Saturday, 10 January 2015

Of dreams, of stupid instincts and the business of life.

Ten days or so ago, I woke up in a sweat, heart pounding in terror. I'm not one who often remembers dreams, indeed it is very rare but this one left me so shaken that I had a strange, quiet feeling for days afterward.

In a nutshell, two armed men wearing black facial coverings burst into the newsroom where I was working. The thing I remember most was the profound silence and the deep realisation that all in that room were about to die. I woke when a rifle was pointed at my head. I knew my life was to end and the physical terror of that instant continued after waking for some time.

Then, the Charlie Hebdo horror unfolded. 

I certainly don't believe in premonitions. And I'm not a believer in God. Tell me you believe in astrology and I'm sorry but a part of me will look down her nose and wish you'd read a little more, go expand your mind with some science. I pretend I'm superstitious but am not really - I just like the ancient, rather silly Italian rituals that supposedly protect you from the evil eye. 

So how to explain my dream? Was it the sub conscious manifestating a growing realization that we live in a big, global city, that the threat of random acts of terror are a fact of life, that I have kids and fear for them in an increasingly violent world? Deep fears expressed in dream?

All that's fine if it stopped there, at a dream. But what I hate about it is that post dream, in the aftermath of the ugly reality of Hebdo, I realise I'm now wrestling a newly awakened ugly feeling of overriding suspicion. I hate the fact that I look at my neighbours, the men and women who walk down my street in a different, fearful way. I absolutely deplore that since this dream - and for some reason the Hebdo murders - I have to battle irrational feelings I never had before. 

I'm an educated, middle class woman who works in media and my brain will not allow me to respond solely instinctively. I know this too will pass and I won't allow this stupid response to dominate my behaviour. 

However it leaves me with the profound sadness that if I, who read and try to educate myself on the past to explain or at least contextualise the present, react like this (with, let's face it honestly an us/them instinct) what will it be like in the banlieux of Paris, on the peripheries of big cities all over Europe (and indeed Australia) where social dislocation is high and suspicion and overt hostility between communities is a fact of life?

I don't like to admit this gut sensation. And I will fight it with every ounce of will/intellect I have and know it too will pass. 

I can only hope and pray that the global desire for solidarity and unity expressed for the victims of Hebdo will not divide us further and that the instinctive fear we probably all feel at some level won't be allowed to prevail.

We need more cultural inclusion. More dialogue. Greater attention to education and employment for those who fled war and conflict - and better discourse to explain notions of freedom of speech, democracy and personal liberty at personal level - and in society.

I grew up with my French grandfather's pride in liberte', egalite', fraternite' - and fraternity is the bit I want to nurture, keep going, never allow to die.

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