Selective compassion is a growing problem

I have not said much beyond my expression of shock at Paris over the last couple of days, and have stayed away from Social Media for multiple reasons. I haven’t been able to say what I am feeling, because in part, I don’t know how to describe it, and the other part feels like it will fall on deaf ears.

The support for Paris is incredible, but speaks to a larger problem – that people are more concerned about attacks and deaths in nations of power than elsewhere. In the last several days, 5 people on my newsfeed mentioned the attack in Beirut. There was no mention of the earthquakes that struck on Friday, or the bombings on Baghdad which were also claimed by the Islamic State, killing 26 and injuring dozens during a memorial service.

Syria has faced these kinds of attacks daily for years, with the destruction of their homes and cities and people respond that its because they are Muslim or brought this on themselves.

Paris is heartbreaking. Paris is a shock to the Western world. But it shouldn’t be the stopping point. We shouldn’t be changing our Facebook pictures and calling for prayers for Paris whilst ignoring the other things that are going on. While people are flooding Paris with support for aid for cleanup, the people of Bierut are left to do it themselves, watching as the world mourns Paris but acts like nothing else happened.

Our world is fast becoming a terrifying place; but shutting down and ignoring the death tolls from some areas because of where they live or what they may believe is not helping. It is not being filled with compassion. It is not being reflective of a care for humanity. What it reflects is an active choice to be compassionate within our own comfort zones.

I wish there was a certain group or persons I could point the finger at and blame for this, but it’s not just the fault of one. There is a definite fault of our media for not providing coverage of many of these devastating attacks (such as the assault on Garissa University in Kenya, which left 147 dead in April).

While the death tolls climb in countries that the Western world rarely glances at, the Paris attacks have revealed our selective compassion and reaction in ways that have made me actually sit down and cry.

In his article “Paris Attacks Highlight Western Vulnerability, And Our Selective Grief And Outrage” Chris Graham of New Matilda writes:

“Westerners are finally being given just a small taste of the constant fear that people from other nations have endured for generations. So solidarity with, and compassion for, the French is a good thing. But solidarity and compassion for the victims of terrorism everywhere is even better, in particular those who’ve fallen victim to the terrorism sponsored in all our names.”

If we want to declare compassion and support, we need to remember that there are more than just the Western world peoples affected by this. When people in countries like Syria have to explain to their children that the lives of the people in Paris are of more value than the lives of their people, we have a worldwide problem.

When the people of Beirut have to watch as the world, and social media, light up in solidarity and compassion and heartache for Paris, but ignore the very same kinds of attacks that happened to them a day earlier, we have a problem.

And at this point, I say this with complete and total seriousness. If your response to the lack of compassion towards Beirut, Syria or anything else is any of the following: ‘It’s because they’re Muslim’, ‘they brought this on themselves’, ‘it’s their fault this happened in Paris’, ‘I don’t have room for paying attention to all the bad in the world’ or anything to do with an excuse as to why they don’t deserve the same compassion, unfriend me on Facebook and unfollow my blog now. Because I am sick to death of it.

I am sick to death of the people who refer to anyone of any other religion as ‘those people’, saying that ‘they need to be watched’ and deciding that they are all terrorists in disguise. Particularly from Christians.

If your choice to love, have compassion or feel for a person is determined by the colour of their skin or their religious beliefs, you don’t have compassion.

If your response to all of this was ‘I seriously didn’t know, because nobody said anything and the media didn’t cover it’ then go out there, and find sources who will tell the truth and share the news.

We no longer live in a world where we can afford to hide behind our own lives and pretend like it’s too much for us to handle so we just ignore it. We no longer live in a world where we can afford to ignore everything else that is going on.

Hitler managed to climb to power, invade Poland and other countries and start systematically rounding up and executing/torturing the Jews because people chose to ignore what was going on hoping it would just ‘go away’.

Yesterday, I told a close friend of mine that I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something was different about Paris. Much like 9/11 changed the face of the world and the ‘war on terrorism’, I felt like Paris is about to have the same impact.

And as I’ve thought about it, read articles, and watched what has gone on online, I’ve realized exactly what it is. What’s different about Paris is that there are only two paths the world can take from this, and both will forever change the face of the earth. Path one, will see the value for white, Western lives increase while those who do not fit our bill are continued to be devalued. Path two, the awareness created about the lack of awareness surrounding what is going on elsewhere is going to spike a cry for change, and urge people towards recognizing that equality, compassion, empathy and help is for all, not just those who have white skin, live in the Western countries, or practice religions we deem as ‘okay’.

We have a chance here to strengthen humanity or deteriorate it. I only hope the world is brave enough to choose the former instead of continuing towards the latter.

Featured Photo : The site of Thursday’s twin suicide bombings in the Burj al-Barajneh neighborhood of Beirut, Lebanon. Credit Bilal Hussein/Associated Press.

Comments

  1. Chris Carter

    WOW. This is really powerful to read. I applaud your message here, Tabitha. I saw a friend share about Beirut and I had NO idea what was going on! She didn’t say, but rather ‘prayers for my friends and family in Beirut. Shame on me for wondering and not pursuing the information! I still don’t have all the information about it, and as you so clearly pointed out the difference in the media- I am the perfect example of NOT knowing enough because I follow the news of major networks and they STILL don’t share this stuff!

    You have really opened my perspective here. I hadn’t thought about it in the way you proposed and this is sadly making sense.

    Thank you for your bold voice and insight. It has made what will be- a lasting impact on me…

  2. Jennie Goutet

    It’s hard. I’m trying to put my finger on it – to have the wisdom to answer you (although the overall response is yes, you’re right).

    Paris is getting press because it’s generously a place of peace. Kenya is not. While we were there, one clan slaughtered another and many more than 147 lost their lives. And this was not at all unusual. When the minister to that area (who had escaped) went back in the aftermath, he walked past streets lined with cadavers. Our friends in Beirut have always lived with a fear for their safety. The wife was standing on her balcony as a girl when her house exploded around her. Fortunately her family was not in it. She didn’t speak for days. Beirut is not a place of peace. My husband’s colleagues have to end calls in Israel because there is a war siren and they need to get into a shelter. When we did humanitarian work in Somaliland, every building was riddled with bullets or was half-bombed and they dug up skulls when they were building the hospital.

    So … what’s I’m trying to say is, it’s not a simple answer to say that people need to have more widespread compassionate. In theory, yes of course! But what’s hard is to know of all the evil that’s being done everywhere in the world where it’s the norm instead of the exception. If we searched for the atrocities where people were dying by the hundreds, we would be grieving every day. And yes, Jesus tells us to mourn. But I think there is also an aspect of human nature that looks towards the hope and faith rather than the evil forces.

    I think people are focused on Paris because it’s an attack on foreign territory, and not a civil war like most of the other places. That does make a difference in people’s perceptions.. It’s not surprising that people’s ability to get emotionally invested is limited to a certain number of tragedies.

    I think that explains why it’s getting so much press.

  3. Brittany Pines

    I have not heard anything about Beirut or Syria until a few people- like you- pointed out the difference in the support. I believe Paris resonates with the modern, Western world more because it feels very similar to 9/11- that type of terrorism is rare there, so it feels more intense. But the fact that people live with this terror every. single. day. does not make it acceptable and not worth compassion. It can be hard to carry that type of compassion constantly- what I think is truly missing is the ability to turn that compassion into actual ways to benefit the region. Because yes, compassion matters but it’s best when that compassion is turned into action.

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