Cynicism about ‘selective compassion’ in times of crises


Being a cynic may be easy, but one needs to comprehend the collective contribution of small steps in bringing a larger chance in perspective. The global outpouring of sympathy towards Paris since Friday the 13th is akin to the one which enveloped the United States in emotional comfort after the 9/11 attacks.

In the wake of this event, the citizens across the globe displayed their comradery around the globe by lighting up monuments in the tri-colors of the French flag. Presidential discourses peddled the need to protect shared values of humanity, brotherhood and harmony.

Facebook also offered its users a one-click option to converge their profile pictures with the French tricolor. The social media giant, on Friday, even initiated ‘Safety Check’, a facility typically earmarked for natural cataclysms that let people alert families and friends that they were safe.

However, just a day before these attacks, two suicide bombers killed at least 43 people in twin blasts, leaving around 250 injured, in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. Both the attacks were claimed by ISIS, the deadliest threat that has emerged out in the world after al-Qaida.

But these attacks have led to a larger debate of ‘selective compassion’ rather than an objective assessment of empathy.

The social media and governments all across are being accused of being biased towards the tragedy of the western nations and are being name-called for participating in this apparent western hegemony of exclusive emphasis.

Yes, the Lebanese flag was not displayed everywhere on social media, and rightly so, Facebook didn’t provide an easy filter to converge their flags to display pictures. As unfair and biased as it sounds, in reality it’s the worst as it represents a tremendously flawed international ideology.

Does this mean that to rectify one problem (of selective compassion for Paris attacks and ignoring the Syrian and Lebanese sufferings) we have to demean a sincere display of empathy towards another tragedy? Can the rectification of biased approach not be achieved without demeaning compassion towards other people.

Why do we have to compare these incidents to point out the hegemonic nature of West? Were we unaware of this quality of the West to subtly influence the world?

In attempts to see the larger picture, what we fail to see is the small contributions of these attempts in creating awareness among the not-so-intellectual minds. Technology and Facebook penetrate into areas where the name of Paris is probably never even heard of, but with the changing display of pictures, people have been compelled to learn about this incident. Creating awareness and corresponding trajectories have been followed earlier as well- rainbow filters for gay rights and, of course, there had to be one for Digital India as well.

Why can’t we think of this as a trajectory towards creating cognizance which can contribute to revolutionizing the global awareness of adversities?

It’s not an impossible task to see that people are now more moved towards showing their camaraderie. Empathy towards one does not mean that the other is not worth it, or that the interest comes from some vested interests of people, but it only shows a lack of awareness of the issue. This can be resolved, if not by a path-breaking dramatic procedure, then definitely by filtering display pictures on Facebook.

If this move helps in directing any kind of empathy towards the indignant people, then why stop it?

We shouldn’t stop empathising with the victims just because we fear a presence of some Western agenda in the whole process. We should continue showing our support to Paris, as well the rest of the world, affected by terrorism, rather than eulogising about conspiracies and taking away compassion from those in need.