James Smith, Contributor
One of the sad elements of the Paris attacks was the reactions of certain people who saw the outpouring of sympathy for Paris with some level of disgust; here are two examples from a BBC article
“Right, solidarity… But don’t you think they exaggerate the Paris attacks when there are more Syrians dying everyday?”
“The Paris attacks lasted three hours – but this happens everyday in Syria. And Palestinians are dying, too.”
These statements, taken by on their own, are of course true; people are dying on the scale of the Paris attacks every day in Syria and things aren’t much better in Israel and Palestine.
The people who say these things, for the most part, get their information from western media sources – CNN, BBC, Euro News – so in effect they are asking for these organizations to care for all people around the world, equally.
A landslide that kills 10 in China should be given the same coverage by the BBC as a flood that kills 10 in Kent. A mass shooting in Paris should get the same in-depth reporting as a Taliban attack in Pakistan. A car bomb in Jerusalem should get the same air time as if it has gone off in Times Square.
This may sound very logical – there is a war on in Syria – but it is ultimately impossible. Empathy, it seems, has geographical limits.
When someone on your street has their house burn down that is sad, when your house burns down that is a disaster, and when 100 houses burn down in Beijing that’s just a fact – it happened somewhere in the world, but it’s not in your world.
This sounds a tad cruel, and it is, but being human is cruel. I think George Orwell said it best,
“To an ordinary human being, love means nothing if it does not mean loving some people more than others.” – George Orwell, Reflections on Gandhi.
You cannot expect someone to cry over the death of someone else’s mother the way they would their own; and if someone did we would not look at them as noble, but as a fool who will soon go mad as more mothers kick the bucket every day.
The Paris shooting got the coverage it did because it happened in our house, a house where most of the mainstream media and their audiences live. The ongoing war in Syria does not because it is happening in what seems like another world.
It should not be surprising that a mostly western audience and media were fixated on an attack on a Western city, to expect anything less would be a ask people to be saints – and sainthood is something any decent human must seek to avoid.