Are you carrying a suspicious item or are you aware that you are probably carrying one? Is there a suspicious-looking person around or near you? I am sure you have heard this constant message at train stations, airports and some public spaces – being drummed daily into our psyche. Perhaps, if you are like me, you would have responded in a variety of ways.
Initially, I paid no attention to it. Then after a while I started to reflect on what I am hearing and what is actually being asked of me as a member of the public. I can understand the need to be vigilant as there are enough people with evil intentions who would wish to hurt others. But then my own hermeneutic of suspicion kicked in as I started to interrogate the deeper implications of this ‘brain-washing’ geared at turning each other into a ‘big-brother’.
I can imagine that for some hearing this for the first – a look of alarm, amusement or furtive glance for dodgy people or luggage or parcels. But, what would a suspicious person look like? How would I know since no hint is given to what to look for? I can understand seeing luggage on its own lying around and wanting to raise an alarm though most likely it is someone glancing in the nearby window contemplating whether to buy what is on display or a parent running after a child not able to sit still.
But back to that suspicious looking person: is it that person in a hoodie? Or maybe it is that perspiring or nervous/edgy looking individual heading for his/her first job-interview? And can it be that the person immaculately wrapped in hijab accompanied by the bearded husband I need to be aware of? Perhaps, I should be looking elsewhere – to all those pin-stripe suited men heading to the business corner of London on their next economic terror!
In any case, who is looking out for anyone or anything suspicious when most of us are all wired and glued to some electronic gadget, ears all plugged up, and oblivious of the of the world around us? We need to ask ourselves: what actually is this constant drumming of being alert of suspicious looking individuals and luggage is turning us into? What values are being communicated in terms of how we view each other – especially the neighbour around? What does this do to trust and to seeing goodness and the best in the person next to you? Can we not be vigil and alert without starting on the premise that people around us may be bent on harming others? I suspect, left to our own devices and judgement – often shaped by our own conscious and unconscious prejudices, a whole lot of people around us would be locked up and put away.
This is not the sort of world I would want to live in. Because I believe that another world is possible, I would refuse to let fear and the evil intentions of a few turn me into a distrustful creature. I concede that I may lose my life: but I will certainly have to worry about one thing less!
© jagessar June 27, 2015