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Paris attacks: why some and not others?

The attacks that took place earlier this month in Paris were a tragedy; innocent lives were taken by unjustifiable murderous measures.

I was at work when I first heard the breaking news on the radio. I cannot entirely describe how I felt when hearing about the event, other then I was shocked, disturbed and greatly saddened. When the headlines ran, the marches commenced, and the hash tag JeSuisCharlie circulated it seemed that much of the globe shared similar feelings and  were now voicing their solidarity in the masses for the mourning families, friends and nation.

No one can deny nor contest the world- wide compassion demonstrated, neither for the 17 Parisians who were killed that day nor for the four others who died whilst being held hostage in a super market a few days later. However my concern and comment is not interested in assessing the tragedies that were such attacks, for to do that would to be state the entirely obvious.

Instead I wish to shed light on something else. At the same time the world was grieving for the victims of Paris, reportedly 2,000 Nigerians were massacred in Baga by Islamist militant and terrorist group Boko Haram.

It was labelled as the ‘deadliest massacre’ by Amnesty International and yet if it was not for an online article by The Guardian that was shared on my Facebook news feed, I would have never known about this other, very genuine tragedy. 

The article was titled ‘Why did the world ignore Boko Haram’s Baga attacks?’ Most of its content accounted that the hostile environment in Nigeria was one reason, as it made it nearly impossible for journalists to gain sufficient admissions and information. The corruption of Nigerian politicians and lack of access to online technology were among other components for the story not making head way in mainstream media. However, perhaps there are other influential factors or at least one other. The dismissal of this African tragedy derives, I believe, from a mainly non malicious yet unconscious selfishness of the west prioritising news that solely concerns us.

Undoubtedly the vast majority were affected by the Parisian attacks because we as a species recognise tragedy, feel sadness and show compassion. But we as humans, although not always intentionally, are also blissfully self-absorbed.

When people heard about the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, they were in sorrow, but they were also in fear.  In fear, because such tragic attacks occurred in the west, on European soil; such attacks hit home.  This meant it could have happened to us.

We could have been any of the victims or the victim’s family and imagining such a reality transforms the Parisian attacks into something personal, possible and very real.

Fear and a concern for our own are intrinsic human traits, we give importance to what affects us. When discussing such a subject, another story comes to mind; that of three year old Madelaine McCann who disappeared in 2007 when on holiday with her in Portugal. In the time of its passing the news became of monumental interest for Britain’s media and public alike. The story entered popular discourse because it was tragic, but like the Parisian attacks, it perhaps was covered extensively, because, again, it could have happened to us, it could have been our child.

I accentuate the ‘us’, because this essentially suggests that there is also a them. Them are the others; the 1 million Asian children that are traded each day, the 2,000 innocent African murdered this January and the lives in other communities around the globe that are deemed unworthy of substantial mention in the news. Although far away, they and their struggles are too very real. They too deserve to be covered in the news, to be remembered and to be too be mourned.

In the case of the citizens in Baga, they are isolated and suffer a shortage of access to communication, thus it seems like the unsaid but presumed responsibility of the privileged and advanced societies, such as that of the UK to be the voice of those muted.

I comprehend the impossibility of covering every tragedy that occurs, so let these comments help. Let these comments serve as a reminder and to pose the question: why some and not others?

Jemada Cicely

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