The Middle Brow – These Turbulent Times

The Middle Brow - These Turbulent Times
By Man with a Bag

I must admit that the events over the past week in the Middle East, including the killing of more NATO troops in insider attacks in Afghanistan, culminating locally in Saturday's riot in Sydney are deeply disturbing.

First we hear of the dragging of the corpse of the US ambassador John Christopher Stevens, aged 52, through the streets in Libya, along with the death of three of his diplomatic colleagues at the US consulate. Then riots and more riots everywhere from Yemen to the streets of Sydney in an anti-American response to a 13-minute YouTube film that mocks the Prophet Mohammed.

My parents brought me to this great country in the early 1950s, they worked hard and managed to send me to Australia's oldest 'Greater Public School' (GPS), Sydney Grammar, a non-denominational school for boys whose motto was (translated from the Latin), "Praise be to God".

My school was about 70 per cent Protestant, 20 per cent Jewish and 10 per cent Roman Catholic. The school motto fitted all, we went to class together, played sport together and participated in military cadets together. Today we even have the odd reunion together.

So I grew up in a tolerant religious society, we all went to our individual churches, and some of us did not go to church at all. We were private yet gregarious.

Saturday's events were, to me, appalling, with children carrying signs expounding death, young men covering their faces to avoid detection and violent confrontation with police. While history and world events give us context, it is a difficult concept to grasp.

Today I am a bit more right-wing than I was yesterday. I have respect for my peers, consideration for their politics and religion, but I will not see this nation be torn apart by a religion that promotes world domination and death to those who do not agree with their ideology.

In this debate, we must separate nationalism, multiculturalism and Western democracy from religious belief. The film may be the catalyst we all need to wake up from our apathy: to see things as they are, not as we imagine or would like them to be, like one big happy family. In this sense, we are, perhaps, all guilty of being naive.

Recently Najib Razak, the Prime Minister of Malaysia said, "Pluralism, liberalism? All these isms' are against Islam and it is compulsory for us to fight these."

I don't know much about the motives of the people behind the protests, the bloodied demonstrations we have seen and the sense of outrage this latest provocation has brought, but I do know what I value, and that's people who are nice and respectable to each other at the shops and in the street.

In the broader scheme of things, it does seem to be that treating our neighbour, whoever that may be, as we would be treated ourselves is the key to civilised living, though we've not always been especially good at sticking to the premise that Christ preached. Because not all seem to agree.

No matter your creed, pretending things don't exist won't make them go away. It's time to face up to reality. It's a blight on our nation if we can't champion what it is we believe in the face of fear, anger and hostility. We should have confidence in what we believe if what we believe is truly good.

My greatest fear is some Australians no longer know what they believe at all. To think generously about each other and our vision for the future would be a good way to end a simmering, eons-long war. But to reach a stalemate both sides must see the value in a common thing. Seeing is believing.

An independent view by Ed Holburn, aka Man with a Bag  

Further reading:
Seeking asylum - The Satchel Review
Weakness of the elites no response to militant Islam, The Australian Financial Review
Children with beheading signs an outrage, says Scipione, SMH
US imam warns Muslims against violent overreaction to film, SMH
Police hunting down 'extremist criminals' after protest, ABC
Violence begets silence, Tim Blair, The Daily Telegraph