Facebook is littered with commentary and criticism, with suggestions that we should respond in one particular way or other.
Below are a few examples that I’ve found and, if anything, I hope that they open greater dialogue and tap into our humanity so that we are not divided by these events but are more united in the face of this inhumanity.
“Notice how people only care when those who die are Caucasians? Middle Easterns, Africans, and Asians can get killed all the time but no one cares because why? They’re not white? There’s a very definite undercurrent of racism going on here, and one would have to be blind not to see it.
Think of Charlie Hebdo, and then now the Paris attacks; social media erupts with protestations and prayers and profile picture changes by all the indignant people claiming to be saddened and horrified by these deaths. Oddly, these same people don’t particularly care about the atrocities in the Middle East, or in parts of Asia.
Hundreds of people die? Meh, let’s not even report it in the news, or spread it across social media, or voice our horror at the cruelty or senselessness of it. Let’s just move on with our mundane lives, and worry about whether our handphones are fully charged, our toy collection is complete, or our favorite restaurant is open.
We humans are, at the most basic level, hypocrites. We care about something because everyone else does; because we want to feel part of something bigger without actually doing anything that contributes towards the betterment of the world. We change profile pictures and pray and voice our displeasure, but the very next day we go back to our lives as if nothing happened.
Do you honestly think that all the dead and the survivors care whether you changed your profile pictures or not? These people need comfort. They need money. And prayer without any direct action is useless, because you’re pretty much saying “Please let someone else help them instead of me, because I can’t be bothered doing anything more than praying.”
Now I’m not saying that these deaths in Paris are insignificant. I’m just saying that it should be treated the same way as deaths in Baghdad, in Syria, in Palestine, in Ukraine. Deaths are deaths; either you see them as significant, or you don’t. If the former is true, then all deaths should light a fire in you, not just deaths of white people.
While not quite the same, one could also draw parallels to the refugee crisis, and how these people are fleeing their homes and traveling halfway around the world with no money and nothing but the clothes on their backs. All for survival and hope for a better life. Half of them probably die along the way, and do we care? Nope. All we care about is that they don’t come into our country and mess it up. And it is a sad day when people begin to care more about the dead than the living.
If you really want to help, start small. Make donations. Start campaigns. Open up your homes to refugees. Counter religious extremism. Saying that “Hey, my religion isn’t fucked up, it’s these people who are.” doesn’t help. Admit that when interpreted in a certain way, religion does incite violence and war. Stop denying that fact. I know you think your religions are beautiful, but beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Do not assume that your interpretation of it applies to everyone.
What about me? I have personally seen too many deaths in the world for it to affect me anymore. Yes, I am horrified by what happened, but I refuse to jump on the Facebook bandwagon and post pictures telling all my friends how horrified I am and how I stand with Parisians and how I pray for them.
Perhaps I have been immunized by it all; the endless pain and terror and deaths in this cruel harsh world of ours. Perhaps that’s why I no longer feel more than a momentary shock; I know that these things happen on a daily basis, and if I were to let them get to me I’d be a blubbering mess for the rest of my life. And I absolutely refuse to entertain the notion that only some deaths merit ‘viralling’ on Facebook.
Because all deaths are exactly the same. All deaths mean lives are destroyed; not just lives of the dead but also those of their loved ones and the people around them. Whether you’re Caucasian, or African, or Asian, your death should make as large or as small a ripple as anyone else’s. If not, then something is terribly wrong with us.
Perhaps I’m normalizing death, as opposed to the romanticisation of it by everyone else. Perhaps I am heartless because after all the atrocities in this world, they no longer affect me as much. Life goes on for me, regardless of what happens out the. I’m probably the epitome of the apathetic people of this world, because I know that at this moment, making a crisis viral on facebook will not change anything.
Terrorists will still be there. Religion will still be there. Deaths will still be there. Maybe you feel a little better about yourself having changed the colours of your profile picture, but I won’t, because I know it doesn’t make any difference. In a few days, this will be forgotten as people move on to the next celebrity marriage or political crisis or grand sales. Our minds are fickle indeed, my friends. And to become better people, we first need to be aware of that, and aim to change it.
You may not make the world a better place immediately, but start by changing yourself. That is a good first step.”
In a separate yet related post, another respected friend and equality advocate who has done much to raise awareness around issues of terrorism against many different communities, said the following:
“I thought when terrorists attack innocent people the only way to truly defeat them is by showing our unity. By standing together and making it clear that whatever they do – their actions will not divide us. That is why I added the french flag filter to my profile to show my solidarity with all those affected by these awful attacks around the globe. Sadly there are those who despite sharing the same goals – a desire for us all to live in peace and harmony with each other – choose this moment to criticise those of us using the filter. I can only hope that some day they realise their actions only serve to sow division amongst us at a time when it is not needed. I don’t want to waste any more energy here – as that energy needs to be focussed providing advice and support to those who will be victimised in the days ahead. If we don’t focus on the good we can do within our circles of influence during this time, the terrorists will win. Please think about the things you are posting folks – don’t divide us, unite us. Please don’t condem people for using a filter to show their support and solidarity, instead give guidance of the other positive things people can do to work together and keep all our communities safe.”
“After posting prayers for Paris, France, and our world someone issued a post about prayer as a waste of time and energy. The important thing is to get involved in justice work.
Double-blind studies indicate that prayer effects both the one praying and the one unknowingly prayed for in ways we do not understand. Beyond this, prayer is not passive; it is one dimension of compassion. Practical acts of care, including working for justice are extensions of prayer for many people of faith.
Drawing upon one of my favorite theologians, Fred Rogers, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” May we be helpers today.”
I saw his post and felt compelled to respond:
I agree that prayer is not passive and I think that any act of compassion which reminds us that we are interconnected is not futile. Prayer can be interpreted as having many meanings and purposes and my view is that prayer or meditation and contemplation should ignite flames of active altruistic engagement with those for whom we pray. We are stronger together and however we approach our relationship to others, it should be as a supporter and as a helper.
My article series for the Diversity Group brings together many such ideas and you may wish to read that. Here are the links to each part:
Can’t we change our profile image, pray, meditate AND actively engage in positive social change initiatives? What do you think?