There has been a lot of press in Australia this week regarding the downing of MH17 in Ukraine. A lot of press. There are a few reasons that come to mind;
· It was an airline disaster, with hundreds of victims
· Many of the victims were Australian; many were children
· The aircraft did not just crash, it was shot down
There is another reason why there is so much press, however. The incident strips away the veil between the world that most Australians live in and the real world.
We, and our press, react to that very unwelcome unveiling with a largely unconscious hostility. It is the normal reaction to a threat to our world-view.
The world most Australians live in, most of the time, is a world where we can go about our daily business in a largely predictable fashion. We work, we sleep, we party and enjoy ourselves. We read books. We buy food from shops. We go on holidays in commercial aircraft.
The real world is not like that. Not yet. The real world has other, additional features. The real world has conflict, strife and war. In the real world, the rule of law is weaker or absent. Money is scarce. Food is sometimes hard to come by, sometimes also water, certainly clean water. In the real world not many people fly in commercial aircraft or go on any sort of holiday at all. In the real world unsophisticated rebels sometimes have anti-aircraft weapons and perhaps no real idea or care about what or who they are shooting at.
Usually, we can ignore the difference. We ignore it pretty well unless we are directly affected by the stripping of the veil. Other conflicts continue across the globe. We are largely untouched by them and can ignore them.
In Perth, Western Australia, a family, bereft, mourns the loss of their three young children. Rightly, we mourn with them and look at pictures of their bright young faces knowing just how easily they might have been our own children. Eighty minors died in the plane.
The veil remains intact, however, in many other places. Amnesty International reports that at least 52 children have been killed in Gaza since only the beginning of July. Their faces look much less like the faces of ‘Aussie kids’.
It is easier to ignore them; to fail to look beyond the veil.
Sean David Burke
Perth, Western Australia
24 July 2014