techniques if you can find a legitimate school with qualified and progressive instructors.
4. Firearm Training
Whether or not you are allowed to carry firearms within your country, learning about firearms is vital when it comes to dealing with the type of terror attacks seen in Paris. In both Paris’ Kosher supermarket and Sydney’s coffee shop attack, hostages attempted to take terrorist’s firearms out of their hands or out of secondary storage. In both instances, unfortunately, the hostages failed and paid dearly with their lives. The Kosher supermarket was especially tragic when the hostage failed to fire the terrorist’s pistol. Like it or not, firearms are something people need to understand and have training with in the event of terror attacks. First of all, not all firearms are the same. It is not like the movies, when a good guy can simply pick up guns off the ground and start firing. Western Bloc and Eastern Bloc weapons have different safety switches on the weapon’s body. For example, a semi-automatic pistol works slightly differently from a revolver. Knowing how a firearm functions and the ability to potentially use it will ensure your life and others.
Secondly, the sound of gunfire is something one needs to understand in order to survive active shooter types of terror attacks. This part of firearm training is neglected by both government and civilians. Gunfire sounds different up close, far away, outside a building, inside a building, etc. By knowing the differences in gunfire sounds you can potentially determine the distance of gunman, how many of them there are, and maybe, the type of weapon they are using. All of this information can help you escape in an active shooter type of terrorist attack.
- Defense Shooting Training
Here, defense shooting training means the actual shooting portion of firearm training, whereas, firearm training itself does not necessary need to involve shooting. Whether or not to allow citizens to arm themselves with firearms is debatable, but many experts such as secretary general of Interpol would agree that armed citizens do have the ability to prevent further damage from active shooter type terrorist attacks. The Canadian Parliament Hill attack was a successful case of a determined person with a firearm stopping further slaughter. After shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who had already shot a soldier outside, broke into Parliament Hill in an attempt to commit further killing inside, Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers was able to prevent further attacks. Mr. Vickers was an RCMP police officer for 29 years before accepting the ceremonial position of Sergeant-at-Arms. At the time he was not entitled to carry a duty firearm and Mr. Vickers had to retrieve his pistol from his office to engage the shooter.
The idea of conceal-carry and open-carry frightens common citizens and excites those who are pro-gun and self-defense right folks. However, the key lies within training and regulations. The “average” avid shooter’s shooting training is not comparable to the military and law enforcement’s. Some States like Iowa have slightly stricter training standards when it comes to getting a carry license, but one always wants to ask oneself, “Do I have enough training to use this firearm and am I confident to defend myself and others under pressure.“ The answer to the first question should always be “No.“ There is never enough training to prepare a person for a gun fight. Shooting in a range, inside a facility with ear plugs on is very different from being scared and pressured while engaging potential enemies. Well-known firearms instructor Chris Costa and Travis Haley once said “Amateurs train till they get it right, Professionals train till they get it wrong!“ Professionals like the police or military (combat arms) train and train until they experience all kinds of failure (muscle, mechanical , etc .) and when it comes to defense shooting training you need to be a professional for the sake of both the public and yourself.
In today’s world, attackers come from within the people and the solution lies within the people as well. Normal citizens have to take on the responsibility to protect themselves against dangers in the immediate proximity. The luxury of having “sheepdogs“ risking their life is no longer viable against random terror attacks. Some people might say it is not possible to have the normal citizens be prepared and ready for such attacks, but there are plenty of cases when normal citizens stand against criminals successfully. Israel as a nation has been doing this since its creation in 1949. In this new world, people need to use their free time to exercise and train for possible threats, instead of sitting in front of the computer and watching the latest reality TV show. This might come as a tough pill to swallow, but after all, we all know vegetables do not taste the best, but are surely good for you.
For those who make a claim to pacifism and take a very liberal approach regarding self defense, this is all I will say to them: “A pacifist is just someone who has not had someone they love or care murdered in front their eyes“. We are all capable of using force (violence when it is unjustified). Here in the western world, we have become soft and complacent because of modern technology; whereas in many parts of the world people live by a more original rule of humanity. As the world gets smaller and smaller with due to improvements in global transportation, people with different upbringings and beliefs live alongside each other. Believing we should not solve problems with violence may be a noble ideal, but not prepare for a potential fight is naive and to believe you are not responsible for your own safety is a lazy and irresponsible way of thinking.
Written by: Borky Y
Edited by: Warren C & Josh H