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What tragedy do you sympathise with?

  • Published at 12:46 pm March 26th, 2017
  • Last updated at 07:34 pm March 26th, 2017
What tragedy do you sympathise with?

People die every day. But death becomes much more stark when the cause is a terrorist attack.

Truth of the matter is, the Paris attacks in November 2015 made us view the world through a new lens.

The outpour of sympathy and love was overwhelming … and viral.

This newfound (or re-found?) truth led many to question how the contrast in the mainstream media’s reaction to terrorist attacks between those in the Middle East and in Europe was too stark to ignore.

There was outrage, there was hatred, there was anger, and social media had to take it all in via custom Facebook French flag filters, posts, and rants.

But truth of the matter is, the Paris attack was big news. So was the Brussels attack that followed, and terrorist attacks in the Middle East do not hold a candle to tragedy that strikes Europe or North America.

There is no reason to feel guilty if you happen to be residing in this country and felt more affected by the Paris attacks than you did/do by chemical agents unleashed in Aleppo.

In the grand scheme of things, I think, the world has been designed in such a war-mongering, greedy, and selfish way that by now we understand that empathy is limited in stock and that we allow ourselves to become empathetic when the occasion really asks for it.

We have had similar raids carried out before, but this unprecedented number of suicide bombers coming out is a reason to worry

To put things into perspective, suicide bombers and terrorist attacks in the Middle East have become far too common for us to editorialise on or to write 1200-word articles of outrage and disgust over, and as usual, Africa rarely makes the cut.

This is not to say that we should accept the way of the world and condone terrorist attacks based on region, but there are constraints to our shock value.

The latest attack near the Houses of Parliament in Westminster still has a certain degree of shock value for the world at large.

And it does not help the current state of geo-political affairs, xenophobia, and Trump that affect us all in one way or the other. Be it at the airport, or at immigration centre, or how it reshapes your mind to perceive the world, accept terrorism in faraway lands (and at home), and then manage to get on with the day.

It all comes down to shock value. We are conditioned in a way that makes us capable of accepting even the ugliest of truths, reoccurring tragedies, and deaths. If something keeps happening on a daily basis, we are conditioned in a way to accept that with bitter hearts and in thick skins. We become indifferent, unless something like the picture of “that Syrian boy in the ambulance” goes viral for a few days.

Being realistic, what are we to do but understand the cruel ways of the world and carry on with our day?

We are helpless and irrelevant when it comes to decisions being made by politicians and policy-makers behind closed doors, where handshakes take place between those who are sworn to protect people and those who seek to harm them, when the ones who can lead nations and change the world are fixated on trivial matters -- we are just pawns accommodated to a certain space to write articles about the end of the world (or about the world unmasked) or do whatever we must to pay the bills.

And what about the Sylhet attack which is less than 48 hours old? Are we outraged? Are we afraid, and confused? No matter what we are, the deafening silence in social media about it is what is disturbing.

Is Sylhet that far from our metropolitan city to take notice of?

The people who died (six, so far) and those who were injured are no less deserving of our outrage and sympathy than other news stories that grapple your heart and take you to social media to express your angst.

This may sound as though I’m speaking from atop a moral high horse, but the argument is that, when a terrorist attack takes place in a country which is considered to be generally more “secure,” it shouldn’t take precedence over what happens, for example, in our country.

Yes, they are all bad. Yes, people die everyday. But our audacity to put up posts with a neat little #prayforLondon and don Facebook profile picture filters and not feel a little affected, if not just as much, by atrocities carried out by disillusioned mad men in our own country, is a little too confusing.

What happened at the Atia Mahal raid is not to be taken lightly. We have had similar raids carried out before, but the unprecedented number of suicide bombers coming out is a reason to worry -- this further confirms concerns over the country’s security post-Holey.

It is not fear that should be allowed in, but awareness and solidarity in the face of terrorism and ugly politics.

When security is breached in first world countries, it makes headlines and the news ticker scrolls on forever because it signals to the world that the best of the world are not safe from terror attacks, and have failed to secure what they have toiled for centuries to build through the exploitation of the rest of the world.

I believe that fact is what shapes our shock value, and so we react accordingly when something as tragic as what happened in London happens.

We may take a moment and ask ourselves: If they are not safe, how can we be?

But then again, at the same time, such a question should not engulf our consciousness and allow us to priortise our empathy based on geopolitics and class.

Nusmila Lohani is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune.

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