During the last weeks, Israeli army killed some people at Palestine, Boko Haram killed hundreds people and kidnapped women in a raid at Nigeria, some NATO plane bombed some Syrian or Iraqi village, three men killed some employees of Charlie Hebdo at Paris, some American drone murdered innocents at Pakistan or Yemen. I wonder if our response in the Western world is the same in all that events.
Obviously it isn’t. The dead at Paris are important, and they triggered protests, solidarity, thousands of posts in internet, the slogan “Je suis Charlie” repeated all around, new laws, our rulers protesting in a huge demonstration at Paris (even Netanyahu, the man who has killed more journalists in the world)… The rest of dead, the non-white dead, were only secondary news, after all that kind of events happen daily, but it happens at the other side of the line between civilised and un-civilised countries.
It seems natural that a British person should feel more solidarity by a tragedy at France than by a similar or worse tragedy at Pakistan. Yes, until you have to explain why. A French life worth as much as 100 Nigerian lives, it seems. And the ratio is even higher if we talk about an USA citizen life, of course.
There are also requirements for all Arab people to apologize, because the killers at Paris were of that ethnicity. Then, should we, Western people, apologize each time that our emperor Obama murder someone in some place of the planet? We should be apologizing almost daily, I’m afraid.
Ethnocentrism and Racism
Ethnocentrism has very deep roots in the so named Western world, and most people even isn’t aware of it. William Graham Sumner coined the term ethnocentrism and defined it as “the technical name for the view of things in which one’s own group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it.” And it is tightly linked to racism, a term that doesn’t need definition.
It can be found in many facets, not only about the terrorism. Just one example to clarify my point of view, the film ‘The Impossible’: it is about the tsunami that devastated Asian coasts on 2004, killing 230.000 people. However, in the film, the main characters are the very blond with very blue eyes members of a white family in vacation. In drama films, public should feel sympathy and solidarity with the main characters, so they couldn’t be Asian people but more appealing and white characters.
The same with the great film ‘Missing’ by Costa-Gavras. Surely everyone can remind many more films with the same issue.
It’s the old racism. Racism has never disappeared in our civilised Western world, just have changed its shape and has become more subtle. The “civilised” countries continue believing in our moral superiority over the others. Even people who never would admit it explicitly, people who will define themselves as anti-racists… when an event like the Charlie Hebdo attack happens, they worth a Western life much more than a rest-of-the-world life.
A clarification before to end this post: of course, I’m not saying that we should give less relevance to the death of the Charlie Hebdo journalists, what I’m trying to say is that all the innocent lives have or should have the same relevance.
Clash of Civilizations
I’m aware that this not only happens in the Western world, the other side may feel apprehension towards the Empire and its allies (although I would say that it’s more justified in Arab world, because they are in an inferiority position regarding Western world). It’s a strong tendency for people to differentiate between the in-group and out-groups. The Clash of Civilizations is real, and it’s fed by events like the Charlie Hebdo attack and also by our response to it.
But I refuse to take part in this war. So, if before I wasn’t Hamza, Muhamad, Dima, Abdullah, or anyone of the thousands of innocent victims murdered by Western world armies, now I’m not Charlie.