‘How safe is safe,’ I asked Camp just as Rosy, our Irish server, put two pints in front of us. ‘I’m referring to a travel advisory I came across which lists all the places to avoid, like parts of Mexico, Central America, Venezuela.’
‘It’s safe everywhere, even in Egypt or South Africa, as long as you adhere to local customs and stay away from confrontation with the wrong people. Travelling abroad always had its risks but never did they originate from the common people but always from situations involving illegal goods, territorial claims or outright prejudice and hostility against a certain group of people like Jews, Muslims, Blacks, Gays etc. You or I can probably go anywhere and get a meal or a bed, find transport or get to know the locals.’
‘I’m trying to convince Clare that Patzcuaro, our choice destination in Michoacan, is as safe as Surrey or Montreal or for that matter downtown Vancouver. Just last week a good friend of ours was assaulted in broad daylight on Granville street at a bus stop. I’m talking shoved to the ground and boxed in the face. Another acquaintance had her car broken into and her back pack stolen from under the seat right on Davie Street, while she was in an adjacent building trying to get her pregnant daughter to hospital. Both incidents were witnessed by many people, none of whom did anything about it, didn’t interfere which I understand, but also did not comfort or commiserate with the victims of these random acts of violence.’
‘I’m sorry to hear,’ Camp said, ‘the worst part of your story is surely the lack of empathy and humanness of all these silent witnesses. They are all grounded in fear of consequences and have lost normal human responses, like sympathy or concern or willingness to help.’
‘In other words, Mexico might be safer than downtown Vancouver. I’ve always found the Mexican people I’ve met the friendliest, most helpful and empathetic folks,’ I said.
‘Except the one time you got held up, chased down the street by a machete wielding and baclava wearing hotheads, who then torched your bus with all your stuff. ’
‘Well yes,’ I said, ‘we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, that can happen to anybody, anywhere.’
‘It makes for a good story now,’ Camp said, focusing briefly on his pint.
‘Come to think of it we’re all concerned with safety: in our homes, at work, when we travel, even when we sleep. Walled communities, watch dogs, alarm systems, video surveillance, guns and weapons of every kind; all evidence of our mistrust and dread. How can you feel safe living in walled off compounds, and amongst people who believe there is safety in being armed. Not too long ago I didn’t even bother to lock our house nor the car,’ I said.
‘On the one hand we’ve come a long way from medieval times, when nobody was safe and chaos and disease reigned but we now seem to live in a new age of fear where we are afraid of change, and our fear of others is dividing us to a point of latent hatred and quick judgements. If you read the daily news and the avalanche of internet gossip and rumours then you might come to the conclusion that we’re living in dangerous times. That’s too bad because life has never been so good for so many. We live like kings and we are only afraid of stepping out of our comfort zone and losing our luxurious life styles.’
‘I think it’s time for a refill,’ I said, signalling the peace sign to Rosy. When she put down two foaming mugs Camp asked her. ‘Do you feel safe her? at work? in Gibsons?’
‘I never really think about it,’ she said with a shrug.
‘Now that’s real safety,’ Camp said, slapping the table, ‘if you don’t even have to think about your safety.’