Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Triggers in Paris: What it Took for Humanity to Become a Trending Topic

If you’re one of the many people who’s dedicated more than a few statuses, tweets or Instagram posts to the Paris terrorist attacks, there’s a good chance you’re not the authority on the issue you seem to be or quite the humanitarian you claim to be.  In what's proven to be a shocking few days in world events across a number of countries, it’s hard to say if people have taken the time to learn any more from these incidents than the order of the French tricolour… if that.  In reality, we’ve perhaps learned more from people’s reaction to these events, than we have from the events themselves.

So what have we learned?  Well we’ve learned that while our hearts may very well be in the right place, at times our minds are definitely not.  The Paris attacks revealed an incredible naivety, Eurocentrism and lack of commitment on our parts that we have sadly seen time and time again.  We’ve learned this in the same way that we learned most of us are really only interested in addressing human rights violations in Africa when it involves us sharing a ‘Kony 2012’ profile picture.  We’ve learned this in the same way that we learned most of us will only really show an interest in supporting medical research when it involves posting a video of us completing a challenge on social media that might help get more than the ten likes we normally average on a post.  Now, sadly we’ve learned this as we’ve seen a vast majority of people only show a willingness to make vocal appeals for humanity and compassion on social media when tragedy strikes popular Contiki destinations or places they once visited and posted a photo in.  Our compassion towards, consideration of and commitment to a cause should not and must not be determined by our vested interest in it, but it seems that it is.

The flag being flown all over the world at the moment.

Compassion is something you either possess or you don’t and you can’t turn it on and off whenever you feel like it.  Therefore, it should be concerning to us all that we only seem willing to show support for particular causes when it seems like that’s what everyone else is doing.  If we latched onto causes as firmly as we latched onto hashtags, we could really begin to get “#HelpForEveryone” rather than just “#PrayForParis.”  So I’m going to do something everyone should be doing with relation to this issue and that’s leaving religion out of it.  It’s a factor in the issue of the attacks but it’s almost irrelevant when it comes to how we deal with this issue.  What we need to start addressing is the hypocrisy and the double standards we seem to be demonstrating and the fact that we in the west (and this includes western Europe) appear to value our lives more than some others.

The world reacts... though often too late.

We demonstrate this when we allow media and ourselves to brush over the U.S bombing of numerous civilian targets, most recently a hospital in Afghanistan, but we devote almost 24-hour coverage to a terrorist attack in Paris.  That’s why we have these problems, because a vast majority of us only engage in selective compassion.  I’m extremely angry with many western governments and their foreign policies, in particular the E.U and the U.S.  I’m not a Muslim and I’m not angry because I’m an Orthodox Christian.  My disdain and anger has nothing whatsoever to do with my religion.  I say this to reiterate that my frustration and disappointment stems from the fact that these same world powers repeatedly get away with murder and destruction because they package it up as something much nicer and more honourable than it is, where they attempt to convince us that their ends always justify their means.  What's most saddening though is that many people believe them and in fact fail to see that these are foreign policies that breed contempt and violence, where their means always seem to lead to innocent people falling victim in the end.

We need to realise that part of showing compassion now is remembering when we should have shown the same compassion before.  Remembering that in 1999, almost 4000 people (many of whom were children) were killed in the 78 day bombing campaign of Serbia.  16 employees working late in a TV station were killed when NATO forces bombed the RTS building in Belgrade.  There was no international condemnation in response to this, no recognition of this as an act of terror and no candlelight vigils in international capitals.  In Beslan, Russia less than 10 years ago, 385 people were killed in a terrorist attack on a school.  186 of those killed were children.  Profile pictures weren’t changed to Russian flags and the world didn’t stop to remember.  On the same night of the Paris attack, a terrorist attack in the Lebanese capital of Beirut killed 44 people and barely warranted a mention in the mainstream media.  The same can be said for U.S-led air strikes in Syria, which alone have claimed over 450 civilian lives.  I mention all of these because we need to realise that the more selective we become about the violence we chose to mourn, the more random the violence becomes.

Egypt projects Lebanese, Russian and French flags on the pyramids of Giza
as a mark of respect for the victims of terror attacks in the respective countries.

The core of the problem is that the west convinces us that the bombs we drop overseas are good, yet only an attack on us is classified as an 'act of terror.'  It’s hypocrisy that calls civilian deaths in NATO bombing campaigns “collateral damage” but western deaths in Paris “an international tragedy.”  It serves to convince us that it’s okay for us not to bat an eyelid when Charlie Hebdo makes fun of Russian air-crash victims, or Serbian civilian casualties, but we must condemn anyone attempting to make light of an attack against us.  And worst of all, even if most people don’t want to admit it, we appear to value our lives more than those of people living in some other parts of the world.

The concept of mocking victims is less appealing when you become the victims.

Maybe it’s because most people haven’t been backpacking through Beslan.  They haven’t visited the markets of Beirut.  They haven’t spent their honeymoon in Belgrade.  None of these cities have been branded ‘The City of Love.’  Whatever the case may be, my point is this; it doesn’t devalue the lives of the people living within them.  It’s wonderful that you've taken the time to change your profile picture, that you've pleaded for others to say a prayer and then you've gone to sleep feeling like you’ve done something to make the world a slightly better place.  I guess I’d just like to see a world where people try a little bit harder to do something good, rather than trying so damned hard to make it look like they’re doing something good.  A world where people are hopefully informed enough to know at least that I've put the French tricolour in the wrong order after the second paragraph.  Because it’s no good to keep saying we support people in times of crisis if we only lend our support to certain people in time of crisis and if we do nothing to combat the causes of the crisis.

So thankyou for changing your profile pictures and sharing your posts.  My question is, where was this concern earlier and more importantly, where will it be in a week’s time?

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1 comment:

  1. Where will it be in a weeks time? Sadly the most likely answer is The Kardashians :(
    Thanks Stefan, your article says just what I was thinking, well said.