(This piece was originally written on July 5th and was inspired by the festivities of July 4th.)
Last night, bright lights illuminated the sky chaperoned by a cacophony of deafening sounds. The boon of living in a privileged milieu (and knowing its just fireworks) sheltered us from feelings of panic and angst, but I wonder: does that prerogative extend to the people of Iraq? When bright lights saturate their skies and piercing sounds reverberate around their neighborhoods, do they gaze out their windows in gaiety and awe? When the acerbic smell of smoke fills their air, do they pay it no mind? The death toll from Saturday’s suicide bombing in Baghdad has claimed over 200 lives, yet media coverage was a mere blip on the radar.
Just a few days earlier, 20 foreign hostages were killed at a café in Bangladesh. That was preceded by an attack in Turkey, which claimed 44 lives. Each attack was met with a paltry public response. Why? The public outcry, or lack thereof, encapsulate in miniature the characteristic qualities of a much larger problem: selective empathy.
Selective empathy is a burgeoning phenomenon that shapes media narratives and concomitantly inveigles societies perceptions of how to respond to these attacks. Selective empathy is tantamount to prejudice, at best, and moral depravity, at worst. When empathy is bestowed exclusively to sub sets of the population, it undermines the moral fabric of society and breeds enmity and contempt. Moreover, it sows division and creates undue strains on communities. To combat this problem, we need to ameliorate our understanding of others. That begins with acknowledging our own implicit bias and assumptions and working to rectify them, lest we fall into the trap of selective empathy.
Selective empathy is a burgeoning phenomenon that shapes media narratives and concomitantly inveigles societies perceptions of how to respond to these attacks.
I’m not interested in politicking; I’m appealing to our humanity: we must strive to be more equitable in our concerns for others, irrespective of who they are. Our affinity to the well being of mankind ought to be universal, absent of nuance and gradation. My heart bleeds for every innocent life that’s taken away mercilessly, and I pray those responsible for orchestrating these egregious acts meet a quick demise.