Paris v. Beirut

There have been a lot of complaints about unequal recognition between the Paris attacks and Beirut attacks that happened the same day.  This is completely understandable.

First off, we cannot be sad for every human that gets injured or killed around the would.  It would take every second of our day.  In fact, we don’t even care much about the people in our home town.  If someone is killed in a car wreck we are only interested if we know them.  Beyond that we just say, “How sad”, and carry on with our lives without a second thought about it.  This is natural.

Now we come to why Paris was a tragedy to the western world while Beirut was ignored.  We all relate to what we know.  Most westerners have either been to Paris or know it from popular culture.  They are raised on it.  Beirut is not a tourist destination and does not figure into the culture.  So westerners have a connection to Paris and when a tragedy like this happens they all feel it because it is a part of them.  Though the attacks in Beirut were the exact same, very few westerners have that same connection.  To the west, Beirut was a car wreck.  Sad, but out of our empathy zone.

Let us look at other examples.  A bombing of a mosque in the Middle East.  Very few westerners would care.  It is a different culture and different religion.  Not much empathy there.  Now a mosque being attacked in England would get more attention because it is the western world.  But people would only care as far as how safe they, personally, are.  Now say there was a bombing at a church in England.  That would be big news and get a large outcry from the public.  It is closer and dearer to the majority of the locals. How about Africa.  Always a place of suffering, but the only western outcry has been the kidnapping of hundreds of girls from a school in Nigeria.  Why?  Because of the sheer scale and fact that we can all relate to having daughters and can imagine the suffering if they were kidnapped.

There is nothing strange or wrong about these responses. It is human nature to only care about those close to us.  One final related example to prove this point is with diseases.  Nobody fights to irradicate a rare disease, no matter how painful or nasty, unless they have a personal relationship with it.  Beirut was a tragedy, Paris was a tragedy, but there are different levels of tragedy depending on your location in this world.

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