War on Apathy
A game of Pride and Prejudice
Welcome back to Berkana, your weekend gallery of obscure stories lost from the shelves of human history.
I have not yet transitioned into a cheerful mood since my last rant. The horrors unfolding in the world called for my ability to assess and comprehend the current circumstances while steering clear of personal prejudices. I constantly reminded myself that, as a writer, I must remain tethered to the truth. For the sake of my sanity, I resolved to stay away from the political propaganda and mainstream media coverage motivated more by global power shifts than by humanitarian crises. I succeeded most of the time to remain politically neutral. However, I couldn’t help but feel perturbed when the racist undertone ubiquitously surfaced in the war reportage last week.
The Ukraine war is one of the most rigorously covered stories in the international media at this point. Hidden amid the howl of shared sympathy are subtle yet evident strands of racism. These instances came under recent scrutiny on Twitter. Such reports have come across from show anchors, reporters, and guests of various channels like the BBC, Al Jazeera, and The Daily Telegraph. This gives war reportage from the lenses of the western media a toxic spin. In one of the BBC clips, Ukraine's Deputy Chief Prosecutor David Sakvarelidze said this,
A CBS correspondent said this the other day.
Does this imply, that non-white, non-European people deserve the brutality? Or does it imply that the people of Iraq and Afghanistan are ‘relatively uncivilized’? Whatever might be the insinuations, the act of slyly slipping racist prejudice in war reportage is outrageous and against one of the prime ethics of journalism - impartiality.
With such an apathetic narrative, journalism will fail to serve its core purpose which is to inform the truth. It will become hard to evoke the sympathy of people who do not identify as “European people with blue eyes and blonde hair”. This kind of reportage only encourages further disconnection within the world. It robs people of the vision to practice empathy, which is an essential virtue in times like ours. The function of media is to bring a sense of unity in suffering through true narratives and stand against every dialogue that encourages separation. But evidently, the exact opposite is happening.
If you ask me whether I am shocked at the disregard that the western media has for non-white nations in general, my answer would be ‘No, I am not’. There are many instances of such general indifference of western media to affirm my views. To name a few are the extensive lack of media coverage of the long-tailed wars waged in the other parts of the world, like Somalia (at war since 1991) or Libya (since 2011), or Mali (since 2012). 5 million people were killed between 1997 and 2003 in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a prolonged civil war, but we don’t hear about it often. I was thinking of coming up with reasons to justify the lack of information on such wars, but all doubts were dispelled when an Al Jazeera anchor reported on Ukrainian refugees.
What's compelling is looking at them, the way they are dressed. These are prosperous, middle-class people. These are not obviously refugees trying to get away from the Middle East...or North Africa. They look like any European family that you'd live next door.
The indifference is glaring and obvious.
I have also been trying to understand the collective apathy the Syrian and Afghan refugees faced while migrating to the European borders until an NBC news correspondent said this, explaining Poland’s willingness to accept Ukrainian refugees,
To put it bluntly, these are not refugees from Syria, these are refugees from Ukraine...They're Christians, they're white. They're very similar to us”
Several Twitter users came forward to express the anguish they feel when their suffering is openly disregarded.
Geopolitics aside, the pain and suffering of the refugees of the non-European wars are no different from the Ukrainian refugees. And anyone who even slightly hints otherwise is harboring a sense of moral superiority and prejudice. I write with a certain tone of skepticism, however, this does not mean that I deny the immense suffering and loss of the people of Ukraine. My heart goes out to all the innocent civilians facing jarring life crises for no fault of their own. I stand in solidarity to demand justice for them. The act of war itself should be condemned irrespective of the religion, race, or economic stance of the country in question. The real war is not the only one that is waged against the Westphalian principles or the virtue of ‘state sovereignty' of the west. War is still war if it is waged in the name of oil, religion, or control of the state. It requires equal media attention, even if it happens in some far-off territory outside of the golden cities of the western civilization. People are still people even if they don’t have ‘blue eyes and blond hair', and their suffering is also human suffering and should not be disregarded, even in the passing.
When someone from a place of privilege displays apathy, they naturally endorse imprudence. This reminded me of the 1943 Bengal famine of India, which was a direct result of the ongoing WWII and Winston Churchill’s policy failure. There is a definite lack of media coverage on the issue as the western media was least bothered about a poor colony like India. When confronted about the death of 3 million Indians and an explanation for his policy failure, this is what Churchill, on record, had to say
I hate Indians, they are beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits
In the next release Ghosts of war, I will delve deeper into every aspect of the forgotten holocaust of Bengal famine and how it was the outcome of a raging war, natural catastrophe, and imposing colonial power which strategically justified racial oppression. We will focus on the experiential narrative of human suffering from that particular period in Bengal. We will conclude with a rational understanding of why wars should become obsolete.
Until then stay safe.