Monday, November 16, 2015

If you prick us, do we not bleed?

It is easy to dish out philosophical advice and comfort to others upon whom the cosmos might have showered misfortunes.  When a death happens but in a different home, we trot out all the platitudes.  The believers might even say things like "your loved one is now with god" or "god's will hath no why."

In the old country, there is an expression: தனக்கு பட்டால் தான் தெரியும், which translates to something like "you will truly understand it only when it happens to you."  When, for instance, a death happens in our own home--even if it is the death of beloved dog--we cry and sob just like how the neighbor did and we forget all those philosophical platitudes that we dished out to the neighbor.

It is one thing when such events happen at a personal, individual level, but, another when an entire country is going through an upheaval that I cannot even begin to imagine in my wildest imaginations.  I am referring to Syria here.  When the war and the killings unfolded in Syria, all those over the past few years apparently mattered less to us compared to when the horrific killings happened in our own home, in Paris:
Monuments around the world lit up in the colors of the French flag; presidential speeches touted the need to defend “shared values;” Facebook offered users a one-click option to overlay their profile pictures with the French tricolor, a service not offered for the Lebanese flag. On Friday the social media giant even activated Safety Check, a feature usually reserved for natural disasters that lets people alert loved ones that they are unhurt; they had not activated it the day before for Beirut.
“When my people died, no country bothered to light up its landmarks in the colors of their flag,” Elie Fares, a Lebanese doctor, wrote on his blog. “When my people died, they did not send the world into mourning. Their death was but an irrelevant fleck along the international news cycle, something that happens in those parts of the world.”
The implication, numerous Lebanese commentators complained, was that Arab lives mattered less
That was after a double suicide attack in Beirut only a day before the Paris tragedy.  A city that was finally becoming calm and peaceful after years of unrest, and despite all the chaos next door in Syria that was pushing out refugees into Lebanon.
“Imagine if what happened in Paris last night would happen there on a daily basis for five years,” said Nour Kabbach, who fled the heavy bombardment of her home city of Aleppo, Syria, several years ago and now works in humanitarian aid in Beirut.
“Now imagine all that happening without global sympathy for innocent lost lives, with no special media updates by the minute, and without the support of every world leader condemning the violence,” she wrote on Facebook.
I want to be very clear here, before some troll thinks that I am minimizing the tragedy in Paris--I am not, and these two posts make that very clear.

"All of these tragedies are "an attack on all of humanity," writes this commentator, who points out how the media even reported the events very differently:
Although the terrorist group behind the attacks in Paris and Beirut was the same, the Western media narrative has been vastly different. In Paris, ISIS attacked the city's progressive youth, massacring dozens enjoying their night out at a concert, a soccer game and a restaurant. In Beirut, ISIS struck a "Hezbollah stronghold" in the "southern suburbs of Beirut," a poor, majority Shia area often characterized as a bastion of terrorism in the region. The attack was portrayed as little more than strategic punishment for Hezbollah's ongoing involvement in the Syrian civil war and support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
As much as we are shocked and sad about the Paris attacks, don't we need to think about other places too where the same ISIS has made daily life a hell on earth?  Shouldn't what we feel for Paris and France be the same as what we feel for Aleppo and Syria?  For Beirut and Lebanon?  For Baghdad and Iraq?  for ...

It seems like we have forgotten this part that Shakespeare wrote:
If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh?
if you poison us, do we not die? 
But want to remember only the lines that come after that:
and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?
If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.

Caption at the source:
The relatives of one of the victims of the twin suicide attacks in Beirut mourned
during a funeral procession in the city's Burj al-Barajneh neighborhood.

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