Apologies for not posting much or often right now. I’m really stressed these days, and stress kills my creativity like hell.
Recently I was watching a Russian cartoon with a friend of mine when someone came into the room and told us there had been a massacre in Paris. My friend sounded suitably sombre about this, but I personally just wanted the conversation to be over and to keep watching the cartoon.
I’m not callous… or maybe I am: maybe I’m selectively callous. There’s the thing. Horrible things happen all the time all over the world. There’s 7 billion of us. There was probably enough people dying of peanut allergies yesterday to be worthy of a moment of respectful silence. We can’t be sad for everyone, so we must choose who we are sad for. I prefer to only be sad about people I’m personally connected to in some way, and to intentionally cut off from worldwide tragedies not related to me.
I was happy to see many people in my Facebook feed pointing out that in the last couple of days there have also been attacks in Iraq, Lebanon and Kenya rivaling the Paris attacks, and that ignoring those to focus on the Paris attacks speaks of a collective racism, classism, xenophobia, and/or imperialism. As in, we care about those who are like us, those who are near us, those who share our economic privilege. Even if you don’t personally have those biases you might have been infected by them simply because your media exposed you to one story and not the other.
But I’d take it one step further and say that focusing on any of these attacks shows that we are interested in violence and fear. That’s why we care about terrorist attacks and not peanut allergy deaths. I’d say, therefore, that good mental hygiene should involve removing excessive attention to these things.
Terrorists in Europe do not constitute a major proportion of our deaths. Statistically they are almost meaningless. All they can really do is create fear, separation and conflict, which is their goal. Which means that if you respond emotionally to them, they’ve won. By all means be sad if someone you know has died. But if not, then forget about it. Or if you want to be consistent, then make sure to be terrified of peanuts just as much.