First off, let me begin by saying that I send the people of France my deepest condolences. As I am sure all of you have heard by now, twelve lives were lost at the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly magazine. Two extremists — not Muslims — were responsible for this attack; and let me be clear as to why I am making this distinction between how these terrorists were extremists, not Muslims. I can assure you that no Muslim preaches or endorses this sort of violence, just like no Christian preaches or endorses this sort of violence. Yes, there will always be those who interpret their religion as a justification for the killing of innocents, but how can we even consider these psychopaths true practitioners? How can we consider these two extremists who murdered — including a Muslim police officer — for the sake of murdering real Muslims?
I was inspired to write this blog post because yesterday I was fortunate enough to have a deep conversation with one of my old friends who currently studies at UCI. We caught up on many aspects of life, but more interestingly, we also discussed how, well, to put it simply, fucked up this world is.
#JeSuisCharlie has been trending lately. It is nice that people have adopted this hashtag as their new battle cry for free speech and freedom of expression. In essence, it defies the two radical extremists’ attempt to suffocate these basic rights. It seems as though the world has finally united in fighting against extremist terrorism, against those who use violence to intimiade and punish rivals.
But here’s the thing: what about the rest of the world? Yes, any death is a tragedy. The death of these twelve French citizens is a tragedy, and it is amazing to see world leaders uniting behind Charlie Hebdo. But again, what about the rest of the world? Nearly a month ago, 145 people, including 132 schoolchildren were massacred at Peshawar. That’s roughly twelve times the number of people who were killed in France. But why didn’t millions come and march for these children? People shook off this tragedy as if it was a daily occurrence. “Oh, that sort of stuff happens there all the time. Nothing we can do about it.” Really? So when twelve people are killed in France (now I’m not saying that the Charlie Hebdo attack was not awful, but let’s put things into perspective, shall we) the entire world rallies behind freedom of expression, but when 145 people, 132 of which were schoolchildren, are mercilessly killed by the very same kind of extremists, the Western world simply shrugs and moves on with their lives? Fun fact: the Peshawar school massacre was the deadliest terrorist attack in Pakistan. I repeat. Deadliest.
And what about Nigeria? Only a few days ago, they also had their deadliest terrorist attack in history. Boko Haram, a well-equipped militant extremist movement slaughtered approximately 2,000 (and probably more) in the city of Baga, and displaced thousands more. But what does that even mean to those of us who live in American suburban paradises?
2,000 lives is sure as hell a lot more than twelve, yet why do the deaths in Nigeria seem so insignificant to us when compared to those in France? In all honesty, it’s so hard for us to even fathom the sort of lives they lead in third-world countries. Our concerns are going to college and getting a degree, whereas theirs are finding enough clean drinking water and, well, as insane as this sounds to us, not getting killed. Just imagine this for a second: today, your more pressing concern is not passing that chemistry final; today, you’re instead focused on staying alive because there are batshit crazy extremists out to murder your family, your friends, and you.
What I’m trying to say is: it’s time for us to open our eyes, and not selectively choose which tragedies we want to champion, and which we want to neglect. Every day, new articles are published about Charlie Hebdo, but where are those about the daily terrorist attacks that the Pakistani people still endure? It seems like we easily forget the far more catastrophic tragedies when it is most convenient. Who am I to say whether or not the Peshawar schoolchildren massacre is more significant than the Charlie Hebdo shooting, or that Nigerian lives are more important than French lives? However, I do have the right to say that all of these massacres are tragic, and all of them deserve equal media attention. If millions march for Charlie Hebdo, millions should march for the hundreds of thousands who have been murdered in Syria too.
Sometimes, it really does piss me off how harsh and crappy this world is; but I guess that frustration is what motivates me to someday do something about it.
Anyways, thanks for — hopefully — enjoying my rant. Remember that we are all very fortunate to live such opportunity-filled lives where food, water, shelter, and safety are not even remotely problems we ever think about. Life is truly wonderful for us, and there’s no denying that. So next time you’re having a first-world problem, just think about the rest of the world, and the sort of shit they’re dealing with on the daily.