Doors of Perception

Monday, 2 February 2009

Where I live is a particularly multicultural suburb. Many people from many different countries live around here and as I walk past them in the streets, with my dog, probably 75% of those people who are identifiably Asian or African give the dog a wide, wide berth.

Occasionally, it annoys me. Occasionally I take it personally, wondering just how stupid they think I am that I would walk a rabid, mangy psycho that's going to bite them as I pass.

But much of life is not rational. And much of it is seemingly irrational on the surface until you pay it some mind. Yesterday I listened to the owner of Kidslink talk about the Mozambique trip they are taking once again in July this year*. He cautioned against touching any of the animals there because they are so often diseased that it is really not worth the risk of patting a dog and contracting something life-threatening in the process.

When I was walking my dog today two young African women walked past me. One was chatting on her phone, oblivious, speaking French. The other walked such a wide berth around Lester that she walked on the road to get past. Further behind, an Asian man gave a rather less wide berth while an African man walked past, looked at me for a fleeting second and then his eyes dropped to the ground.

And I thought, I am privileged enough that I can get irritated at people that they think my dog is going to bite them. I am privileged to own a dog as a pet, companionship. My dog is immunised every year. The changes of him contracting anything to pass on to anyone is entirely minimal.

I am so privileged that I can entertain the notion of irritation towards people, presuming that their reactions are based on irrational fears rather than on very sound berths, ingrained in many of them from birth, because to go near an animal where they grew up could be the difference between life and great illness, or even life and death.

I am so privileged that I am in a position of irritation.


* I am not so sure that this will be a trip I will take this year. Apart from the 5 grand cost, there is an unsettled sense I get when I think about it. Irritatingly, those senses are often startlingly good indicators of whether to go ahead with a situation or wait. Unfortunately, they are often indistinguishable from garden variety nervousness, gastroenteritis, or a reaction to last night's meal. I suppose that is what gives life its dangerous flavour :)

Nevertheless, there is a certain sense that perhaps this is something that I should think to do next year, because this year I will have other things to do. We shall see, I suppose


  1. That unsettled sense is a good indicator. I know just what you mean...and yes it's hard to distinguish from nerves...but it seems you know the difference...

    I would love to see you go to Africa...but for best results follow the peace.

  2. I'd love to go too. I think these are the most difficult things, the positive, good things you really want to do, 'cos you think, "Well, why not?" But then there's been too many times where I've thought "why not?" and couldn't see, but have listened to those niggles, and then when the time comes I see why - changes in circumstance, or something happens, or I am tied up doing other things. I suspect it is (c) for this one.

    Still, it's always vulnerablefying going with these gut feels, even though they are such a safety net for me, and they give me a greater feeling of confidence going out into the world that I'm intuiting the alarm bells or the "wait, wait child"


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