During a time span of less than 48 hours over 200 people lost their lives and more than 500 were injured by the cowardly and heinous attacks of Daesh (*ISIS) in three locations scattered around the globe – Beirut, Baghdad and Paris. Starting on Thursday, the news reached me about Beirut followed by Baghdad on the following day. My Friday night ended with friends at Whole Foods starring at the TV screen after having been notified about the attacks in Paris through our phones while sitting in Lisner auditorium and (how ironic!) listening to a talk by Peter Singer on “effective altruism”. The news report on CNN did not stop for a second to report about the attacks. Live images, interviews and expert opinions on the suspects continued. All our eyes were on Paris. On France. And I want to make clear that attention was paid quite rightly in light of such tragedy. It is important to keep paying attention as most of us do.
Facebook allowed my friends, who were sitting in State De France watching the friendly soccer game between Germany and France to mark themselves as ‘safe’. Facebook allowed my friends, who study in Paris to post a quick status that they are okay. And Facebook also allowed us to grieve collectively with all those, who have lost a loved one and mourn the victims. Profile pictures á la ‘Le Tricolore’ and #hashtags of support flooded Facebook immediately. Yes, the world is standing with France. Statements of leaders from nations all over the world condemning the attacks and expressing their condolences including the Arab States, Turkey and Iran have poured in. People around the world have gathered and commemorated the victims. The international solidarity has been strong.
In times like these I look at myself: An International Relations student focusing on the MENA, who is highly interested in non-mainstream theory and had quite often been called too idealistic for the Region. Then I think of fellow students, whose pessimistic attitude towards the Region often leaves me behind in a melancholic mood. And they are not pessimistic, because of the Region per se. Every Middle Eastern major I know does not buy into Huntington’s argument of a supposed ‘Clash of Civilizations’, because it just does not represent the facts on the ground. Those fellow students of mine are pessimistic, because they do not believe that they can contribute to any change. I am constantly reminded that no one genuinely cares about the Region. And with ‘no one’ they mean us all living a privileged life.
In times like these the words of my fellow students resound like an echo in my ear. On Thursday, no one in Beirut was able to mark himself or herself as ‘safe’ on Facebook. On Friday, there were no #hashtags or filtered profile pictures reminding us of the killed Lebanese and Iraqis. On Saturday, I made the huge mistake and exposed myself to the hateful comments spread on social media. Others countered some of them, but most of those ignorant and cowardly comments are now side by side with lovely posts of commemorations. Today on Sunday I am sitting here baffled. Both puzzled about such terrible killings carried out by Daesh not representing anything but hatred and feeling helpless in light of seething anger from people who are either fearful, ignorant or simply racist.
The echo does not stop in my head. No one cares about the Region, those people, its history and culture. The longstanding discourse has marginalized every piece of it. A group, which aims at creating fear and inciting us to hate each other, has carried out these three attacks. This is the simple aim of their terror. These attacks were not against the so-called ‘West’ or ‘a certain people’. These were attacks against humanity directly affecting hundreds of people in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad. Indirectly affecting millions throughout the world. But this time the discourse has again failed. On this Sunday, I have read various articles and blog entries of many Lebanese and all of them follow the same tone. They feel forgotten, maybe even neglected. The following words are part of a thoughtful statement by a Lebanese blogger:
“It’s a hard thing to realize that for all that was said, for all the rhetoric of progressive thought that we have managed to create as a seemingly united human voice, most of us, most of us members of this curious species, are still excluded from the dominant concerns of the ‘world’.
And I know that by ‘world’, I am myself excluding most of the world. Because that’s how power structures work.
I do not matter.
My ‘body’ does not matter to the ‘world’.
If I die, it won’t make a difference.
Again, I say this with no resentment.
That statement is merely a fact. It is a ‘political’ fact, true, but a fact nonetheless.
Maybe I should have some resentment, but I’m too tired. It’s a heavy thing to realize.”
In times like these I ask myself: What point have we reached when a person accepts that he is apparently less worth, because of where he is from? In times like these I ask myself: What do these values such as equality, freedom and solidarity mean, if they are applied selectively? Is this done deliberately, because these values are viewed as exclusive to only ‘a certain people’?
In times like these I have some thoughts: We call ourselves democracies, but do not hold our governments accountable to those high standards that democracies require. We have stopped to question the system regarding its most critical parts, because each of us in this privileged world is profiting. We do not rigorously challenge among others violent structures as exploitation, institutional racism and militarization. We do not deal with our dark historical chapters as neo-imperialism and its implications for today’s world as part of the mainstream discourse. We simply ignore all of this.
In times like these a certain thing comes to surface: Our hypocritical discourse. They say that tragedies expose the darkest side of humanity. Currently, I see the dark side of people, who want to incite hate, and people, who fall for such strategy.
On this Sunday I truly question humanity and its duality. But my friends are right, I am too idealistic to loose optimism now.