Over the last few days, much has been said about the fact that the Paris attacks have received an unprecedented amount of attention. There’s been an outpouring of grief and support for Paris coming from all over the world. Some people have pointed out that there are other atrocities that have gone on, or are still going on, which deserve and don’t get the same level of attention.
It is undeniable that the Paris attacks have overshadowed everything else.
Is it right? No. Is it fair? Of course not.
Facebook activated its Safety Check feature for Paris but not for Beirut, it was the first time that feature was used for something that was not a natural disaster. Why Paris and not us, wailed Lebanon? Can you blame them? Definitely not, I would have reacted in the same way had I been in their position. Mark Zuckerberg explained that moving forward, FB was now going to activate Safety Check for more disasters. The implied statement is that Facebook just happened, coincidentally, to change their policy about safety checks at the time of the Paris attacks. Hmmm…
Facebook users were also given the option to use a filter enabling their profile picture to be covered with a French flag to show support for France – more grumbles from victims of terrorism in other countries.
Many of the world’s landmarks were lit up in the colours of the French flag in the wake of the Friday events in Paris, people in many countries organised gatherings to show respect and support for Paris…what about us? cried Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and others.
Yes, indeed, what about you?
I can’t justify the Paris attacks overshadowing everything else so I’m not going to try. All I can offer is an explanation of sorts. I’m not going to speak on behalf of the rest of the world, I can only speak for myself and the thing is this: I keep myself informed of what goes on in this world, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, civil wars, the Middle East…whatever happens, I know about it because I read about it, it’s actually very difficult at times for an empath to keep up with the worldwide news because there is so much pain and bloodshed. There is a temptation to shut it all out and ignore it because it’s just too painful.
The situation in Syria right now is tragic, hell, make that the situation in the entire Middle East! There is so much wrong going on in the world, you don’t have to stop at the victims of terrorism or war, what about human trafficking, the number of women and children forced to work for a pittance or used as sex slaves? Modern day slavery is what it is, and it’s going on right now – when I think about it, it makes my stomach turn, yet is it something you hear about on a regular basis? No. The world is not lighting its landmarks in support of the women and children who are sex slaves.
I’m sure you can tell where I’m going with all this…so many atrocities, death and misery in so many parts of the world…the Paris attacks are just a drop in the ocean, right?
And yet, Paris is at the heart of Europe, Europe isn’t divided by war, France is a quiet civilised country, there’s no civil war or political unrest there. When people are murdered in the capital city of such a country, it’s utterly shocking and traumatising. The people who were murdered were going about their business on Friday night, they were out, they were having fun, just living life without a care in the world when mayhem descended on them out of nowhere – a bolt of lighting in an otherwise beautiful blue sky. Some would say it’s only justice, payback and retribution for being lucky enough to live in a quiet country in Europe, far from unrest and war.
At a time like this, the French are getting a small taste of what it’s like for people in the Middle East, right? Right, only you shouldn’t have to pay for being lucky, you shouldn’t have to suffer because you were born or happen to live in a civilised country.
I am not living in France at the moment, but I was absolutely devastated by the attacks in my country because I saw them, like most French people, as an attack on Liberty, on freedom, on our values. There are so many countries torn by civil wars and political unrest, so many places where terrible things happen on a daily basis, why oh why should the few parts of the world where people are lucky enough to have a good life be pulled down and made to experience horror?
It’s not as if the French haven’t fought long and hard for Freedom, there’s been a lot of blood shed over the centuries for what we now have, it wasn’t handed to us on a plate. If you listen to our national anthem, you will know exactly how hard it was for France to become what it has, and you will know why we cherish and will fight to the death for Freedom – Marianne is not the symbol of France for nothing: she is the Republic, she is Liberty – and when you hit France, you attack Liberty…and she weeps and bleeds…this, of course, being the very reason why we were attacked by terrorists who won’t rest until they’ve extinguished all the light and life in this world.
The world’s support for France was for those very same reasons, I think. It’s France, it’s Europe, it’s a symbol of culture, history, of a way of life, of freedom — to have it attacked in such a senseless, hateful way threatened the foundations of democracy, of civilisation. The “free world” as I shall call it, also felt for Paris because it could have been “them”, is it selfish? Yes, but who isn’t a little selfish? It is just human nature, after all.
I empathise with all the victims of terrorism, wherever they are, wherever they’re from. I am outraged and appalled by war, racism and slavery, I wish the world was a better place and I wish it was a fairer place. If you are suffering somewhere on this planet right now and think it’s unjust that France is receiving waves of love from the world, I’m sorry, I truly am. But I can only reiterate: what happened in Paris was as shocking, in a different way and for different reasons, as what is happening in Syria, Lebanon or Palestine right now — there isn’t, and there should be no monopoly on pain, we all bleed the same.