When writing about the Paris attacks, it is easy to wonder what is left to say said amidst the opinion storm that has been raging for the past few days.
Pretty much everyone has spoken up as if what they have to say is the absolute authority on the subject – the only thing you need to read.
You’ve all seen it on your news feed – the shrinking violets of social media suddenly clearing their throats to announce their version of truth on the topic.
Generally speaking, there have been two reactions to these attacks. The first and most widespread has been shock, horror and disbelief at the Paris attacks, followed by an immediate public display of support for France, including changing their profile pictures to the French flag.
Perhaps those people don’t yet realise that it is the divisve mentality a flag promotes – the idea of national pride – that allows war, terrorism and violence to persist. But more on that later.
The second reaction has been that of scepticism and distrust of the mainstream media, who decided to focus their reportage on Paris, rather than attacks of a similar scale that happened around the same time in Beirut and Baghdad. Comparisons have also been made with attacks in Kenya earlier this year, that received a fraction of the coverage.
Or in fact the deaths, happening in far greater numbers all the time in the Middle East, as a result of our own armies who we so readily support.
To echo the sentiments of a piece I wrote after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the reactions we’ve seen are a beautiful display of how humans are able to pull together in difficult times and show support for each other.
But they are at the same time a display of the power the media have to divert our attention to events of their choice – a dangerous state of affairs when we consider that our best interests are not always at heart in this process.
Before you form any opinion, ask yourself a question. If right now you heard that a white man had been stabbed and mugged walking home in Stoke Newington and that a mother had been shot during French army strikes in Syria – which story would you pay more attention to?
Or maybe a better question to ask would be, which are you more likely to hear about? Either way, the answer is most probably the problem.
Humans have a tendency to empathise with the things that are more familiar to them. So when the cafes and bars we are so familiar with come under fire in Paris, we are far more likely to be emotionally affected than when a child is shot in Palestine – cleverly portrayed to us a foreign and unfamiliar land.
We only care about death and injustice when it is on our doorstep. This way of interpreting the world as a series of separate nations instead of one planet is a a misconception we must overcome. But why is it so vital that we do this?
Because it has allowed the government to carry out and support army strikes in the Middle East that have killed more innocent people than in Paris because they know it will never receive such a huge response.
Because the deaths of innocent people in Baghdad and Beirut this weekend would have gone completely unnoticed if there weren’t a growing number of people who recognise how we’re being deceived.
Because it is creating a state of affairs where society and the government will turn their back on 4.1 million displaced Syrians because there is a possibility (albeit suspicious) that one of the bombers was disguised a refugee.
Because suffering is allowed to exist all over the world without even so much as a passing thought because we so merrily allow the media we consume to dictate the importance of tragedy based on proximity and direct our attention away from the people most responsible.
Of course, no one is choosing to willingly allow the death of innocent people, but that is what’s happening as a result of our blind allegiance, evident in how not nearly as many people changed their profile picture to Lebanon’s flag or shared condolences with Baghdad.
Let’s not forget that UK and French arms dealers profit billions from the sale of weapons in the Middle East. The Independant’s report in 2013 showed that UK firms made £12 billion from the sale of weapons to oppressive reigimes, many of which are suspected to end up in the hands of ISIS, given their high cash flow.
Put in simpler terms, the UK and France have sold weapons to the same people who orchestrated the Paris attacks. Do you still believe for a second that their plans to attack Syria are for our protection?
Media manipulation has allowed us to carry on believing the version of events that we’re being sold. In buying into it, we inadvertantly allow the government to create a culture of fear through which they justify invading other countries and killing innocent people.
ISIS see themselves as key agents in the apocalypse – their plans are that of organised chaos. By making such a frenzy around their attacks and spreading islamophobia, the people who fear ISIS most are playing directly into their hands. ISIS believe they exist to bring about the collapse Western civiliation and reacting to their attacks in the way we have will help that become a reality.
The war on terror was declared by George Bush in 2001 following 9/11, a war that has taken on many forms and has been used to justify unimaginable atrocities. Fourteen years later and what has been achieved? Trillions of pounds blown (literally), countless lives lost on every side and the formation of ISIS; one of the biggest threats Western society has ever known.
Let’s not kid ourselves, the war on terror is futile, as is the media and the government’s attempts to scare us into believing otherwise. You can’t fight fire with petrol. With that in mind, should we perhaps not buy into the Paris media frenzy and instead focus our attention on suffering worldwide, regardless of location, skin colour or religion. It’s not like we lack the means do do our own research anymore.
A life is a life and we need to recognise how we’re lead to dramatise tragedies closer to home, because it is the same divisive mentality that perpetuates racism, poverty, war and injustice of all descriptions. It’s easy to turn a blind eye when you’ve been lead to believe it’s not as important.
Changing your profile picture to a French flag does nothing but allow the division of the world to continue. It is the same division that has created war, time and time again.
We’ve got to start seeing humanity as one race. This isn’t just some dreamy ideal anymore, it’s absolutely fundamental to our survival as a species.
We need to make an individual decision to question what we’re told by untrustworthy entities and we need to tear down the imaginary borders we have created in our minds.
Our thoughts and prayers should go out to France this week, but they should also go out to those suffering all over the world who don’t even receive a fraction of what’s been seen this week.