Saturday, November 26, 2022

Turin Stampede; When Social Frenzy Turns into Fear

Last week, Europe experienced fear and terror after a series of terrorist acts in the UK. The London attacks were concurrent with the frenzy of UEFA Champions League’s final match between Real Madrid and Juventus, which was being held in Cardiff.

The terrorist attacks on the UK capital’s Westminster Bridge and Borough Market followed by Vauxhall stabbing in London left 7 people dead and 48 others injured. British police said the attacks were not connected with the ones which took place in the city over the past months.

But as three attackers were launching their invasion in London, there was also a false bomb scare in San Carlo Square in Turin, Italy, in which 30,000 of Juventus fans had gathered to watch the Champions League’s final. It was right after Real Madrid’s third goal that a man suddenly cried: “Bomb! Bomb!”. It prompted a stampede that injured hundreds of people.

Earlier, I was reading a book on the global culture of football named “The Geography of Emotion”. The main theme of the book is that by creating a collective emotion across the world, football has managed to establish an independent and unified realm with a common language and set of concepts.

In the past, football was viewed just as a game. To clarify meanings, the linguists say every game has two main features: Being entertaining and charge-free. With this point in mind, football is no longer just a game today, but an extremely serious activity which goes beyond entertainment. Meanwhile, it is no longer a charge-free activity, and rather the basis of a money-making industry.

These days, terror shares the same fate with football in the sense that it is no longer just a word with an apparent and single meaning. Terror is now a global phenomenon with a coherent structure. It creates a new kind of fear. If floods and earthquakes create fear among us and threaten our lives, terror takes a further step and shatters our courage. Fear is no longer an individual emotion or limited to a certain country or region.

If football can turn a Messi-fan Afghan boy into a component of a universal galaxy of concepts, terrorism can connect Kabul, Brussels and Paris together in the same way. Like football, terror has created a unified and independent realm of fear with a universal and common meaning. That’s why those in Turin with the same impression of football, Ronaldo, Real Madrid and Juventus have a similar impression of “bomb”. This impression connects Kabul to Paris and London in a blink of an eye causing a stronger reaction.

Therefore, the geography of fear – terrorism – goes beyond football’s geography of emotion in terms of universality and influence. Today the flag of terror is hoisting over the ruins of our courage and happiness which our society used to owe its cohesion to them.

Fear is an inseparable part of all social frenzies and all of us feel it one way or another.

Throughout history, fear has always created a fertile ground for emergence of destructive forces which in turn contribute to major human disputes by releasing uncontrollable emotions.

Fear and misunderstanding are twin sisters catalyzing catastrophes and paving the way for sidelining human wisdom.

Football’s wins and defeats have short-term repercussions, but the repercussions of fear know no time limit. Today, people not only in the Middle East, but also in Southeast Asia, Africa, America and Europe feel the fear in their hearts even amid football jubilation.

Despite its cultural aspects, today our world is suffering from an extremely frightened mindset. There are ample unfortunate precedents in the history followed by sheer follies. The new wave of follies is standing at the gateway of our civilization.

Courage and wisdom are the only remedies. Any dialogue leading to further cooperation amounts to an iron shield against the blade of fear.

Now, we have pinned our hopes to the potential capabilities of human being to overcome the current plight. The main question lingering in mind is that which side will prevail in fight between fear and courage, extremism and moderation and wisdom and folly? Only time will tell.

Authored by senior Iranian commentator Sahand Iranmehr

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