…and again and again in Syria.
Early on Friday 18th August, the day after the picture of a bloodied and confused Syrian child in an ambulance appeared on the internet, the story was given a few seconds on the BBC news. This swift reference was closely followed by not one but two refugee scare stories. ‘People’ (a right wing newspaper) were calling, we were told, for the army to control migrants in Calais. These migrants were apparently menacing holiday makers with chain saws(!). Then on to a story featuring aggressive sound bites from right-wing anti-immigrant ranters in Germany. The establishment sub-text clear – yes it’s sad but help these people at your peril.
Having reduced the plight of the poor in Africa to begging advertisements on the TV, is it now the case that sympathy for the most cruelly violated innocents on the planet will be peaked briefly and only with difficulty? Will pity immediately be stamped out by scare mongering? Will the comfortable world glance just fleetingly in the direction of the misery as with the toddler being carried lifeless out of the Mediterranean a few months ago? Meanwhile, the media salve the gaping moral wound of international inaction with the poultice of anti-migrant alarm stories.
The UN Human Rights commission stopped counting deaths in Syria over two years ago because of 'lack of access'. There is no doubt, however, that of the many thousands killed and maimed, a significant proportion are children. But people are not numbers and numbers are not people. One child killed by deliberate adult violence is too many. Let’s face it – we’ve had a six-year inquiry into the illegal invasion of Iraq and we still have no definitive numbers for Iraqi civilian casualties.
In the West we think we are civilised. We no longer send children up chimneys or down mines. We tut tut when news items reveal another sweat shop in the developing world where women and children rot in darkened rooms producing cheap clothes and shoes for the UK high-streets. Primark was one such outlet and yet the news never seemed to significantly hurt its sales.
In the time of African slavery, white slavers – often Christians – kidded themselves that the people they were torturing, raping and murdering were not really human. When it came time to sell on their slave ‘property’ no weight was given to family ties. These black skinned creatures could not hold the same love and connection to their offspring as the white man - went the thinking. Globally it must be the case that those in power have the same attitude to the children of this war torn hell called Syria.
Many years ago I wrote to OXFAM regarding their campaigns to garner aid and support for starving people. I questioned whether they might have more success in the West if their images were of white people. The reply I received confirmed that aid agencies realised this was an issue…
And in a world where many are further dissociated from humanity by an ever increasing reliance on technology I believe the problem of failed empathy will only increase (see blog 147. More Less Contact is making us Horrible).
Currently the UN are trying to negotiate a ceasefire ‘window’ each week so aid can get through. In other words, so we can feed people while they are terrorised, killed and maimed. (see blog 43. Killing them Softly) We’ll have healthier corpses!
Everything seems topsy-turvy. In the UK, dog owners can and do buy clothes and toys and even holidays and ‘treats’ for their pets while on the same planet children go without food or shoes or basic safety.
In Australia, finally, one of the offshore centres for Asylum seekers (including children) – an abomination of oppression, physical and sexual abuse and cruelty, may be closed. In Britain we cannot claim the same. Refugees, including children continue to be treated as less than 3rd class in order to placate the New Bigotry given oxygen by the likes of UKIP.
Like many people I have contributed a few pounds to a couple of charities on a monthly basis for many years now. Organisations that I believe do their best to relieve suffering. But what can such a tiny amount do especially since Brexit devalued the pound. Also – what will my pathetic pennies achieve, compared to the billions spent on weapons by my government not to mention UK armaments sold to Saudi Arabia and used, for example, in the current atrocities in Yemen. The good seems to be obliterated. I feel like an ant throwing a tin cup of water at a raging tsunami of horror.
When I was a child there was a prayer that my Great Grandmother taught me to say at night. The words come from an old Wesley hymn
Gentle Jesus meek and mild
Look upon this little child
Pity my simplicity
Suffer me to come to thee
No one seems to be pitying the simplicity of the children of Syria (or Yemen or Nigeria) though many are indeed suffering; suffering, crying, bleeding, dying. The world’s morals lie in tatters; each drop of these children’s’ blood and each tear shed in fear, stains humanity.
Happy to say my first grandchild born on Saturday 20th August 2016 safely and in healthy, sanitary conditions and surrounded by help and caring as every single child on the planet should be.
And remember if you like a post to follow/share/tweet/ or whatever you young folk do. THANK you.