Saturday, January 10, 2015

They're here now and we have to deal with it

The whole Charlie Hebdo is blowing up the internet, at least in my corner of the internet, but I have to admit that I haven't read a single article about it. I feel like I already know the story and the meaningless loss of life fills me with grief. I can't stand the inevitable xenophobia that follows so I'm leaving it alone.

I don't just grieve the people lost, there's much more at stake here. In a region of the world where xenophobia constantly bubbles under the surface but where they welcome a huge amount of refugees the stakes are high. Europe is a complicated beast with its many borders and history of warring amongst themselves. The last big war was a mix of things past - warring amongst themselves and forging alliances amongst themselves - and racism that resulted in genocide.


I can never quite decide if wars are started out of greed, fear or just plain stupidity. As a mother, and I know I'm simplifying now, I spent years telling my daughter to use her words when she got angry and not her fists (or teeth!) while the world use a lot more than fists to solve conflict. She actually called me on it at about age seven when she turned around and asked me why kids her age weren't allowed to hit while adults fight wars. Try explaining that in a way that the suspicious mind of a seven year old who has just started thinking for themselves can swallow.

I could be wrong but there seems to be an increase of attacks in the name of Islam. Every Muslim person I know or have ever met are peace loving and friendly people. They have no wish to be separate and they're more than happy to talk about their religion because they seem to understand that we're afraid (I'm generalizing). It makes me wonder who these people are who attack in the name of this religion and how much fear these attacks are generating in the Muslim communities. It must be unsettling being a peace loving Muslim in the countries where the attacks occurred.

In Sydney the fear and suspicion of Muslims are growing. After the recent 17-hour siege at the Lindt's cafe in Martin Place, which resulted in the death of two hostages and the hostage taker, it's hard not to feel the anger. Some people skip the feeling fear and they just get angry, and they demand retaliation.

But in Sydney we're also seeing the opposite. The day after the siege in Martin Place a young woman witnessed a Muslim woman removing her Jihab on the train for fear of reprisal. She approached the Muslim woman when they got off the train, and told her to put it back on and told her that she would ride with her. She tweeted about it and it went viral with the hashtag #illridewithyou and Sydney in part at least united against xenohpobia and general fear. The display of what Sydney is really made of didn't stop there. A Muslim bride took her whole bridal party to Martin Place to place her bridal bouquet at the temporary memorial set up for the two hostages who had died in the siege. It was a strong statement and it worked.

I have little time for people who can't be bothered engaging their brain before they lash out. Humanity has an awful history of doing just that. I can't help feeling that while these attacks are awful they serve as distraction for what's really going on. The population of our planet is growing and we have to learn to get along or else we'll see more and more conflict. We also have to learn to get along in order to save ourselves and our planet from environmental catastrophe. We don't have time to squabble over petty crap. We also need to understand that the people behind these are in the minority.

The first thing we need to figure out is why these kind of people do what they do and why they choose to do it in the name of whatever when they're quite clearly are not representing the majority of it. The anger they feel, the rage that gives birth to attacks where people purposely go out to hurt and terrorize, and don't care about their own survival, it comes from somewhere. What kind of fear and hopelessness gives birth to something like that? Is it the same kind of fear and hopelessness that gives birth to something like Columbine?

To me an attack is an attack and while the mechanisms behind it are extremely complex I can't help but to see similarities. There's a disconnect that needs to happen before you can get to the point where you feel justified to cause loss of life and to lose your own. In order to want to lose your own life the alternative has to look a lot more attractive and it has to offer more acceptance and connection for you. If your thinking has become that this world is so fudged up that it's better that you're not part of it and that you make sure you go out taking a few others with you, psychologically you've gone pretty far in feeling you are well and truly separate and disconnected.

Perhaps we've lost that loving feeling, that feeling of belonging somewhere, of having a community. Historically we've always had borders that are fiercely protected against outsiders and when you let these outsiders in, even as refugees, maybe somewhere in our psyche we feel invaded. Maybe we feel our connection is somehow diluted. Maybe the refugees who arrive at our doorstep not only feel the loss of their community (homeland) connection but also feel our reluctance to let them "invade" our turf and let them belong. Some people would be more sensitive to it than others depending on what they've experienced.

I loathe the new age preaching about acceptance and being One but we need a bit of that here. The one antidote to making people fight is to make them feel united and part of something, in others words accepted. People will only unite when they don't feel threatened or fearful. It's not so much about common ground, it's about removing fear and suspicion. A show of unconditional solidarity like #illridewithyou is so important because it shows a will to unite and to include, and it shows that there's a connection.

The title of this post was sparked by a friend posting on Facebook that in Denmark there's apparently talk about sending refugees back. I wanted to scream when I saw that because that is exactly the kind of talk that will cause more separation and loss of connection. Can you imagine being sent back after you've escaped from a terrible place to start with? Can you imagine being persecuted again? Can you imagine what it does to a person? Can you imagine living in a country where part of the population thinks that should happen to you?

It's a complicated beast but we need to deal with it and we need to deal with it not only as a world and as individual countries, we need to deal with it as individuals. Those of us who understand that mistrust of those who are already here as refugees is not the way to go, and that in this case they can be our greatest allies if we include them in our society, we need to get louder and we need to grow in numbers. We need to talk about the fear and dread we feel when bigotry and xenophobia raises its ugly head. We need to call the haters out on their behavior and the damage it does. We need to let people who will be tarnished by these hate acts by default that we will support them so that they feel safe speaking out and uniting with us. We need that connection.

This is a fight that won't end any time soon but we can end it sooner if we don't allow ourselves to be paralyzed by fear. We need to be brave and talk about what really matters here, a world where everyone can feel safe and connected.

I'm just saying.

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