People Like Us

The Australian reaction to the recent events in Boston has been typical. A Prime Ministerial address; expressions of concern for friends in Boston; Australians in Boston reporting their safety yet vulnerability; saturation of analysis and human interest stories in the news media; and opinion makers discussing the potential for similar events to occur in Sydney, Melbourne, or anywhere, but definitely here.

The tragedy, fear, excitement and terror provoked by events like Boston is that it happens to people like us, in places we like to visit, in places we dream of living, or perhaps where our dreams live. Australians don’t dream of living in Damascus. Australians don’t holiday in Baghdad. Our dreams don’t reside in Mogadishu.

Events like those in Boston should remind us that our order and security, our policies and planning, our bodies and bones are not that different from those of people not like us, who live in places that we don’t visit or dream about. These events should remind us that we bleed and break like anyone. But the people in Boston are not anyone, they are like us.

At this stage there is no information on the ‘them’ that did this to us. But whatever their rationale, events like this, like 9/11, like London do not invigorate the Western imagination – or more accurately the Anglo-American imagination – to consider that like them, we live a finite, vulnerable, and precarious life. Rather events like this reinforce our resolve to protect and love people like us as ourselves.

To be clear, this is not some smug reminder that other people are dying too, so get over it. That is an all to typical response. Rather, this shattering of our normalcy should join us with those that have their normalcy shattered on a much more frequent basis. Or in other words, the abnormal horror visited on people like us, should open us up to the normal horror visited on those we don’t imagine as us.