I was a bit impressed by #33years because Cameroonians aren’t known in public spaces but for football and our First Lady’s hair. To have trended on Twitter with hashtags trending from all over the globe every minute was an achievement.
But, like someone who works at the carnival I’m no longer amazed. I see the rides go up and down every day, I know the mechanisms behind them. The news doesn’t change. At any given time there is all sorts of pains that should be trending that need to be given attention that appeal to our humanity, a lot of which are not. I have become expectant of the hashtags. We now wonder: How long till the next shooting in the US? How long before we hear of another brutal rape case in India, Where is the next strike/march going to be? Or where will the next set of refugees wash up? Which African president will try to elongate his term next?
I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m slowly becoming apathetic. For people who feel deeply, it’s like there’s a wound on the vein of our humanity that never properly heals before the next cut. I hadn’t realized the toll the constant bad news and hashtags where taking till the most recent one and I found myself struggling to feel for the fallen, struggling to differentiate the French citizens who were attacked from the French government who is usually the attacker.
And I saw that it wasn’t just me.
Though a lot of us expressed sadness at the terror attacks in Paris, true to increasing apathy, we didn’t wait for all the dead to be counted before we began analyzing the event, criticizing mourning and pointing fingers:
~So did the killings in Beirut not matter? Garissa? Maroua? Congo and Nigeria? How come they didn’t make headlines and receive attention from all the world leaders?Weren’t they “an attack on humanity”?
~Does France now see the result of its foreign policies? The result of its meddling in the politics of other countries, “like spittle spat above their heads is returning to foul their face”.
~Why do they get Security checks, Facebook homage apps etc?
~All those saying #PrayforParis did you pray for other countries or just the one you vacationed to? And pray to which God? The one who let this happen?
~What just happened in Paris is what has been happening in Syria and other countries for half f a decade because of France and her allies.
Someone asked “Why are people like this. Why can’t we just express our sympathy and let people mourn as they will?” Another Facebook Friend asked “Is y/our God so small that you can’t pray for both, it must be either/or?”
These are great questions, ones I would attempt to answer.
We are like this because we are a generation quickly running out of sympathy to give. We are all hurting as a result of the choices and actions of the select few with wealth and absolute power. We have little care left to give, and we are going to be stingy with it. We are choosing who to hurt for, because to hurt for everyone is to walk about perpetually depressed.
While those who worship God know he is big enough to collect all the prayers for everyone. It hasn’t escaped our attention that some people are receiving more prayers than others. Like the same God hadn’t made the others.
We are increasingly aware that the majority of people hurting aren’t being prayed for while those receiving the bulk of prayers and attention are doing so because of their political and economic prowess makes us more conscious of their pain. These same people are those who came to our countries with the religion in the first place and now declare they are secular and neither need nor want our prayers.
French Magazine Charlie Hebdo’s cartoon reactions to different tragedies is summed up here. The bottom right is the cartoon reaction to #PrayforParis post the Paris attacks
Do you know of Big Brother Africa? Yes I know I digress, but it is to make a point. This reality show picks its winner not only by the number of votes the contestant had, but equally by the breadth of the voters for that contestant. As a contestant therefore, your ‘worth’ is determined by if enough people from many different countries care enough about you. Not just the people in your home country or a few of your people in other countries. The fact that you are loved as a housemate is reflected in the support you receive from even those with no connection to you, who care enough to vote for you over and over again.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
If the world was a Big Brother show, a handful of countries would be the winners before the third episode. No matter how we deny it an attack on France or the US or Great Britain would be garner scores more in condolences and sympathy than an issue in other parts of the world. Even nationals of the relatively ignored countries would cast their “votes” of sympathy for the other. Some people may not agree with me on this. Others may say well we need to start mourning our own with more respect, create our own media houses like the Middle East has done, our leaders need to show more better responses for the world to follow.
Either way, it is obvious that with the constancy of these events we no longer just mourn we now question.
Yet is this right? As much as we would get angry and someone’s pain being felt above another’s and as much as these instances brutally remind us of Orwell’s great truth “We are all equal, but some more equal than others”, as much as we are “woke” and conscious we must take care not to crossover from consciousness to apathy.
I say this because in our consciousness of media bias reporting this event we seem to have forgotten that France is not a person. France was not attacked; it was the young university student who went to have a night of relaxation after strenuous exams, it was the young couple on their first date-night after marriage, it was the father other four children, it was a volunteer at the local community center. These are the people who were killed. Not France. The France as we would not want to pay homage to is a handful of diplomats who make capitalist decisions that would maintain their country’s position in the global order at the risk of our lives and development. None of those diplomats suffered a casualty. We should be conscious of media manipulation but we should also remember this as we scorn prayers for Paris and turn down their flag in preference for prayers for our own. We should also try to remember that things aren’t always black and white and choosing sides is destroying our humanity just as much as the weapons are. As hard as it is, we nee to make our hearts beat again irrespective of for whom.
We need to fight the apathy.
I wrote the following poem on this before I could find the words above:
With No Damns Left To Give
And so it shall be that we shall birth a generation of apathy
Young’uns with no fucks to give
Children attuned not only to fire drills but schooled to expect bomb alerts, shootings
Who know how to call the police before they have learned to spell their mothers’ full names
Even if they don’t trust the police. Be they black police or white, American or African
North, East, West or South…
So it shall be that our young girls will be prepped anticipating rape. What will I do if…
The worst case scenario being not an extreme but a high percentage likelihood
And our young men would know intuitively to play dead to avoid being shot by the age of eight.
Because to put their hands up is not enough.
And so it shall be that our fruit will fall on the fields where we planted mines for our enemies
And those who survive, haven seen it all, heard it all, braved the ocean, felt it all with the regularity of bad news, piercing hashtags of tragedies for each season like fashion lines.