It is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time, and a direct result of American-funded interference and destabilisation in the Middle East, backed by the UK amongst others, that began ostensibly around the turn of the new century. Of course, any basic history course will show that it actually began much earlier with the power-hungry actions of the British, French and others after the break up of the Ottoman Empire following the First World War. Some historians would argue that it began earlier than that.
The Middle East has been a hotbed of fermenting tensions and all-out hostilities for at least a hundred years, often stoked by the very powers who claim to be on one side, yet supply weapons to the enemy too. What a great money-maker that is!
In Afghanistan, women were stoned, girls were banned from schools, unspeakable things happened to many, many people, important historical sites were destroyed. Nothing happened. Oil was threatened and the West strode in, guns blazing.
In Iraq (1990 version), oil was threatened, the West waded in.
In 2003, two million of us took to the streets of London to protest against warmongering because of oil. We were ignored by an ignorant, self-centred Prime Minister who had turned his back on values and belief and got into bed with the American giant. In search of the ludicrous notion of 'weapons of mass destruction' they went, and found none.
In a bid to control countries that are seen to be mere pawns in the game of oil and money, self-serving Western interests have destabilised an entire region and destroyed millions of lives.
They foment tensions, they supply weapons, they posture and threaten.
The sales of weapons by the west, including UK, US & Canada, is expected to top $18bn this year.
Another politician, the first black president, who promised hope and change, has now fallen under the generals' and the weapons manufacturers' spell.
Afghanistan, a state previously propped up by the US against Russia, fell; Iraq (second time), fell. Supposedly.
7/11 happened. Madrid happened. London happened.
Muslims were vilified and attacked. Comedians mocked; most people laughed. Saying whatever you like about Allah and Islam became acceptable. 1.57 billion people were lumped together under one demeaning umbrella.
People suspected their neighbours, mistrusted 'suspects' on public transport, crossed the road to get away. Holy mosques were attacked.
The big bogeyman with the beard was eventually tracked down and killed. Supposedly.
A new bogeyman was needed: ISIS entered the lexicon.
And, drip by drip, we were fed the myth that the dragon was waiting at the gates. They weren't refugees they were economic migrants, they wanted what we had, they would bomb us, they would burn our houses, rape our women, steal our jobs. Etcetera etcetera.
The xenophobic far right seized their chance and swept to a degree of power across much of western Europe. Many, many people, and most politicians, to their eternal shame, joined in with the sneering and the baiting, and the offensive and erroneous hyperbole.
The conflict in Syria began on 15th March 2011 when peaceful protests were met by authorities with gunfire, beatings and arrests. Families were destroyed, children were killed, thousands upon thousands of them. Homes were bombed, cities turned to rubble.
The world largely ignored it all. Those who did raise their voices in protest were cut down.
As the refugee 'swarm' began, the xenophobes began their campaign. Most people believed it.
During the recent UK election, the spectre of Islam at the gate was a strong push to vote UKIP, or at least Tory. Only they could repel ISIS, and control the migrant crisis, and the 'swarm' at Calais.
Two weeks ago this was still the status quo.
There was no humanity.
Then a little boy drowned.
The tragic, heartbreaking photos of that little body changed the world. They changed the tide of public opinion. They made people care.
But instead of finding every penny to send to MOAS or Medecins sans frontieres who are there, literally pulling people out of the water every day, people took to Facebook to show all their friends and family how much they cared. I care more than you care became the name of the game.
Tears were wept over a child we didn't know, but everyone shared the photo anyway. Respect went out the window. Syria and its children and its crisis and its refugees became water-cooler fodder, for good and for bad.
Then, over the weekend, there was a slew of photos of children holding pieces of card with 'it could have been me' or some such written on. Woohoo it even trended on Twitter, I'm told. SO WHAT??
Social media is invaluable for getting information out fast. It is invaluable for making people care; Aylan Kurdi proved that.
But as for vanity projects like can I get my hashtag trending on Twitter in the guise of caring, leave me out. To be totally honest, I found the 'it could have been me' message disingenuous, morally repugnant, and incredibly narcissistic. However, I do not doubt the kneejerk sincerity of those who took part.
