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When it comes to responding to terrorism, Londoners get it right

Spotted last week on a London Tube station whiteboard, in elegant calligraphy, was a line from Helen Keller: "The world is full of suffering; it is also full of overcoming suffering."

Transit workers in the English capital frequently jot down inspirational thoughts to greet commuters, so in a sense messages like that one and others that popped up following the terrorist attack at Westminster on Wednesday weren't out of the ordinary.

Which is precisely the point.

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If terrorism is a feature of our world – and let's not kid ourselves, it is – the most effective way of dealing with it on a personal level is the British way: Pick yourself up, put the kettle on and jolly well get on with life.

Those who seek to cow and intimidate through the massacre of innocents must be met with scorn and resolve, rather than fear and overreaction.

After the horrific attacks that killed 130 in Paris in 2015, Parisians made a point of posting social media photos of themselves enjoying life in the kinds of cafés and bars that had been targeted by the terrorists.

When a Quebec City mosque fell prey to an act of terror earlier this year, the mosque was again filled with worshippers within days.

In his 2011 treatise Living with terror, not living in terror, the American political science professor Dov Waxman describes how social resilience allows cultures to overcome mass psychological trauma.

He was writing specifically about the impact of chronic terrorism on Israeli society (his conclusion is, it has failed as a tactic), but the idea is universal.

Salman Rushdie, the Anglo-Indian novelist targeted for decades by Islamist extremists, insists the fanatic's worst enemy is pleasure.

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"Dance madly," he said in 2013. "That is how you get rid of terrorism."

London's refusal to bend, and Britain's collective impulse to deride the Westminster attacker for what he was – a loser and a criminal – should be kept in mind whenever there is a terrorist-related crisis. The zealots only win if we let them.

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