In my previous blog post I opined, hopefully comically, that Australians don't like surprises because there are so many ways to die here. Which might also be why Australians take it so hard when a human kills another human. It just simply doesn't happen here very often and when it does the country is truly mortified. Compared to how London recovered from the events of 7/7 and the concurrent bumbling attempts in Glasgow; dismissing them as almost comical. (a reaction that I feel did us all proud in a very different way) I remember vividly driving through East London when breakfast DJ Christian O'Connell chirpily reported in an uncharacteristically cheesy DJ voice, "Another terrorist threat has been thwarted - here's "Footloose" with Kevin Bacon!" I know Kevin Bacon didn't sing "Footloose" and I'm positive that's what Christian was going for - because happily yelling "Kevin Bacon" in response to an averted bombing is intrinsically funny. I beeped my approval. Clearly other drivers did too as they responded in kind. (Or they may have been listening to radio 1 and were just being traditional London drivers beeping their horns regardless)
However, Australia has stepped up in a far more empathetic and compassionate manner and consequently has been able to see the whole affair for what it is - an idiot berserker in a coffee shop. Not a well executed terrorist attack. Or for that matter really anything to do with the Australian Muslim community at all. After all, our infrastructure does not begin with orange infused truffles. And I'm more than a little moved that Australians, on the whole, are finding this starkly apparent no matter how it is reported.
Yesterday, like most of Australia, I was glued to the TV watching the events from the Lindt café in Sydney unfold - flipping from one channel to the next to witness firsthand the difference in the reporting. For the record, Sky News immediately referred to the tragedy as "Islamic terrorism" whereas SBS (An Australian network specifically geared towards multiculturalism) was quick to quote the head of the anti-terror department directly in stating that the Muslim community is actually the department's very first line of defense in such matters.
Almost immediately on twitter the hashtag: "illridewithyou" hit the top of the trending charts - where Australians from all backgrounds offered to stand with their Australian Muslim friends in this pressing time where anti-Islamic sentiment normally thrives. Even Tony Abbott, a man not normally known for his tolerant ideology, pleaded with the country to not jump to conclusions and that this was a man described by his own defense lawyer as "mad as a cut snake". Although Abbott did go on to declare that "There is nothing more Australian than going for a coffee in the morning" I would argue that there is nothing more Australian than thinking coffee in the morning is particularly Australian all the while ignoring that a lawyer has used the phrase, "mad as a cut snake" (A tenuous link I know - as the two statements were made entirely separately. But I appear in the comedy section and, as one can imagine, there are very few laughs here so I have to crowbar in whatever I can)
Ordinarily when a viral video portraying Australia pops up on my browser it's usually a drunken yobbo on a tram pulling horribly racist slitty eye gestures at an Asian student. What no one ever seems to notice though is the sheer volume of fellow passengers yelling back, utterly incredulously, "Are you serious? Are you even real?" I honestly think the majority of Australians are actually a laid back tolerant bunch, which is perhaps why no one notices. Because said nonchalance goes hand in hand with not being particularly vocal. Here we've been afforded the opportunity to show what this country's really about and, at this stage, are taking hold of said opportunity with both hands.
It's early days yet, but for now, there are no tanks, no angry mobs, no radio DJ's demanding we "nuke somebody" Or if there are they're not on an FM frequency. Instead, in its place, there are Australians of all creeds, colors and religious backgrounds laying flowers in a square and newsreaders crying. No doubt the world by now will have seen the breakfast TV presenter Natalie Barr break down in tears upon learning that one of the victims, Katrina Dawson, was the sister of a colleague. The focus has been largely where it belongs: on the victims. Leaving the gunman to hopefully die the anonymous death he so richly deserves. (Or if he does gain notoriety please let it be for holding up the wrong flag and not the IS one he thought) What I see here is a country that's more sad than mad - not angry and out for revenge. This time, I hope the world notices the rest of the passengers on the tram.
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