Immune to suffering or just filtering to save our sanity?

Here’s the thing. We recently saw a tragedy in France that was unbelievably sad. Terrorists with synchronised attacks throughout the city. It brought tears to my eyes reading and watching all the news. I couldn’t take my eyes off the TV as I wanted to feel empathy for the people of France. I turned my profile picture red, white and blue and felt unified with the French as a way to understand their suffering. It shows my solidarity with not only the French, but everyone else who has done the same.

So, how do you then make a comment about what’s missing in this story without taking away from that concern and genuine sympathy? I would never want to diminish the extent of this tragedy and how it has affected me, and so many others. As a westerner it has really brought the threat a lot closer to home (all the way to Australia). What’s missing though, is the atrocities like this all over the world that are constantly ignored by the majority.

Where were the tweets from Prime Ministers and Presidents offering solidarity when, only one week earlier, Lebanon was in a National Day of Morning over similar coordinated, synchronised attacks in Beirut? 43 dead and 200 injured. We have a huge connection to the Lebanese community in Australia. Much larger than with the French. What’s going on?

Where were the Facebook flags on profile images when Nigeria suffered atrocities at the hands of the terrorist group Boko Haram: January 20, 2012 Nigeria attacks, 183 people, of whom at least 150 are civilians and 32 are police officers, are killed in Kano State by Boko Haram. 32 Police Officers!!!

Again, where was the 24 hour news reports to give us the ‘scoop’ on what happened in Nigeria just this year? The 2015 Baga massacre was a series of mass killings carried out by the jihadist group Boko Haram in the Nigerian town of Baga and its environs, in Nigeria. Over 2,000 killed and 35,00 misplaced. 35,000!!! Misplaced!!! Where the hell are they all???

The question is, are we becoming immune to anything that happens in non-western countries? Do we westerners have ‘selective grief’?

I think the difficulty lies in the understanding of other cultures. It’s much easier for us to imagine what happened in France also happening right here in Australia because they look like us and have similar values, culture and governing systems. They are a democracy who enjoy freedoms the same as us. We can relate to what is happening in other ‘like-minded’ countries because they are ‘just like us’.

When was the last time we heard (or have asked) about the more than one hundred school girls who were kidnapped in Nigeria? What has happened to the media on that? It happens all the time in certain countries so we hear it, express our outrage to our partner while cooking dinner and listening to the 6 o’clock news, and then forget about it. These are school girls with grieving parents. But they are black children and black parents and they live in a country with no democracy which is overrun by corruption and violence and fear. Is that why we don’t take action? It’s all just too hard? Where was the US and its allies on this? Why no war on terror to save this country and it’s people?

We must not become immune to these attacks no matter where they occur. They are against the innocent and the vulnerable. We also must continue to acknowledge that what we fight for is to help everyone have the freedoms we have. To mourn every day and wrap ourselves in these atrocities everyday would almost be giving up what we are fighting to help them achieve. Peace. Harmony. Freedom.

Therefore, it’s not about giving up what we have and all becoming as low as the lowest common denominator. We want the rest of the world to be more like us (in peace)…rather than us be more like them (war-torn). Yes, we are selective in our viewing and ultimately our grief and solidarity, in order to save ourselves from being inundated on a daily basis and losing that innocent, peaceful way of life. It makes sense to filter it…it just doesn’t seem right. How do we show we care about everyone without giving up this innocence. Sign petitions? Like and share Facebook posts? Donate to charities? It’s the least we can do but I have no real answers for this…anyone?

In Australia, we have our freedom and democracy. Let’s all work towards bringing out the good in people so they can understand and share this freedom and enjoy the civil liberties we have. We don’t want to become like these war-torn countries, but rather understand their people and show compassion and give them the same opportunities so that they can achieve these freedoms in both their home countries and in Australia, who many now share a future with should they arrive on our shores. May they learn from our way of life, but continue to keep their own rich traditions, cultures and religions in peace.

Let’s us, Australia and Australians welcome them with open arms, those who come across the sea, so that we can share our boundless gifts. This is how they will become one with us. Let them understand the Aussie spirit and our traditions and see this as a path to a better way of life…in peace and as one.


Amen to that.

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