Considering that I’ll be travelling to Belgium via a Dutch land border in about two weeks, I can’t help but express how I’m feeling right now in regards to the ISIL-claimed terrorist attacks in Brussels’ Zaventem airport as well as the Maelbeek metro station. First and foremost, it must be acknowledged as, once again, a cowardly atrocity committed by a collective of weak, morally aimless individuals. Prepare for a ramble, please pardon the questionable cohesion.
As a person who will be travelling the region soon, my initial reaction was a small bout of fear. It’s not my home but the knowledge of my imminent presence where suicide bombs just exploded caused my heart to sink in my chest. Then I reminded myself that this could happen anywhere, at any time, and that the same people who have violated Belgium have threatened and encouraged that same violation upon Canadians and whoever else opposes their ideas and their methods of imposing them. Nowhere in the world is completely safe from this and that’s a reality we all need to face.
What happened to the people of Brussels is horrible, as is what happened to the people of Paris in November. But there are people, a lot more people, going through this on a regular basis all over the world, in regions that receive little to no coverage of the atrocities that they face. From a Western media perspective, most deadly explosions that occur in the Middle East are worthy of a plain text sentence, at most. There is a persisting mentality on the part of North Americans that the value of the unseen and misunderstood individual somewhere else is less than our inherent value. I’ve witnessed it first hand. I’ve heard Canadians refer to Syrians and other Arabic people as backwards savages with a “Stone Age” culture. It’s truly embarrassing.
Election season in America is good for about one thing, in my opinion: it makes people more comfortable revealing who they really are and what they really think because there is someone in the public eye who they feel, at least partially, represents them. That representative serves as a lightning rod for the criticism that the everyday individual faces for their political leaning. A lot of Canadians are weighing in on the American presidential election as well, and thus contributing to the endless opinions on the state of just about everything. People are currently feeling more comfortable saying exactly how they feel about issues that would more ordinarily be considered controversial. Thanks to the polarizing nature of Donald Trump, my social media is saturated with these personal and political revelations. It reminds me of why the news media pays so much attention to European and North American suffering, and so much less so to the suffering of those in South America, Africa, the Middle East, and much of Asia. I think it’s more that we expect bad things to happen elsewhere, not in our backyards where, when you look out the window, all is fine and dandy (not to say that there aren’t neighbourhoods in Canadian or American cities where things are rough). But nevertheless, there seems to be more openness when it comes to sharing overtly racist or xenophobic thoughts, whether in person or through social media.
A more pessimistic viewpoint is that a large group of Westerners don’t give a damn about what happens to people who aren’t a part of our culture. I don’t think this is inherently a Western issue, I think it’s a human issue. We’re more connected as a species than we’ve ever been, despite cultural and geographical differences, but we still have a long way to go. I care about what happened in Brussels on Tuesday, and I care about what happened in Paris in November, and I care whether or not a Canadian suffers for being a Canadian, for holding the kind of values that we prize over here in the West.
But human suffering is human suffering. We shouldn’t have to go out of our way to learn of an atrocity in the Central African Republic, or injustices certain communities in Russia face, or how contaminated drinking water is affecting the health of rural Columbians. I think our media ought to integrate these kinds of stories into the mainstream more than they do. We can’t discount the humanity of a culture because we aren’t used to that culture. Culture is a human creation; each and every culture is thus flawed. We need to understand that despite how horrible the attacks in Brussels are that people all over the world face the same or worse on a disturbingly regular basis and we need to extend our thoughts and positivity towards them on an equally regular basis, regardless of where they come from. I encourage cultural criticism because how else are we supposed to get better at anything? What I don’t support is the outright rejection of one culture in order to “preserve” another. We’re going to be just fine over here in the Western world. Read a history book, on anywhere in the world. We’ve never been better off. A massive percentage of humanity can log onto the internet and learn whatever we want to learn. We ought not be afraid of anything, in my opinion.
It’s time we recognized that we are all one species, one race of humans. Outright cultural rejection and a lack of empathy towards one another hurts all of us. And don’t be afraid to go out and experience the world…don’t be afraid to travel. I’m going to Europe at a time when Europe is under attack. Pardon my French, but fuck ISIS. I have a planet to explore.