Saturday, January 26, 2008

Comparing Suffering

"I think that foreigners tend to show all too comparable pity towards people who have suffered misfortunes not at all comparable, as if the pity were more important than the misfortune." -- Marie Louise Kagoyire. Genocide survivor. Nyamata, Rwanda. Quoted from Jean Hatzfeld's "Into the Quick of Life, The Rwandan Genocide: The Survivors Speak"

Ms. Kagoyire was referring to foreigners who saw the Hutu refugees fleeing to the camps of Goma following the genocide and had lots of pity and provided lots of aid for them, but who didn't seem to have much pity and certainly very little aid to the surviving victims of the genocide. There were innocents among the Hutus certainly, and there was horrible suffering in the camps, but the camps were run by genocidaires, much of the aid went to the genocidaires in one fashion or another, and the world seemed to think that somehow aiding those whom the perpetrators had pushed into camps (and in many instances the perpetrators themselves!) absolved them of guilt towards the actual victims.

The same imbalance of pity applies to Palestinians and Israelis and Americans and Iraqis. Palestinians suffer far more, yet the west's pity goes overwhelmingly to the Israelis. Westerners act like at best these are two equal sides with equal suffering when the reality is that while there is suffering on both sides, Palestinians suffer 100 fold or more worse. Likewise Americans worry about their loved ones in the US military in Iraq and yet somehow fail to care 1/100th as much about the 100 times or more number of Iraqi victims they have created. At best there is token acknowledgement of Iraqi suffering, but where billions are spent to protect Americans sent to occupy Iraq or to aid injured soldiers, Americans fail to even acknowledge our overwhelming responsibility for the mass graves of Iraqis we have filled (more than Saddam now - think of that) and we don't pour hundreds of billions into aiding Iraqi victims of the violence we brought them. Don't get me wrong, I don't want Israelis or Americans to suffer, all human beings are equal - but that's the point, 1 Israeli is of equal value as 1 Palestinian, but somehow westerners fail to acknowledge that the suffering of 100 Palestinians IS greater suffering (simple math folks) than the suffering of 1 Israeli. Americans and Israelis overwhelmingly refuse to acknowledge the vastly greater suffering they create on the other side of the fence and they most certainly refuse to expend the same amount of resources to ease the suffering they have created (they're usually too busy spending resources to cause more suffering). This is why those suffering turn to increasingly desperate measures, they know no one cares about them, so they grasp at straws for anything to try and pull them out of the hole they've been thrust down into.

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