Owen Jones: Manchester is suffering now – but its spirit will overcome this atrocity
The love and solidarity of Mancunians shone through in their immediate response to the Arena attack. Let’s celebrate the city’s warmth and diversity
A man photographs a sign in Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
The hatred that drives someone to detonate themselves in a crowd of children and teenagers at a concert is impossible to reason with, to quantify, to properly understand. There’s a unique thrill of a gig at that age: those who went would have counted down the days, texted and WhatsApped their excitement in the hours leading up to it, and sang along with their parents and friends. You get this special sense of togetherness at a concert, instantly bound to strangers by your shared love of music that forms the soundtrack to your life. To listen to that joy, to see it etched on the faces of children, and then ensure the last thing you ever do is ensure their parents never hear them laugh again – that perverse hatred cannot be rationalised.
But Manchester has shown this: whatever the hatred in the mind of this pathetic and warped perpetrator – whose name should be forgotten – it cannot begin to match the love and solidarity of Manchester. Those Mancunians who offered their homes to strangers . The taxi drivers who offered free rides home. These were instinctive responses, because it is ingrained in the soul of the people of Manchester to look out for each other.
It is a cliche to talk about the friendliness of the north. Manchester has problems just as every city does: nowhere is populated by saints, everyone is capable of unkindness or worse. But whereas, in other cities, people can be in too much of a rush to bother with niceties, where icy politeness is a substitute for warmth, Manchester stands out. Strangers ask how you are, and mean it. People who have never met can strike up conversations on public transport and on the street: in London, that is seen, quite frankly, as a bit odd. That would have happened in that concert yesterday. That’s just what Mancs do.
Yesterday, Manchester was one of the greatest cities on earth, and it remains so today. The warmth, the solidarity, the unique Manc humour, all of that will thrive as much as it ever did. This was the city that helped bequeath modern industrial civilisation; it is a hurricane of creativity and talent, like the music of Oasis and The Smiths, the art of Lowry, Corrie, the football, the athletes, the comedians, the suffragettes, the LGBT activists.
A wretched soul has succeeded in inflicting immense suffering on that city. And, inevitably, there are vultures driven by hatred already circling over this atrocity, and they will respond just as the terrorist wanted them to. But we have a choice. When the names of the dead emerge, and the loved ones share with us who they were and what they were like, let’s all remember just one. Let’s celebrate the warmth and talent of Manchester. Let’s emphasise all the things that unite this diverse society, and reject those who urge us to do otherwise. And let’s be mindful that whatever twisted motive was used to rationalise slaughtering laughing teenagers and children, Manchester will always overcome.