Has The World Suddenly Gone Mad?

One of my most special childhood memories was when I would fall asleep in the car after a long car journey and my dad would carry me into the house and put me to bed. 

This image was selected as a picture of the we...
This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Malay Wikipedia for the 6th week, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes I would pretend to be asleep. I loved that feeling of happiness and safety created by his strong arms carrying me up the stairs, the familiar smell of his aftershave and the blanket of security such a simple act of parenting afforded me.

But for even us privileged people of the western world, who sit in our ivory towers moaning about our first world problems, today feels like no one and nowhere is safe anymore.

In spite of the numerous advancements in science and technology over the past few decades, it feels as though progress has sadly augmented our vulnerability in the face of terrorism.

Just me, or does it feel to you as though the world has suddenly gone mad?

From random high school shootings and racist attacks in the US, an increase in suicide rates worldwide, kidnappings, mass genocide and rape – where did the good news go?

Is it just because we have immediate access to the news and its daily atrocities that we feel more exposed, or did such heinous acts in the name of politics and religion always go on?

Sadly, you only have to look back to the battles in Europe before the World wars, Hitler and Germany, The American Civil War and the war between Palestine and Israel to know that they did. The fact that most of the world remained immune to the genocide of Europe’s Jewish population until close to the end of the war proves it.

Innocent bystanders have always been the pawns of political and religious idealism but you’d think that progress would have taught us that war and violence solve nothing and that communication is a better way. And when the innocent are enjoying a simple night out, to be savagely targeted by cowards, without any means of protection to defend themselves, it feels all the more shameful and inhumane.

That is the work of butchers.

What has caused this decrease in the value of human life, and increase in the entitlement of extremists to push their personal idealism on others via physical force, rather than through the modern channels of communication and democracy.

No-one is safe anymore.

I lived in France for three years in my twenties and I would never have considered any deep-seated threat lurking there, or felt afraid that religion and politics – social groups that are supposed to hold and bring people together and create communities – could kill.

Not that historically anything has really changed – the innocent have long been persecuted by power-hungry dictators or small factions of self-serving murderers. Worse still, we know that our instant access to world news most likely propels the perpetrators to kill in the most public of places, to attract news coverage. As seen during the siege in Sydney, when the media had to be reminded to stop filming their minute-by-minute account of the events to protect the people still in danger.

Which leaves us in a conundrum. We cannot live in fear. We cannot let the terrorists win. We need to bring about awareness of terrorism and it’s small-minded idealism without sensationalizing or propagating it so that innocent people – that include the majority of Muslims and refugees, feel safe again.

Our thoughts are with you, Paris.

#I’ll Ride With You

#I'll Ride With YouIn the same way that 9/11 changed the face of the US thirteen years ago, the Sydney siege changed the perceived protective mask of Australia yesterday.

Considered by the rest of the world as a sunny, safe haven, the siege reminded us Sydneysiders that no-where is safe from discrimination and terror.

Within minutes of the hostage-taker walking into that cafe in Martin Place, our city was reduced to a war zone, with large sections of the city in lock down, roads gridlocked, the haunting sound of sirens blaring and the persistent whirring of helicopters scouring the skies above.

But two inspiring actions stood out for me yesterday, amid the intense live media coverage that so vividly depicted one of the country’s worst fears being played out.

The first was the Twitter hashtag #I’ll ride with you – a simply worded gesture that symbolised the solidarity and community felt by most Australian citizens towards each other – that we protect each other, no matter what our creed or the provocation aimed at us. #I'll Ride With You

The second was the coming together of religious leaders as a united front, representative all those many different religions, in a mosque at Lakemba – again, proof that religion does not define us, like love, morality and an understanding of the intrinsic differences between right and wrong do.

Since 9/11 and the racial riots in the Sydney suburb of Cronulla nearly ten years ago, there have been persistent rumblings and antagonism towards the Muslim community in Australia, sadly, as there have been in many corners of the world.

We are not perfect as a nation.

It would be nice to say we have created a nirvana where cultures work together and are fully embracing of each other’s ideas, but sadly that is the ideal rather than always the case. Historically, ‘difference’ has created tension within societies and although what we do have in Australia is a wonderful multi-cultural patchwork that forms a society that we should be proud of, occasionally cultures and ideas clash, especially in the face of danger.

