When I was ten, I had pretty regular ten year old interests. I loved Whitney Houston, books about fairies, and The Golden Girls. I swapped Hello Kitty writing paper with my friends, and took a weekly class called ‘Mime & Dance’. I won the acting awards, but sucked at tap dancing. I played with Barbie dolls, adored my grandmother, and slept every night with a stuffed white bunny tucked under my chin.
Yesterday in Nigeria, a ten year old girl walked into a market place in Maiduguri with a bomb strapped to her tiny body that killed 20 people and injured roughly 20 more. The Islamic militant group Boko Haram, known for their increasing use of women and children as human bombs, are suspected to be behind the carnage. News reports haven’t mentioned the little girl’s name, but I imagine it was something pretty and lyrical in that lovely rhythmic way of African languages.
On any other day this might be front page news, provided nothing too dramatic happened in Australian sport. But this hasn’t been an easy week for the world. Collectively we’re all still reeling from the shootings in Paris, and unfortunately an innocent little soul used as a weapon of mass murder in a notoriously dangerous area doesn’t have quite the same shock value as an unexpected attack in the City of Love. Like a shooting in America, we’ve come to expect it. With a shrug of our shoulders and a shake of our head, we put our palms up in despair and resign ourselves to the world being a crazy place.
But the world isn’t crazy. Crazy is uncontrollable and unpredictable. What is happening right now is neither of those things. The Charlie Hebdo shootings were shocking, but not altogether unexpected in a city that has always pulsated with barely contained cultural divides. You can hardly say that France deserved to be attacked but in a country that has laws restricting a Muslim woman’s right to wear her burqa or hijab as she sees fit, it’s not surprising that fundamentalists would seize the chance to exploit any simmering resentment.
I don’t suppose the grandfathers of the internet could have foreseen how their invention would shrink the planet to the extent that the web has become a matchmaking site for third generation immigrant kids full of inherited resentment, and evil despots from organisations they’ve never heard of. Where Hitler rallied the troops at Nuremberg, today’s tyrannical leaders connect globally via secret chatrooms and social media. Clichéd as it sounds, disenfranchised youth are ripe for the picking, and ancient cultural ties, however tenuous, still bind.
This ‘war on terror’ we keep hearing about is a festering, man-made mess of tyranny and hate and fear, with religious fanaticism the volatile end result. There is so much hate behind this shit in Paris. Lunatics hating ‘the West’ on behalf of Islam, idiots hating the Jews on behalf of the Palestinians, the French blowing up mosques in an eye for an eye retaliation…maybe it’s just that I’m lucky, but I can’t fathom living with that much anger inside me. How can anyone hate anything that much? I don’t even hate cane toads or the Westboro Baptist Church that much, despite both being out to get me. Where does it all end?
Ever since news broke of the shooting in Paris, I’ve had on my mind something I remember Desmond Tutu saying on, of all things, an episode of Donahue about 20 years ago. I might not have it exactly right, but it was along the lines of “the only way to be human is to be human together; and the only way to survive is to survive together.” It’s a good quote.
I haven’t felt this unsettled by world events since the aftermath of 9/11, and I mean that sincerely. I don’t know how we realistically go about fixing these problems, but I do know this: if ever there was proof that hate is a stupid unproductive emotion, this week is it. Hate is lazy and ignorant and easy.
Trying to understand and respect each other might be harder, but there’s less dead bodies at the end of it.