Anxiety is an obvious response to world events. But what if fear is actually a motivational emotion driving change? Here, author Robert Peckham reveals why the history of fear is the history of hope
On 22 January 1988, hordes of Pashtun mourners made the journey from Peshawar in Pakistan to Jalalabad in Afghanistan for the funeral of Bacha Khan, a political leader who campaigned against British colonial rule. Among them was Robert Peckham, a British student who was backpacking around the region. He hopped in a van with some friends, journalists and the editor of the Frontier Post and travelled along the winding Khyber Pass, a road punctuated by overtones of the Soviet-Afghan war: tanks, checkpoints and soldiers. A ceasefire had been negotiated and crowds flowed peacefully into Jalalabad to gather around Khan’s family home, where he wished to be buried.
It was then, with the ceremony under way, that the first bomb went off. Peckham felt its force jolt through the crowd, which, he recalls, sustained its form momentarily before a second explosion sent people scattering. Buses that had transported mourners to the city were destroyed, the parking lot a scene of chaos. Fifteen people were killed, it would later emerge, and dozens were wounded. As he recounts in his book, Fear: An Alternative History of the World, a crowd that had been “unified in grief” was suddenly fragmented as people kicked and elbowed in a desperate scrabble for safety. “People were dazed, wondering how they would get home,” writes Peckham. “Some were sobbing. Fights broke out and guns were pointed.” As he and his group raced back along the Khyber Pass for the safety of Peshawar, stranded mourners attempted to hitch a ride, but their driver, cursing, sped past without stopping. “Panic,” Peckham recounts, “which made us human, also made us cruel.”
Read the original article at The Guardian