Every so often, you feel the earth shift beneath your feet. Be this the changing of political landscapes, or times of personal triumph and loss, we experience these moments sporadically throughout the relatively short time we're aware and lucid.

Such instants, terrifying and welcome in equal measure, possess the unique ability to alter perspective, for better or for worse, and hold within their minutes, hours and months the power to reshape the way you look at the world, and consider the people you share it with.

On a global scale, moments like these revise history. Had the Great War never happened, then a second may have been avoided, and had that second been avoided, then maybe the nuclear weapon dies with Oppenheimer. Reversely, had Emily Davison never thrown herself under that carriage, then perhaps women would still be denied a vote.

From each moment is birthed an infinite number of permutations and possible endpoints, and it is how we react that dictates which become reality.

In recent years, these moments have taken centre stage in the wider cultural discourse, occurring at a velocity and scale unfamiliar to most. A process accelerated by the Internet and our newfound connectivity, we've become desensitised as a result, exposed regularly to brutality and staggering periods of change at a rate the collective psyche has never before experienced.

We don't like to admit that we very rarely cry for cruelty a world away, but it's part of who we are now, a society with a mindset transitioning into new modes of thought, where only an attack on our doorstep or aimed directly at our consciousness seems to have any lasting affect. This is not something to decry or chastise, as I'd submit it's predominantly due to circumstance and the increasingly solipsistic and isolated environments in which we're raised.

That doesn't mean we don't care.


On 22 May 2017, my city was attacked. We don't get that much around here. The last comparable act was in 1996, when the IRA detonated the largest bomb the country had seen since the war, though this thankfully bore no fatalities. We were lucky, in a sense, to have had this as one of the very few barbaric marks on our city's modern history, and we subsequently rebuilt, regrouped, and resumed our daily lives, with compassion still in our hearts. We're built to last up here, you see.

This attack was different though, in both source and result: 22 dead at the time of writing, 59 injured. Most of us will never truly comprehend the motive to the degree of the perpetrator - religious zealotry as opposed to the more tangible political - or experience anything even remotely close to what the families of those affected will, but, as a city, we seem to understand its importance as one of those aforementioned moments, because we've just seen hell, and again it brings us together. Collective grief can ease the pain, but from it can emerge triumph.

Thousands of fresh worker bee tattoos etched into Mancunian skin; £4.1 million raised for grieving families; street parties in the face of a critical threat level; we mourn, yes, but we channel grievance through celebration, and through remembrance, and we rally around a message of unashamed warmth and humanity, all while locking eyes with senseless death.

To me, most cities exude loneliness and seclusion; cold, mechanical beasts of glass and metal that, despite intense population, seem like austere backdrops against which unknown faces pass and never pass again. "We do things differently here," though, goes Wilson's saying, and I sincerely believe this to be true. We speak of the contrast between English cities and the distinct identity that each bears, and time and time again, long before this atrocity, a welcoming nature has been our calling card.

The vigils that followed were gatherings larger and louder and prouder than any I've ever seen here, a coming together of my people, the people that make me feel welcome and wanted and not alone in this world in transition. And so, everyone else sat up and took notice, from all walks of life, and we got a chance to show the world some core values we cherish here: inclusion, diversity and indiscriminate love.


I awoke on the 23rd to a chorus of political commentators telling me that my city wasn't safe and that I should be scared for my life. Katie Hopkins explained that my preferred reaction of compassion was that of a cowed man, and implied that anything other than swift, blood-soaked retribution was weakness. But is it weak to face violence and sorrow with nothing more than faith in the human spirit? Would you bring open arms to a knife fight and expect to win, even with all those odds stacked against you?

Figures like Hopkins, Tommy Robinson, and Paul Joseph Watson all chose to boost their respective profiles over the bodies of dead children. The Sun took steps to politicise the event; an ensemble of Twitter anons took to their keyboards to preach violence against many for the actions of a few; and Paul Nuttall of The Ukips timed his manifesto release to coincide with the minutes silence, so that the gathered media would have no option but to broadcast him with head bowed in manufactured respect.

It is no coincidence that these figures post their most inflammatory comments at prime national moments, or slyly place links to donation sites and their poorly written books beneath, guised with claims of free speech when the words they pedal are very much for profit.

It would be redundant to condemn the perpetrator's act, because anyone with a modicum of intelligence knows already that this attack, any attack, was heinous, savage and irredeemable, but few seem to understand that we can reject the reactionary hatred it spawns whilst simultaneously continuing to hold out an olive branch to the rest of the world; just because we love doesn't mean that we want others to die, or that we encourage terrorism, or that we are naïve to the point of danger, as has been suggested.

In this context, it increasingly seems that morality is being hijacked and warped to suit ever more regressive and damaging purposes.

The reaction of Manchester has been to oppose the scattershot hatred vomited out by that listed chest of weapons, expressing sorrow and unbridled optimism in harmonious tandem. If any Mancunians weren't already aware of the uniquely warm and tender attitude permeating through their streets, they certainly are now. Out of tragedy has been born a new sense of purpose, and revitalised passion - a beacon of rare hope in what is currently a bin fire of a country going voluntarily to the dogs.

The permutations that this moment has thrown up are again infinite. We can go anywhere from here, be that to follow the men and women that demand an eye for an eye or to recognise it as a moment that changes us and forces us to realise what is required to move forward. Those that preach hate will try and wrestle this future away from us and usher it down dark corridors of wrath and reaction at any cost. Others will continue to offer their love and warmth regardless of the outcome, because that is who they inherently are, and it is what those of us without prime spots on talk shows, millions of twitter followers or a seat in parliament actually believe.


In 'Mao II', Don DeLillo's 1991 novel that explores the complex intertwining of terrorism, reaction and culture, the author explains:

"News of disaster is the only narrative people need. The darker the news, the grander the narrative. News is the last addiction before - what? I don't know. But you're smart to trap us in your camera before we disappear."

Grand narratives appeal to those who hate because in the current social climate hate equates to profit, and to clicks, and to on-going airtime, and you can be sure they'll unashamedly milk this for all it's worth. Yet it is vitally important to remember that this iteration of society is still in its infancy, the Internet only in its 35th year. The way we currently react to these events, and the discourse that arises, is, in relative terms, that of a child. The minute we became connected as we find ourselves now, things undoubtedly changed, and it reset the nature of interaction in a sense. But only by learning from these moments, and bettering ourselves by becoming less reactionary, and more compassionate, understanding and thoughtful, that things will change.

The victims of the attack were denied a chance to ever see this change come to fruition, torn away from us by people who do not understand the way the world should and can be. We have a choice now, those of us in Manchester and those far beyond, to react with hatred and force, or to think about it and find a real solution, because at the centre of all goodness and righteousness is thought, consideration and learning.

The dead can't be returned, and their families and city will never forget, but as Delillo writes: "the future belongs to crowds."

Manchester sticks together, through thick and thin, singing Mancunian songs, honouring lost brothers and sisters as well as those visitors that came but never left, trying to understand and improve. We don't call for the heads of others but instead for a measured response, one that puts an end to the violence as opposed to stoking it further.

We all disappear, eventually, by the hands of others or not, so trap everyone in your camera that you possibly can, because memory is a catalyst for change.

"La haine attire la haine."

You can find Kristofer tweeting over at @KRSTHMS.