Not even 4 days have gone after the terror attacks in France and already all over the social media are reactions from people saying why is there not the same level of coverage given to terror assaults that happen daily in the middle east and non-1st world countries. The shock hasn’t even started to wear off but the intellectualization of the event has already started. Everyone wants to talk about freedom of speech and freedom to offend and problems with Islamist extremism and jihadists. I guess for people watching from afar, the distance certainly helps cutting short the shock and then a debate over core causal issues naturally ensues.
There is still so much naiveté in the mass American response – blame the Muslims/ Islam fosters extremism and rightful absolute horror at killing of innocent people. Also accompanied was the hope that things can get better and there is room for people to stand together through various political and humanistic efforts. And then follows the disastrous and habitual mantra of war against jihadists not as a part of the problem but part of the solution.
The response from my fellow Indians has been the quite interesting. Ofcourse nobody with a beating heart is going to fall short in condemning the horrific assault on human life. The intellectuals further mourn the attack on freedom of speech and debate over freedom to offend. There are a few who wonder if there is a way to put up a defense against the offense and when is it ok to say enough.
But the vast majority of my kin have shown pathetic indifference – or worse – ‘now the white people know how it feels to be attacked’. Actually similar words have been thoughtlessly expressed after the various terror attacks in the past couple 15 years, especially among those that feel it to be too much of bother to think beyond daily meal and immediate family. There is ofcourse middling disapproval for killing of the innocent, shock at the brutality of it but beyond that – not much else. Why is that? I was in Mumbai during the attacks Nov 2008. That probably was the only terrorist assault in India that got world wide attention. And my neighbor had then pointed out, people have been setting off bombs in public places (and even the parliament once) in India every few years since the 90s. Even in this densely populated country, it is becoming easier to find someone who has lost someone in a bomb blast somewhere, he had said. Right after that event, quite a few politicians went on new channels saying ‘things like this happen in big cities, we should move on’. There were met with large outrage and loud outcry and were promptly re-elected in the next couple years! It struck me then as it is hitting me now, we from Asia are getting quite used to hearing about bomb blasts and mass shootings that unless it hits immediately home, there is a foul, ill gotten and growing apathy to loss of human life. It may stem from lack of faith in system to stop or stem these terror assaults. Rooting out terror, to many, is a futile exercise other than those whose family is enlisted in the army.
I was talking to an Indian friend here in the US that every year at 9/11 we all seem to unite more as humans. There is a tenderness in interaction with people, a shared pain of loss and a weight in the memory of those images of planes driving through the towers. But I do not meet many people from India who feel that weight about the Mumbai attack nor want to remember it with heavy heart but will readily to jump on to the bandwagon of blaming the government for inaction and quickly forget about the loss.
The world has truly changed since 9/11 and has been changing long before Desert Storm, the machinations set rolling since 9/11 have made sense of safety progressively difficult. But in the West, there is still hope. Is the East envious of this hope? Or does it look at this hope as audacity? Where is that contribution to global safety and participation? If it isn’t at a government level, is it not our job to strive for it at a basic human level? One has to care about a human life lost, no matter under what circumstances and no matter how. It is time we brown people put value in human currency.
There really isn’t a need to fret about who and what gets more coverage as long as there is voice of care and a human bonding. Not all of us can be ‘Charlie’ as we might not be willing to lay down our life for what we wish to say. But we come from a line of people who did so to give us freedom. And we can stand together in mourning senseless loss of human life.