Yesterday, we had another near miss with terrorism in this country. The truth is that we haven’t been “lucky”.
We live a central denial in this country. We regard the threat of terrorism as a fiction, an obscure concept that can’t fly over a large body of water and land on our shores.
It hasn’t happened here, so it won’t happen here.
The terrorist attacks that we’ve lived through boil down to an unattached, unhinged individual in a chocolate shop in Martin Place, and a foreign bar frequented by our countrymen. It’s easy to diffuse the point with logic. Man Monis wasn’t actually Islamic State, and Indonesia has always had terrorism, and the location is not one which all of us would frequent, therefore we’re safe.
We’ve had moments, like in Melbourne last year, when the MO sounded a lot like the terrorism that has visited continental Europe, with a vehicle mounting the curb and sending the innocent flying, but we’ve breathed again once the law confirmed that it wasn’t what we thought it was.
We’ve missed out, therefore we’ll miss out.
You can apply that logic, but you’re denying another.
We’re very much like everywhere else. Many countries have the same mix of religions and peoples, and many have the pangs of extremism as we do. We have a gap between rich and poor, we enable the same societal exclusions as the rest of the western world. We bomb the middle east, and we subjugate the marginalised. Our streets are the same as Germany, as France, as Britain.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) 21 December 2016
The fact that it hasn’t happened steels that denial, and it’s why we bristle at the sound of the government increasing powers to stop terrorism, as we nod and say, “yeah sure, but what are they really for?” The headlines are easy to grab, “Government to expand military powers to quash resistance”, “super database to ease the speed of monitoring”, etc.
I’m not naïve, these powers can be easily bent, twisted and abused, but you should accept the fact that they might be used for our benefit also.
The fact that we’ve not had a meaningful attack on our shores is no fluke. I can only imagine there are mountains of near misses, that the actioned intel and arrests our intelligence community has enabled haven’t made the news. It’s fair to assume that those who do make the news, such as Mohamed Nizamdeen, are the exception because of a set of very effective rules.
Nizamdeen made the headlines yesterday, allegedly in possession of documents pertaining towards facilitating an attack on campus. While the AFP quickly mentioned that Nizamdeen was acting alone (and sans the influence of Islamic State), and there were “no concerns for public safety”, it’s easy to dismiss.
It’s another near miss.
— Nine News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) 31 August 2018
Michael McTiernan, the AFP’s detective superintendent noted that while the investigation was in its infancy, the charges involved were “serious and significant”. But Nizamdeen is under lock and key, so we’re free to carry on and miss the lesson this moment presented.
It’s not that something would have happened, but it’s rather that it was stopped before it became a possibility. I’m not trying to monger fear here, but there’s a certain reality we’ve chosen not to face. We stand out as one of the few cosmopolitan centres untarnished by the strokes of terrorism.
Let’s not politicise this, we should accept yesterday’s arrest as a win. Fears were raised, an investigation was launched and a result made.
What happens to us in the future, is a question of when. Eventually, it will happen.
We’re not immune to terrorism, regardless of race or ideology. But we have the luxury of that still being a possibility. We have no bloody date to remember, nor crowded plaza to avoid. We might be the lucky country, but we’re also good.
We should remember that.