Yes, it seems we've got this mutant gene in our human personality that makes us susceptible to this same kind of mistake over and over again. It's really uncanny how we build these beautiful multicultural edifices and then allow this switch to be flipped and everybody goes, 'Oh, the other, get them out of here.'
I was a news reporter for 16 years, seven of them a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. Perhaps the most useful equipment I acquired in that time is a lack of preciousness about the act of writing. A reporter must write. There must be a story. The mot juste unarriving? Tell that to your desk.
Sydney in the 1960s wasn't the exuberant multicultural metropolis it is today. Out in the city's western reaches, days passed in a sun-struck stupor. In the evenings, families gathered on their verandas waiting for the 'southerly buster' - the thunderstorm that would break the heat and leave the air cool enough to allow sleep.
And one of the things that I learned was you can't generalise at all about a woman in a veil. You can't think you know her story, because she will confound you over and over again. She may be an engineer or a diplomat or a doctor. Or she may be an unbelievable babe with bleached hair down to her waist.
Even the classics that we read to our young children are full of wolves' fangs and burning ovens and bloody feet and ice shards piercing hearts. Even the New Testament climaxes with an act of unspeakable torture. Might as well just read to our kids from the Amnesty Annual Report and be done with it.