Boy that was a long week, where do we even begin?
The events in Charlottesville last weekend, spilled over into the following days, with the news cycle saturated with heated debates pulling at the already fragile fabric of society.
Preservation of heritage.
Freedom of speech.
Protection of self.
With the many sides, came the many arguments, revealing issues that run far deeper than that of confederate statues and flags.
This was then followed by a terrorist attack in Barcelona, where a van drove into the heavily populated area of Las Ramblas, killing a number of people and injuring several more. I woke up terribly frightened, with my girlfriend currently travelling around Europe; I was relieved to see she had not yet made it to Barcelona. In contrast, I was filled with a deep sadness, to see more lives devastatingly and aimlessly lost.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Pauline Hanson decided it would be a good idea to wear a burqa into the Senate to make a wholly uneducated point. Senator Hanson turned a sacred, religious garment deeply rooted in Islamic tradition, into a cheap political stunt rife with xenophobia. Her feeble attempt to shock Australia did work, but not in the way she intended – as a parliament not often united on much, joined together in condemnation of Senator Hanson’s reprehensible behaviour.
Factoring in other global events including mudslides in Sierra Leone claiming hundreds of lives and rising tensions in North Korea, you could be forgiven for simply being exhausted by the desolate outlook of our collective future.
I sure am.
Not only as a person of colour, but also as a global citizen, events that depict a breakdown in our collective consciousness drain my emotional faculties. It leaves me in momentary social limbo – devoid of hope and fearful of what the future holds.
To me it seems so simple; doing the right thing is always the right thing.
But the varying responses to these events and many more remind me that the paradox of humanity is our diversity. That is, we have the capability and faculty to act in any way we choose.
Choice in some strange way, is our greatest vice.
However, it is often in the most troubling of times that the true nature of humanity is challenged to rise to the occasion. For when we see injustice, we must call it out by name. The public disavowal of harmful ideologies and radicalism acts as a reminder to society that we are built upon foundations of collective trust and unity. That during testing times, we will not, and must not shy away from reassuring each other, no matter how immense or monumental the challenge.
“I would caution and counsel you with respect to be very, very careful of the offence you may do to the religious sensibilities of other Australians
“We have about 500,000 Australians in this country of the Islamic faith and the vast majority of them are law-abiding good Australians
“…to ridicule that community, to drive it into a corner, to mock its religious garments is an appalling thing to do.”
– Attorney General Senator George Brandis
In the aftermath of these events, we have seen communities unite while individuals voice messages of love and hope, thereby allowing the world to continue to spin and for life to go on.
We are no strangers to moments like this.
Our collective history has been littered with periods of significant doubt and struggle, but on the other side, we have always emerged stronger and more united than before. Only by allowing the dust to settle can we truly see how far we have come, our strength measured by those of us that remain standing, defiantly refusing to make the mistakes of the past.
Yes, there are many sides to every issue, to every event, to every choice we make.
But not every side is right.
And humanity always has the choice; to decide which side of history it would like to be remembered on.
Ryan Cheng is the founder of The 88, and is passionate about telling stories surrounding travel, culture and identity.
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