A pause for tragedy

Jo Scard

My husband, Fairfax photographer Andrew Meares arrived home on Sunday after spending a week in Paris covering the terror attacks.

Exhausted but happy to be home, his absence drove home to us as a family, at a distance, what attacks like this can mean. We weren’t in Paris, but we watched at a distance as he tried to tell the story of the grief of what had happened.

The terror had effect on us all, didn’t it? My 10 year old daughter asked after the subsequent shoot out a few days later “Mum, will all the terrorists be gone now that they arrested those people?”.

How did we feel in Canberra? Were we worried, compassionate, did we hug our loved ones just a little tighter last week?

All of us responded a little bit differently. I saw an ecumenical service walking through inner Canberra the next day. There were church services, school principals talked about it at assemblies. I heard recordings of John Lennon’s Imagine play on ABC Classic FM, at my daughter’s school and calligraphy imagery of the title were all over Instagram. The words spoke to a lot of us:

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Last weekend we saw a few hundred people from Reclaim Australia, a group who holds street rallies in cities across Australia to protest against Islamism, protest outside Parliament House. Even more awful responses to the Paris events took place overseas with a Muslim girl wearing the Hijab pushed into an oncoming train on the London Underground and in the US, Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump called for the creation of a database of Syrian refugees immigrating to the country.

But a few days later we’ve moved on a bit, haven’t we? Everything moves so fast these days, including our online grief. For a while we can’t get away from it, and for Paris it was everywhere. And then, before we were even able to properly digest it, all the intense, all engrossing grief went away. Mostly from our screens.

For a week, millions of people around the world including thousands in Canberra – participating through their devices – posted prayers, pictures and promised their support. Our own parliament was lit up in the tricolore of blue, white and red.

But then just as quickly as that had happened, our posts lost interest. They went back to viral videos, Adele or shout-outs for our sports teams – some posted by Facebook avatars striped in the French blue, white and red, including my own.

The world always does move on, of course, as we need to do to keep a grip on our own lives. If you pause to reflect on it, social media is a cheap form of grief. I think the Internet has shortened how we deal with grief as it has shortened everything we do.

We click on a hashtag and everything’s all right. My husbands favourite was #jesuisenterrace, a very French statement which meant in effect that they would not be stopped enjoying life on the streets of their beautiful city.

It takes far less time to become an ‘Internet sensation’ than it did to become a pop star in the 80’s. And on the flip side, equally less time to cycle through deep grief and anger. But after a global tragedy like the one in Paris we need proper time for properly considered reflection.

For me, recent days have made me realise how important it is to socialise, to be with friends, to be connected, to live life, to not be scared and to not buy into anyone else’s hysterical take on what happened.

To not accept that a small group of people perpetrating terror represent anyone other than themselves. That’s what I’m going to try and do.

Jo Scard is Managing Director of Fifty Acres – The Communications Agency and tweets at @scardjo
Feature image by Andrew Meares republished with permission by the photographer. 


Jo Scard

With over 20 years' experience in communications, political advisory roles and journalism, Jo Scard is one of Australia’s leading advisers to corporates, Not-For-Profits, organisations and government. Managing Director of communications agency, Fifty Acres which is HQ'd in Canberra, Jo is a respected former political journalist in the UK and Australia working with ITV, Associated Press, Seven Network, SBS, ABC and Fairfax. A former senior adviser to the Rudd and Gillard governments and a trained lawyer she is on the Boards of the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Hockey ACT and a Member of the NSW Council of the Public Relations Institute of Australia. Jo is an Ambassador for the global entrepreneur magazine Renegade Collective and a member of the Registered Consultancies Group of the Public Relations Institute of Australia. She has spent over a decade advising corporates and Not-For-Profits at CEO and board level across strategic communications, government relations and public relations and co-authored the best-selling book The Working Mother’s Survival Guide with Seven’s Melissa Doyle. More about the Author

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