Growing Up In An Uncertain World

It seems that every time I put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard) lately, there’s been another tragedy. As a result of this week’s tumultuous events in France, I’ve been reflecting on my childhood, and the fears and issues that loomed large in my mind as a teen and a pre-teen.

Being born in the mid sixties, I grew up during the cold war, and in a time when the Vietnam War was still a huge presence in the media and in politics. Although I was a child at the time, I remember thinking quite deeply about those things.

Intermittently we’d hear about left wing extremism, and the occasional terrorist attack, which in my memory seems to have been an aircraft hijacking, somewhere far, far away from Australia. We worried more about the implications of nuclear war – the possibility that the world might literally end, in a nasty, lingering, horrible way. We read post apocalyptic books, like Neville Shute’s ‘On The Beach’ or watched ‘The China Syndrome’ which just reinforced our horror of the potential for radiation poisoning.

This week, I reflected that this generation probably hasn’t worried nearly as much as mine about nuclear war. I suspect they think more about the random terror event. Whether it’s Martin Bryant in Tasmania, the Bali Bombings, 9/11, Anders Breivik, the London bombings, the Boston Marathon bomb, Martin Place or this week’s attack in France, their short lives have been peppered with the blood of innocents spilled all over the internet and the television media.

As I wrote that list, I kept thinking of yet another event to add to it. Just today I woke to the news of a ten year old suicide bomber – my mind almost refused to process the idea of someone’s precious ten year old deliberately blowing herself up for some kind of ideology. Reports suggest she didn’t know what she was carrying. We may never know. I can’t imagine either of our kids even contemplating something like that at the same age – but they have grown up in an environment of first world privilege.

My generation has seen great evil, but also great good. We saw the Berlin Wall come down in 1989 – and we saw the end of The Cold War. We’ve seen the rise of globalism, with all that’s good and bad amongst it.

This week several people have expressed their concern about travelling as event after event seems to have exploded before our eyes. My response? Don’t let it change your life. Extremism only wins if it makes people fearful enough to change their lives and avoid things they might otherwise have done.

The other side of the issue that I’ve seen on the rise is the ‘They should all be got rid of’ people. It doesn’t matter what race, faith or ethnicity the terrorists are, or what they’ve done, some people suggest that all people who profess the same religion, came from the same country, or subscribe to anything different to the speaker should be kicked out of the country or forced to change their faith.

This isn’t helpful. It’s racist, it’s hateful, and it’s vindictive. While it’s normal and appropriate to feel angry with the individual perpetrators of acts of terror, it’s not appropriate, nor is it fitting or seemly (to use somewhat archaic terms) to expand that to blameless individuals who happen to share the same ethnicity.

In my mind, we should be much better than that. Sure, there’s bad in the world, but we don’t have to multiply it by behaving badly ourselves.

It is an uncertain world, but it’s a world that still has much to celebrate. We can celebrate the human spirit triumphing over adversity and look to making the future a better place. By doing that, we don’t bow to fear, or surrender to hatred.

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