Asligul Armagan.

The Thought Spillover

Observations, reflections, deliberations. 

The Day Friday the 13th Earned its Notoriety

© The New Yorker and Liza Donnelly, 2001.
© The New Yorker and Liza Donnelly, 2001.

The world woke up to a nightmare this morning.

Any Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram user was bombarded with shocking images and news clips from Paris when they groggily began scrolling on their social media feed. Our horror piqued, we hurriedly turned on televisions and clutched at newspapers and news websites alike to try to grasp just how an ordeal of this magnitude could have taken place when we were peacefully slumbering in our beds or having a pleasant night out with friends.

But the true nightmare was not ours to bear – it began last night on the streets of Paris, and is currently ongoing as the families and friends of those involved struggle to come to grips with this sudden and horrific event of terrorism.

Yes, according to mainstream media, ISIS has once again reared its ugly head, but this time in the heart of Europe, and at a magnitude that has little precedent. World leaders have been quick to condemn the events of last night.

British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote on Twitter, “I am shocked by events in Paris tonight. Our thoughts and prayers are with the French people. We will do whatever we can to help.”

Newly elected Canadian President Justin Trudeau similarly stated, “I am shocked and saddened that so many people have been killed and injured in violent attacks in #Paris. Canada stands with France.”

But the most diplomatic and astute statement came from a press release by US President Barack Obama: “This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.”See the original article here.

Although it is highly probable that President Obama has simply appropriated the significance of the event to address his US audience, his statement carries a quality of candid universality that is not matched by other major world leaders. There is, of course, room for improvement.

The problem with social media solidarity – a viral image, an overly simplistic hashtag, changing the colours of your profile picture to mirror a flag – is that it only touches the surface of true unification, but somehow creates a feeling that one has done all one can to help. It is almost a question of checking boxes of correct social media etiquette; if everyone on your social media feed has done it, it seems almost criminal to not participate. It makes you look unsupportive, or worse… ignorant.

Is social media solidarity a bad thing? Of course not. It spreads awareness, it spreads feelings of understanding and love. But there are instances when it can spawn the very ignorance that people attempt to avoid by narrowing our focus. And in the case of yesterday, this could not have been more true. Because as I mourned the loss of 127 innocent lives in Paris, I also mourned the loss of the 43 innocent lives in Beirut (see article here), just as I had mourned the loss of 102 innocent lives in my hometown of Ankara, just last month. Sadly, the first event is the only thing most people (save for a select few) seem to care about. From politicians to students to supermodels to comedy accounts on social media, everyone’s thoughts, prayers, and posts are devoted exclusively to Paris.

Apart from their death tolls and their geographic locations, these attacks are the same. In each, the mainstream media has identified ISIS as the main perpetrator, and the attacks have cornered civilians at their most vulnerable (concert venues, football matches, peace protests).

I won’t even waste time by asking a question of why the world always takes the Eurocentric approach. The general idea seems to be that people who live in Africa, the Middle East, or anywhere that isn’t an MEDC are painted with the same brush of living in conflict zones. Therefore, violence must be normal there – people must live in a constant state of guardedness and conservatism. They must see these things coming. Right?

The answer is no. The people that die in suicide bombings and civilian attacks around the world do not see anything coming. They are on their way to school, they are going to the mall with their family or friends, they are singing for peace in a sunny square, they are watching a rock concert, they are dining in a nice restaurant. None of those people woke up that morning with the knowledge that it would be their last time.

The people that died last night in Paris will be forever remembered, the date November 13th forever etched into public memory. Similarly, the world has not forgotten September 11th – nor should it. But Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, and dozens of countries will forget the dates of their own terrorist attacks in a year’s time – they will sadly be replaced by new tragedies. Does the world truly not care? Or does it simply not know?

European lives matter, American lives matter, Black lives matter, Arab lives matter... Why can’t we just agree (and this one is a no-brainer) that human lives matter? Why is it that Muslims have to take to Twitter every time there is a terrorist attack in the West to apologise on behalf of their religion and condemn terrorism, but no one apologises for, condemns, or prays for terrorism in the East?

By refusing to be outraged by terrorism in these areas, we are perpetuating global indifference to the true nature of terrorism: it has no nationality, no ethnicity, and no religion. We must cease viewing terrorist attacks through these warped lenses. They are, above all, human beings. Even a single death is too many.

If you are distressed and outraged by the events in Paris last night, enough to take to social media en masse, please remember that peace and love do not discriminate... and neither should we.