Husby and I are extremely fortunate to live where we live; spoilt in fact, spoilt rotten. My parents bought a lovely little family home in Beacon Hills (name changed to protect my neighbours from lynching once you have finished reading this post) in the early 80s, back when property was affordable. Over the course of my childhood they gradually expanded on it as finances would allow, turning it into a really luxurious living space. Beacon Hills also grew, turning into one of the most sought after suburbs in the area. My mom chose to rent it out rather than sell when she moved overseas seven years ago. Best decision ever (in my humble, spoilt rotten opinion). But after the tenants from hell, our beautiful home was in desperate need of a little TLC and a little family to love it. Enter me and Husby!
Mom gave us the opportunity of a lifetime: fix up the place, and you can live in it. We jumped at the chance – no other arrangement would enable us to live in a neighbourhood even half as awesome as Beacon Hills. And so the year of trials and tribulations took hold, as we argued with builders, agonised over bathroom tiles and Excel spreadsheeted the crap out of our budget. At last it was ready to live in. We were residents of the BHSV (Beacon Hills Security Village) and had the stickers on our cars to prove it. Only one thing left to do: Join the BHSV Community Facebook Page. Worst. Decision. Ever.
Growing up in this neighbourhood I knew many of the ins and outs. I also knew many of the people – those who had bought when my parents had bought and watched me and my brother grow up, playing one hand one bounce, tip and run, over the wall six and out cricket until well after the sun had gone down. There were a lot of people I didn’t know though. The Range Rover drivers, the tennis club members, the “pay someone else to walk your dogs” crowd. But I was about to meet them.
“Keep all posts relative to issues regarding the BHSV” warned the Community Facebook Page intro. The absence of the word “please” should have told me all I needed to know. This was not a place to build friendships and initiate community upliftment. No, this was the place where people with too many fucks to give came to spew forth their cruel, harsh, judgemental vitriol. If folks cared about poverty or world hunger even half as much as they care about how close you’re parked to a white line, a quarter of a mile away from a school on a public holiday, maybe the world wouldn’t be in such dire straits.
But the bone I have to pick today is about semantics; it’s about white privilege, selfishness and a complete lack of self-awareness. I know we live in a country with an astonishingly and alarmingly high violent crime rate. Our legitimate fears keep security companies in business and ensure Australia has adequate skilled labour. But our fears and concerns can never legitimise the victimisation of innocent civilians just because of the colour of their skin, the slight tear in their jeans or the way they walk.
“These people”. Two words to get my blood boiling. Who are “these people”? I’ll tell you who they are; they are the people responsible for every bad thing that has ever happened in your life or anyone else’s. They hijack, they murder, they steal, they loiter, they litter, they bring down the tone of the neighbourhood. They are the devil incarnate. And just as they perpetrate these offences indiscriminately, we identify them in broad and general terms, casting a net wide enough to include 75% of the population.
“Why are these people allowed to walk our streets, using the suburb as a thoroughfare?” one poster asks. “Access should be controlled!” demands another. “Domestic workers and gardeners should be issued passes,” someone suggests, “That way we can keep these people out”. Restricted movement. Passes. Sounds vaguely familiar no?
Before anyone gets too defensive, I am not accusing everyone of using language that advocates for the reinstatement of some apartheid laws. But isn’t it bad enough that these few people are; completely oblivious to the fact that they’re even doing it. I am also not belittling crime statistics. Awful, awful things happen every single day. But they don’t happen in Beacon Hills. Can’t we just be grateful for that?
Despite lifelong struggles against depression and anxiety, I do consider myself a silver lining, glass half full type of person. I would rather enjoy the beautiful weather, the friendly people, the quality restaurants and the spacious home in a security village than bemoan the noisy school children, the douchebags who don’t stop at stop streets and these people, who may very well be ‘casing the joint’, but could more than likely just be shaving 30 minutes off their daily commute by walking through the suburb instead of around it.
Maybe I’m naïve, maybe my apparent ambivalence is part of the problem. But I sure as heck seem a whole lot happier for it.
So far, “incidents in the BHSV” have included an escaped bunny, parents double parking for the five seconds it takes to drop off their kids at the local school and the alleged theft of a pot plant. Watch. This. Space.