It would be reassuring to know that the tide will turn now, after the tragedy that shook us yesterday and those poor hostages caught in the crossfire in that Lindt cafe. And that the lives of those two hostages, so tragically lost, will not have been in vain. But let us hope, above all, that the events that took place yesterday make us question our own judgments, our values and the way we look at others.

Let those events make us think twice before we stereotype.

Because what came out of yesterday, and in particular what the ‘I’ll Ride With You’ Twitter campaign encapsulated, was that the majority of us are simple human beings, with simple needs for basic values. We’re not extreme, fundamentalist crazies. We may come from different cultures and have different religious beliefs, but we share the same integral values of freedom, life, respect, and love for each other.

Yesterday proved that as a community we stick together in the face of danger and refuse to let anyone destroy those shared values.

9/11 Was Not An Evolution Of Terrorism, But It Was The Evolution Of A Greater Awareness Of Terrorism

The mind plays peculiar tricks as you get older. These days, I can’t remember where I put my car keys from one minute to the next, or where I’ve parked my car in the mall, but I can still remember exactly what I was doing on 9/11, 2001.


9/11 Was Not An Evolution Of Terrorism, But It Was The Evolution Of A Greater Awareness Of Terrorism
‘Peace’ by Bart at http://www.flickr.com


When I was growing up in London, terrorist attacks at the hands of the IRA were commonplace, but it never stopped us from shopping in Harrods or catching a bus.


We didn’t give in to the demands of terrorists then and we won’t now.


It’s thirteen years since the full weight of terrorism wielded its ugly power in the USA and a superpower realized that even it was not exempt from attack. The events of 9/11 shocked the world – not just the US. Before that terrible day, we all secretly ridiculed the US for what looked like a narcissistic obsession with nationalism, but when it was attacked, we suddenly realised just how vulnerable we all were.


I had a four year old Kurt at home with me on that day and it seemed like any other day of parenting – still desperately seeking the secret to toilet training and praying his kindergarden never discovered the refusal of his bowels to comply with society’s expectations. And so somehow the news passed me by until the old man called me mid-morning; from which point I was transfixed with the rest of the world by the escalation of horrific events shown on television. It was the first time any of us had witnessed the full scale of terrorism, ‘live’, in our homes.


It was horror on a grand scale.


Watching that live footage was like living a nightmare where you just wanted someone to pinch you; yet it was equally mesmerising too, in its appallingness. When those towers fell and the plumes of white smoke engulfed New York and its victims, so quickly and without any real warning, the images sent a shudder of united disbelief around the globe for the loss of those three thousand innocent victims caught up in the game of politics.


Kurt, who has a morbid obsession with morbidity, (borne out of anxiety), replays 9/11 footage often – yet to this day I can’t watch it.


So many precious lives wasted and shattered in the name of religion and politics. 


There is footage of some of the victims holding hands and jumping from the towers together. United in death. You can’t begin to imagine the absolute desperation behind that choice.


No-one should have to make a choice like that and it reminds you that there is such a fine line between life and death.


And so, thirteen years on, the war against terrorism continues and seemingly intensifies, because it has to. Because we can’t allow fanatics to tell us how to live our lives or impose their evil will and ideals upon our democracies in the hope that we will crack eventually.


Just as we did in the first and second world wars, we will fight to the bitter end for our kids and our kids’ kids.


And yes, there will be more loss of life, like the lives of those poor American journalists, so violently, shamefully and publicly slaughtered for ‘a cause’, (apparently), and the shooting down of our civilian planes. Then there’s the silent infiltration of these groups into cells that permeate our society like cancer, and condone evil that we thought had been eradicated a long time ago, such as genocide and the abuse of women.


I am no politician, as you can imagine – I can only speak as a mother of a future generation and from the instinct of someone who knows the difference between right and wrong. But we can’t let terrorists define who we are or let them believe that we powerless against them.


Violence has never been an acceptable negotiating tool in modern society. 


Mankind has had to fight for its freedom since the world was created, whether in the face of natural disasters, world wars or at the hands of maniacs, and there is no doubt in my mind that we will be battling to the end.


Terrorism is not a new strategy, but what 9/11 and its victims did for the world was to make us more aware of how wrong it is, and far more determined to fight it.