Addicted to danger
The Daily Mail publishes extracts from Ann Leslie’s Killing My Own Snakes this week. The veteran foreign correspondent talks about the addiction to danger she sees in other war correspondents and which she has experienced herself,
To be a professional war correspondent means, in my view, that you have to be a certain type of person – often, but not always, addicted to danger.
You can become psychologically hooked on the adrenaline ‘hit’, the camaraderie, the black humour, the furious anger with those who inflict such suffering on others, and the fierce bursts of exhilaration when you escape official obstruction or, indeed, death.
All of which affords the addict an emotional high that ordinary life can rarely provide.
The hit is so powerful (and I’ve experienced it myself) that coming home to gas bills and school concerts and all the mundanity of normal life can feel like going cold turkey.
You can become tetchy, impatient, unable to deal with a child’s problems at school – because you’ve been somewhere where you’ve just interviewed the mother of a child who has been repeatedly raped, or someone who has been forced to become the killer of a loved one, or someone who is dying in a shack, covered in flies.
The fact is that war junkies really only feel at home with fellow war junkies. They form a freewheeling, nomadic tribe who speak the same language, share the same experiences, and feel the same instant, if often competitive, affinity with one another.
It has been my privilege to work alongside them, and with so many others who have helped me over the years.
No foreign correspondent, basking in by-lined glory, should ever forget those who were imprisoned, or were tortured, or died in the cause of helping us tell an often indifferent world about its many dark, savage corners.
One of the duties of journalism is to shine a torch into those dark places, and to expose its coldness and cruelty to the bright, clear and humanising light of day.