People, like us

November 16, 2015

September 11th in the USA.

July 7th in the UK.

And now November 13th, a really black Friday, in France.

If we think back we might remember a few more places where terror struck, if not the dates – Bali, the Boston marathon, Paris earlier this year . . .

But how many other places can we name in the very recent past – the last few months, weeks, even days, where people were killed or injured by acts of terrorism?

How much attention do we pay to news bulletins which tell us of other people in other places for whom terror isn’t a rare and aberrant occurrence but a constant companion?

Indian poet Karuna Ezara Parikh wrote in response to the Paris attacks:

Stalin said: The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.

Big numbers, particularly in places with which we’re not familiar and where sudden and violent death is not abnormal, are hard to grasp, particularly if we know and understand little of the geography, history and politics.

The events of 9/11 (or 11/9 for everyone outside the USA), 7/7 and 13/11 got our attention because terror struck in places with which many of us are familiar where the culture is similar, where we might have visited and/or know people, and the people are like us.

They also had the potential to affect us directly because we knew some of those affected, and through increased security measures and the consequent, though not large, loss of freedom.

These many other deaths and on-going terror are far less likely to affect us directly.

But do they not have an impact in the way that the tragedies in New York, London and Paris do because differences in language and culture emphasise what we don’t share and blind us to what we do – our common humanity?

Just because they aren’t people like us, we should never forget that they are people, like us.

 


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