Comparing safe, well-fed, comfortably-off western children with refugee children is, in my opinion, wrong. No, it could not have been those children because they had the good fortune to be born where they were and to have a comfortable life.*
So if you care, donate. If you care, do something. If you care, join Amnesty. If you care, use your time to write to MPs demanding this country does more. Do not use your time and energy to stage meaningless vanity photos of your kids.
The world didn't need a Facebook and Twitter campaign this weekend, it needed it 4 years ago, 3 years ago, 2, 1. This weekend everyone knew and if they still didn't care, or still thought these 'arabs' were only coming here for the money, then they weren't going to be swayed by a photo of your kid.
Do you know what though, it's fantastic that YOU care! I'm glad you changed your mind from the drivel you posted about 'immigrants' two weeks ago, or during the election. I'm glad this may stop you voting UKIP again, or believing everything you're told by the right wing press and politicians. And even if none of that applies to you, I'm glad that you now understand the seriousness of this conflict and the problems that are out there beyond your sitting room's feature wall.
Now, right now, you care. And that's brilliant. That's what Aylan and all the other babies, children, teenagers, adults, parents, old people, and grandparents need.
But why don't you just do something about it? Why do you also have to show people that you care?
Even worse, we are now being treated to photos of just what you're donating to collection banks to be sent to Calais or Lesbos or wherever. And, even more obscenely, to screenshots showing the size of your charity donation.
If it's all about being seen to be doing something, then do you really care, or do you just want to be seen to be caring? Can this huge humanitarian crisis really be about you and your kids, or the size of your donation?!
DO SOMETHING USEFUL.
Best of all, commit.
Commit to raising funds, donating monthly by direct debit, writing letters, campaigning where it counts. If you need to do it on Facebook, share news stories, photos and facts; information will reach and affect more people than some photo of your kid with a placard.
Commit to doing every last thing you can because this crisis isn't going to go away any time soon, and alas, it is likely to be followed by another.
The UN Refugee Agency reported in June that 59.5 million people were displaced last year as a result of war, conflict and persecution. This year that figure will have grown again.
Globally, one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. That's appalling.
They all need your help.
Donate; campaign; write to your MP, often; join.
What charities need is support and action, and for donations they need long-term monthly commitment to aid their planning and response potential. Set up your direct debit(s) today. Then top that up with emergency contributions when a crisis happens.
Unless we Westerners are absolutely on the poverty line, we should all be contributing regularly to help those in need.
Most of the people that do that would never dream of crowing about what they have done/are doing, they just do it because they want to, and because they are human beings.
Does Facebook really need to know how great you are? Can you believe it if you don't Facebook it? Jump off the bandwagon and give or help because you want to, not because you want to tell everyone on social media!
* Ed: I have added this paragraph for clarity.
Addendum added 22:16, 10th September.
I have not closed comments to this post, but all comments on Attachment Mummy are always delayed until approved, and I will not approve abusive comments. If you have questions about my intention, opinion, thought processes, beliefs, and more, the answers can most likely be found in this blog post or the follow up one, or in the extensive, I might say exhaustive, comments I have posted on each.
It is unlikely I will reply to further comments as I have a living to earn which already takes up a sizeable chunk of my time, and a family to enjoy during the rest of my time. To reiterate the main points of what this post is about, rather than what it is not:
- This blog post is about my opinions on the refugee crisis, and the tardy response to it from much of the western world.
- This blog post is about the inadequacies of western politics and big business, their part in creating and maintaining conflict, and calls for action against both.
- This blog post was provoked by a wide variety of social media action and reaction which was sparked by a photo of a little boy's body on a beach. As I and many other commentators* have said, much of that action, in its various forms, was disrespectful, ill-considered, and self-indulgent and/or self-serving. However, I do not doubt that for most people the choice to act, to do something, was heartfelt and sincere.
- This blog post questions the influence of social media on our lives and asks whether, because of that, we act to be seen as much as we act because we want to. I believe this is an interesting point of debate, and further blog posts on this theme may well follow.
- This blog post acknowledges that every action and donation by those affected by the crisis is worthwhile, but further action is always required. The author's hope is that those who feel distraught by what they have seen and now know about the crisis, will continue to act and donate, and act and donate, again and again and again.
* The Irish Independent had an interesting article on competitive compassion today. although the paper's right wing bias is also highly visible, so beware!
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