It seems coincidental sometimes that events would unfold itself that it might give rise to the peculiar notion of destiny. In a sense, without resorting to hollywood jargon, everything seems interconnected and have only meaning when the pieces are put together.
So you may ask yourself: why then dedicate the first paragraph to something as ambiguous as destiny, if it has no relevance to the title of this article. Perhaps when I’m finished writing that the pieces would fit together (I did it again).
I don’t think that anyone has missed the recent terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, resulting in the deaths of 17 people. The shockwave it sent through France and subsequently through many parts of the world made me pause for a moment. On the one hand, I was exhilarated to witness the condemnations of these cowardly attacks from people around the world.
At the same time I was annoyed by several things, which were more or less interconnected. The remarks made by the but-squads ( a name beautifully phrased by Salman Rushdie) were obnoxious; freedom of expression but!! You can voice your critique but!! You can even be satirical but!! I think everyone would agree with me that the “butts” glued right after their first comments made it smelly, even nauseating.
The second objection made also by the butt-squad( extra emphasis on the letter “t”) is more cynical but does contain some truth in it. The objection runs along like this; it is bad what happened in France but why forget the people in Palestine, Irak, Syria and other places tormented by sadists and psychopaths. I heard the same line of argument when Malala Yousafzai was targeted by the Taliban. My line of reasoning is that every horrific act of barbarism deserves the severest of condemnations and if necessarily by force. There comes a moment when the intolerable are no longer to be tolerated, especially when they grab for weapons and use violence to impose their barbaric anti-human sadist rule. Being cynical about the terrorist attacks of any kind only makes your remarks frivolous.
However, when you look at the events separately, you do notice something. We have seen demonstrations when the people in Gaza were massacred by the Israeli killing machines, but the anger and the outrage subsided after a while. Ask only yourself when you saw a demonstration for the Syrians and you might understand where I’m heading.
Just then, I found an article by Paul Slovic “psychic numbing and genocide” or the genocide neglect as I first read it in Sam Harris’s excellent work the moral landscape ( how coincidental right?).This article gave some interesting insights in how it is that people would react and get into action when only a single person or group has been killed while being totally paralyzed when genocides occur. To give a brief timeline of the genocides committed; The holocaust, Cambodia, east Timor, Rwanda, Bosnia, Congo, Bosnia and now you might add Syria to the list. In none of the mentioned countries, did the international community act ( except for Bosnia, but then too late).
Slovic argues that the people are only to get involved when the victims in one way or another are either close to them or when you put a face on it. Dry statistics does not produce the reaction desired. People might feel terrible about it, but they will not lose their sleep at night. Better explanation perhaps is that humans are evolved to only care for their own and are less inclined to take the care of distant events into account.
Furthermore, severals tests have been
conducted to see whether people donate more if you use high numbers of civilian casualties or when you put faces on the victims. Results showed that donations were more likely to be given to the options where picture and a story was mentioned describing the life of a child instead of dry statistics.
General public are not quite easily moved when you try to make the situation dire for attention by throwing numbers of deaths, because they’ll not able to comprehend the figures. Everyone can imagine their son or daughter be killed and it moves them, but multiply it by the thousands or millions and it loses that effect.
In conclusion, when someone says that the world is being hypocritical when addressing the charlie Hebdo or Malala incident, understand that the reason behind this lack of effort is because of our own psychological make up.
Does it mean that we then should give up hope and accept the reality as it is? No, of course not. It only means that different approaches should be tried to persuade the general public, so that they in turn force their governments to act on their behalf. How to go about to make this happen? I honestly don’t know, but I’m thinking of writing my thesis on how to get politics to react in the face of genocides and other mass murders by mobilizing the general public.