I’ve spent quite a lot of this week reading and hiding comments on a boosted post on Facebook that I created on behalf of the charity I work for. It is about an appeal raising funds for humanitarian aid projects run by the tiny minority of Christians in the Gaza Strip.
The boosted post has been targeted to be seen by people who, among other things, have expressed an interest in the poverty alleviation, international development and the Middle East.
Comments I have seen include fair questions: how do we know the money doesn’t fall into the hands of Hamas? How do we know we are funding the truly needy, given there is wealth in Gaza, albeit in the hands of people doing nothing for the most marginalised and vulnerable population?
Then there’s the questions edging towards something else: Why have we chosen to support people, who over the years appear not to help themselves?
These questions are tricky to answer on Facebook (or anywhere) so we answer them through different channels.
And then there’s the other comments.
- Tell the moslems that are here claiming benefits to send them money.
- Donate to a country that teaches it’s children the importance of killing all Jews?
- F*$! them. Their all the same underneath: appeasing Islam is like sponsoring your own assassination
- BLOW IT UP IS A BETTER IDEA.
- Every family that is scarf is because they have brought up bloody terrorist muzzrat ….so go f yourselves f’ing c’s….
- And there was me thinking all they wanted was more guns to kill Christians and Jews with.
- Won’t be saying that when the Muslim brotherhood are raping white women, committing XXXXXXXXX atrocities on British kids and killing non Muslims. All with the love of their prophet the XXXXXXXX*
I went to Gaza earlier this year and met some of the Christians and Muslims running the humanitarian aid projects. I sat and ate with them as they told me of their struggles living in a place even the UN state is going to be unlivable by 2020. I sat in the ‘homes’ of Palestinians of different faiths who have nothing, literally nothing, and are only alive because of the work of the projects. It affected me, of course it did, but I tell this because I anticipate one of the responses to this blog may be – you’re responding emotionally…
Two things: I’m not, I’m a professional. I am, I’m a human. Telling me I am responding emotionally to a humanitarian crisis or the cold-blooded murder of a woman in the street, and the motivators that drive those acts is small and meaningless criticism. Of course I am. Next.
If you’re the kind of person who thinks everyone should see the pain and destruction in the world, then step back and vote dispassionately, great. But there are more people voting because of greed, hatred and fear or because of love, compassion and hope. I understand both of them more.
The man who murdered British MP Jo Cox turns out to be a far-right extremist, stating clear indicators during his initial court hearing and appears to affiliated with and has campaigned for a far-right political party.
His actions are being excused by some: he’s just a nutcase; he’s mentally ill; he’s a lone wolf; there’s nothing we could have done; some people will always do things like this.
And yet, they don’t. Hardly anyone walks up to a public servant in the street and kills them. Hardly anyone takes an automatic weapon into a gay nightclub in Florida and kills 49 people.
What does happen every day is that people are othered. They are dehumanised. People are labelled every single day. Language and images are used that are damaging.
Migrants and refugees are conflated daily by the independent but influenced BBC. So-called documentaries chart the shenanigans of our benefit scrounging neighbours, our corrupt public servants. Publicly and loudly leaders in all sorts of spheres appeal to their people by exploiting their understandable fears – that there may not be a job, an education for their kids, help when they’re ill. And a significant and influential proportion of our beleaguered media who report what is said, and sometimes what isn’t.
“You’ve got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean seeking a better life.” Cameron 30/7/15. Under the previous Labour government, Home Secretary David Blunkett was criticised for referring to child asylum seekers as ‘swamping’ some British schools (BBC News, 2002).
The poisonous vitriol our local MP has been on the end of over his Leave position and pretty much anything else he’s ever done.
“The London Mayor – who is backing the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union – criticised the US President for his intervention in the EU referendum debate, adding his attitude to Britain might be based on his “part-Kenyan” heritage and “dislike of the British Empire”. Boris Johnson 22/4/16.
“Media [coverage of the migrant crisis] also differed widely in terms of the predominant themes to their coverage. For instance, humanitarian themes were more common in Italian coverage than in British, German or Spanish press. Threat themes (such as to the welfare system, or cultural threats) were the most prevalent in Italy, Spain and Britain. Overall, the Swedish press was the most positive towards refugees and migrants, while coverage in the United Kingdom was the most negative, and the most polarised. Amongst those countries surveyed, Britain’s right-wing media was uniquely aggressively in its campaigns against refugees and migrants.”
Othering has always happened, it always will happen. I have been guilty of it myself and will be again.
I’ve said a few times in the EU Ref campaign that I have spoken to people on both sides of the debate, who have realised a piece of evidence, or position they hold is wrong or tenuous at best. And they won’t change their vote. They hold on to their position above and beyond what the evidence points to. They *want* to be right about their view. Their passion to see wrongs righted has been disassociated from compassion towards people that are going to be impacted by their choice and are already being impacted by our colonial past. That rose tinted past that never existed.
To deny that othering happens is to be complicit in the consequences of it. Complicit in all of the mess and murder that happens as a result. Harsh? Yes, and I include myself in that condemnation. To say we can’t do anything about it is to give up on each other – the other who might not be my colleague/friend/family member who thinks the same way I do about everything. and who never challenges me or my world view. The other who is a human too no matter where the luck of their birth placed them on this earth.
*I had to delete some words, because there is some sort of attention I don’t want my blog to attract.
 UNHCR: Press Coverage of the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in the EU: A Content Analysis of Five European Countries: http://www.unhcr.org/56bb369c9.pdf
Extra reading: Our health and theirs: Forced migration, othering, and public health. Natalie J. Grove, Anthony B. Zwi School of Public Health and Community Medicine, The University of New South Wales https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7524802_Our_Health_and_Theirs_Forced_Migration_Othering_and_Public_Health