The attacks of last week were horrible. I changed my Facebook profile to the French flag immediately after I heard of the events. I didn’t analyze, or do any research to find out whether this was a good idea nor did I consult anybody. I did it because it felt right in that very moment.
A little later I found out that the media didn’t cover similar attacks in Beirut a day before the ones in Paris. A bunch of articles also surfaced which shined some light on the fact that the media is highly biased and the world didn’t pay much attention to the horrible things happening outside the western world.
One idea I found from a comment was that the key reason for this was the word “news”. People get desensitized about news (no matter how tragic) if they hear about it every day. Civilian lives are lost in horrible acts of terror on a daily basis in the Middle East. It’s not news. However, when something like that happens in Paris, it is by definition news and the media should cover it.
Moving on to the other aspect – caring. The people who were sad for Paris aren’t rejoicing about Beirut or any other tragedy. The thing is that it is far easier to liken ourselves with a girl in a Paris coffee shop than an engineer in Beirut. Paris is part of my tribe and therefore my identity, home and family. We all want to go to the City of Love, check out the Eiffel tower, eat a croissant, learn/butcher a bit of the French language, make fun of a mime and smoke some disgusting cigarettes to fit in. The Middle East on the other hand isn’t high on the list of places I’d like to visit.
Paris is also in my back garden. I can practically see it from my window. That’s why it felt personal. This explains the reaction form the Western world to the events in Paris.
This situation is similar to some of the conversations I have with meat eaters. They find out I’m vegan and start arguing. It is wrong to kill animals but they disagree. However they agree that it is wrong to kill our pets – cats and dogs. They think some animals matter more, others less. I see no difference between a French rabbit and a Lebanese goat – neither should be killed, tortured and eaten.
I must admit I don’t quite think the same way about people. I weigh in on culture, religion, touristy things and the cuisine. Funny, how the world works. All human lives matter, we just perceive some to be more relatable. Until that changes, we will never have world peace.
Let me give you a good example of what I mean. There’s a hot air balloon flying across the Atlantic Ocean. It’s got three people in it – a politician, an engineer and an accountant (feel free to change them to a French poodle, Lebanese goat and a Bengali tiger). The balloon is halfway across and starts leaking. It’s losing altitude and soon they will all perish into the water. The question is “who would you throw down the balloon to save the other people’s lives?” I think this was asked in a newspaper and a lot of people wrote in.
I know what you are thinking: ”Throw the politician into the water. They’re all scumbags and do nothing but steal from the people.” If you have some other thoughts, please let me know.
By the way, the right answer to the problem came from a six year old girl. She said that you should throw down the fattest person. That makes perfect sense. However as adults our thinking is clouded by stereotypes and perceived human value to society.
My profile picture still has the French flag in the background. It’s because my tribe was hurt and it feels personal. A tragedy in my own tribe will always hurt more than a tragedy in a distant tribe.