It seems that now more than ever the world has fallen victim to the ancient Chinese proverb, “may you live in interesting times”. We are a global society undergoing a definitive change as democracies attempt to flourish against autocracy and we see the circle of guaranteed human rights beginning to widen. Although many take a dismal view of our society as a whole, it cannot be said that we have failed to make progress in an array of different fields. However, it seems Western society has interpreted injustices and crimes suffered by humanity to rank differently depending on the length of their struggle. Nothing seems to prove this fact more than the declining media reports regarding the Syrian Civil War.
Upon checking the home page of major media and news outlets – such as the BBC, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Economist, and the Guardian – one does not even hear a faint echo of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, a country that has been ravaged by conflict since 2011. Yet, it would appear through filtered media that we in the West have grown indifferent to their suffering and have become consumed with our own problems, such as the crisis in the Ukraine or David Cameron’s anticipated press conference with Angela Merkel. I do sympathize immensely with the instability and death that has plagued Kiev in recent times, yet I cannot accept tragedies have the right to eclipse one another. One cannot justify the death of a European being more significant than the death of a Middle Eastern, Asian, or African. But still, we become conditioned to horrific news of killings and destructions in Middle Eastern countries, and I fear Syria may follow the same fate of Iraq in terms of media coverage.
The devastating conflict in Iraq has been ailing its citizens since the early 2000s, and due to clumsy governmental appointments after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraqis have become engulfed in a sectarian conflict that shows no evidence of ceasing. When daily bombings began in Iraq, we in the West would watch footage in horror and disgust that mankind could treat one another in such a way, and now these deaths are no longer main news stories but rather brief mentions by news anchors or a mere two digit number that crawls along a news ticker. These simple two digits once made front page news, but now the loss of these mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, and friends have been reduced to numerical figures. We have become so indifferent to their suffering that we merely ignore the violence because the problem seems too complex and too insolvable to confront.
Although the issues both in Syria and Iraq have a complicated historical context and political and diplomatic solutions will be difficult to implement, we as moral humans cannot be apathetic to humanity’s suffering. We mustn’t let European issues muffle the cries of the Middle East and rather approach both regions with equal resolve. When each issue gets an equal distribution of brilliant minds for diplomatic solutions, only then can humanity effectively solve the conflicts that plague us. I’m not suggesting that these issues are easily solved, but we as a society must start somewhere, and perhaps that could be with more consistent news coverage of violence in the Middle East and Africa in order to prevent a lethargic attitude towards these problems, as well as discussing and reporting on the conflicts in Eastern Europe. Western society claims to be a model of social liberty and equality of opportunity, yet we subject ourselves to murky morality when we remain indifferent to human suffering. In the words of Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”