After each never-ending Facebook debate that has followed each of the recent year’s terror attacks on Western soil, there’s one thing I’ve become more sure of – the “inhumane” prioritising in human life is in no way unique to Westerners.
It doesn’t just exist among people here in Denmark, Europe, and in the rest of the West, who appear to have more sympathy for the French than for Lebanese and Syrian victims. It certainly also exist among those of us who for example have a constant focus on the Muslim world, mainly Palestine, Syria, and Iraq.
We ourselves are just as selective in the amount of sympathy and attention we give each country and people in the world. It’s not like we’re better human beings, better humanists, as we implicitly claim to be. For where were our Facebook profile and cover pictures, and various Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat posts, when people all around Africa and East Asia were killed in the hundreds?
Even in the Muslim world we’re selective. I mean, do Kurdistan, Chechnya, Somalia, Pakistan, Burma, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, or Kosovo get as much attention as we give to Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Afghanistan? Now, many of you’ll probably argue that the Levant can’t be compared to these countries and their situations, but sometimes they can and I’ve seen and heard about similar cases in other Muslims countries several times, in which no word was spoked, no tear was dropped, and no profile picture was changed.
I’ve personally experienced way too many times where my fellow Afghans have expressed their frustrations with me for giving too much “attention” to Palestine rather than to my “own home and people” in Afghanistan, while at the same time they are complaining about Westernes giving to much attention to Paris and not Afghanistan.
We’re all selective. I’m definitely selective. And you are as well. None of us are giving the exact amount of attention and sympathy equally to all countries and peoples in the world, as some of us may claim to do. You’re fooling yourselves if you think so. An American or an East Asian country doesn’t get as much attention as an Arab country does in the Arab world either. And vice versa in America and in East Asia.
It’s about sense of belonging and personal relations with the individual countries and peoples, and I guess that’s natural. I mean, if Mark Zuckerberg was Iraqi and Facebook Arabic, a ‘Safety Check’ would probably be of a higher priority in Jordan than in Australia, right?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely tragic that the world is build up like this and that we human beings are divided in this way. One can definitely argue that it’s a problematic way of thinking; that the whole world should be “equal” and all humans equally worth; that it is unacceptable that the lives of the Parisians are more worth than the lives of the Beirutis. But then you just have to remember, it also goes the other way around.
It’s definitely a shame that France in the West was given more sympathy than Lebanon, but what about Papua New Guinea and Laos? Why haven’t we ever given them any attention? Any what about Kenya and Japan?
We feel with the ones we are closest to. It’s tragic and indeed problematic that we prioritise in the lives of human beings in this way, but it’s just important to remember that we’re all a part of it.
We’re all selective in our humanity.