The "fight" or "flight" response is supposed to be a quality of only lower animals. Humans are rational beings, supposedly, and do not mindlessly attack or run and hide when threatened. Or do they? Forty years ago, the families in my neighbourhood behaved like animals when they brutalized an immigrant family trying to join the community. Faced with the "unknown", in the form of a family with Muslim background and cultures, they responded with fear and aggression.
I was raised in a small suburban town full of middle-class values. Respect for the family, the church, the flag and authority where the ideals that my parents and friends worshipped. When the Muhammads moved to town, full of hope that they could share the great "Australian Dream" of opportunity and prosperity, there were met by smiling, courteous citizens- until the sun set. I remember the nightly neighbourhood meetings where angry neighbourhoods claimed that the Muhammads "didn't fit in" and organized groups to hide in the darkness, shouting insults at this new family and hurling rocks through their windows. After only four weeks of bruised hopes and shattered windowpanes, the Muhammads quietly left.
My community could not cope with the unknown; they were afraid of strangers disrupting their established values, and so they attacked. Like the little boys in William Golding's Lord of the Flies, who are so frightened of the ominous jungle darkness that they blindly strike out at each other, these "lovers of liberty" savaged their fellow beings. I cannot help but conclude human response with their actions. My childhood experiences have left me searching for the good, but at the same time my experiences have made me sceptical of fellow man. Like Jekyll and Hyde I battled two opposing personalities and when I believed that I have discovered genuine goodness my scepticism convinces me that I have not as yet found the goodness that I so desperately seek.
Fifty years after this event I can see the same xenophobia, like a thick fog blanketing the land, and once more I hear voices of "good" people warning against the threat of foreigners. Today our Federal government and out popular media both encourage gullible citizens to perpetuate the myths and stereotyping and to the suspicious of the "unknown" in order to reinforce the fear of foreigners, to justify detention centers and to justify the invasion of foreign lands. At the same time a wave of patriotism is sweeping the land like a plague of locusts and everything Australian has become somehow superior to the rest of the world. It often seems to me, when I am sitting quietly somewhere in the night, that people and governments will often feign goodness so that they can do evil with impunity. My childhood neighbourhood has become a microcosm of the world for me, and it's a nightmare from which I cannot wake.
A year before my...