Sometimes my imagination gets carried away with me, and I wonder what kind of alternative futures there might be. I wonder about the power of nonviolence and I long for times when we all live in safe places. Where children can go to school and not be murdered just for being there to learn, where women can ride safely on public transport and not be spat at by bigots, where the marital bed is a place for making love, not a place of violence, where getting up and going to work means you will earn enough to feed your family and put a roof over your head, where the wealthy countries (like mine) generously share with those in poverty (Australia cut its foreign aid budget to the lowest ever in our history this week.)
It has been one of those weeks on our planet where despair is legitimatised and sadness is the default emotion. What else is possible?
The simplicity of #illridewithyou has been a balm to soothe the hatred of racists … creativity breaks through once again to raise us to our better selves. I started to imagine what other ways the Sydney siege could have ended and certainly more carnage would have been possible, but what else might have happened?
Once upon a time there was a chocolate shop. Every day people came from all over the Big City to visit, buy a coffee, a hot chocolate or a snack to sneak under their desk. One day a madman came into the shop and forced some of the people to hold up a black flag with some words written in Arabic to the window. Passers by recognised the words as a call to prayer and stopped and knelt on the ground and prayed. Soon they were joined by hundreds of others, including people who couldn’t read the words but knew what they meant. Word spread on social media and people came from everywhere, in front of chocolate shops in cities all over the world people gathered, knelt and prayed. The madman in the shop, seeing everyone was speechless, dropped his gun to the floor and fell to his knees in prayer. Three police officers walked in, picked up the gun and walked out with the madman held between them. All over the world a single prayer of gratitude floated to heaven.
The madman went to hospital, the hostages went home to loved ones, the police went back to work, chocolate shops became sanctuaries of peace throughout the world and people stopped being afraid of Arabic words calling people to prayer.
In another scenario, the madman was not out on bail, he was in a forensic hospital getting treatment for his illness and never went to the chocolate shop in the first place; his wife was still alive and his children weren’t living in grief from their mother being murdered and their father being infamous.
And in another scenario domestic violence was understood as terrorism at home and everyday neighbours rallied to the cries of women and children.
There are so many different ways stories can unfold … in your imagination. In reality, it is the inspired action, the response to the call that keeps us in the dance. And I’ll take “illridewithyou” any day over madness and fear.