I remember waking up after the Charlie Hebdo attacks had occurred and panic was still all over France. I woke up with messages on Facebook from my friends back in France and friends in Asia.
The French friends had a thread where they would be updating each other on where they were and what was going on. It broke my heart to see my own friends panicked and asking each other where they were. If they were ok. Hearing about people I knew getting shot. At the hospital.
“I was 10,722 km away. I felt helpless, so helpless.”
I took a while to digest what was going on. Both on local and French media sites. Trying to make sense of it all. I cried for an hour. Angry because of this helplessness I felt. Because I felt it was unfair that I was away, tucked in a safe place.
The worst? Being in that safe place where true violence is unknown. People came up to me, apologizing but it felt insincere. My thoughts were screaming: You have no idea how this actually feels.
And that’s ok. Just like I didn’t truly know what it’s like in Syria or Iraq. Just like I could have been insincere about other attacks in other countries. Because, sometimes, you just can’t relate.
“It’s much easier to think of ourselves rather than others.”
Another tough one was having very close Muslim friends bringing religion straight into the event after it happened.
Using religion. Conducting attacks in the name of a religion that is not understood is stupid. You’re dirtying one of the world’s most peaceful religions and fuelling the wrong idea to a bunch of idiots who spend their lives in front of TV which reinforces stereotypes and ignorance.
Of course ISIS will claim these attacks. Even if it wasn’t them. They need those to reinforce whatever claims they think they’re making, to reinforcing their own baseless ideologoies.
Yet, when you know people who have been shot.
When you have your family worried because your little brother is close by.
When you hear friends who have always been strong and confident breakdown.
When your comfort zone is not your comfort zone anymore.
You need to mourn. You need to adjust and make sense of it all.
It’s funny how it’s always those who have never known violence or persecution who speak out the most.
“People who turn into funny social justice warriors and will say: “How about what happened in X country? No one mentions that.””
It’s like crashing someone’s funeral and saying “What about my loss guys?! You’re so selfish!”
Let people mourn first.
Grief a common language.
When I woke up again, to find out that this time it was Nice. I felt numb. I saw Facebook statuses that made me want to delete people off my feed.
I’m numb because violence is becoming the norm. After each attack, there are hashtags, change of profile pictures, “sympathy”, apologies, compassion. Many of these are well-meaning intentions, but many are also empty, superficial ones.
You know what’s lacking? Consistency. Consistency in sympathy, compassion, and the impetus to come together to do great things. Acknowledging there is an issue with media sites trying to sway attacks towards a specific direction, which is sure to benefit upcoming elections.
Fatigue is the word. Flowing on from this desensitisation to the violence.
“If this is becoming the norm, we’re in trouble.”
What also disgusted me is reading these words by the French president right after the attack:
“Nothing will lead us to give in to our will to fight against terrorism. We are going to strengthen our efforts in Syria and Iraq against those who are attacking us on our very soil.”
Responding to violence with violence is too easy. What’s harder is taking a step back and thinking twice about what’s currently going on.
On one side, you’ve got to acknowledge other people’s loss. You have to acknowledge these situations demand rationality. However, bombing countries as a convenient response is wrong. You then have to acknowledge that the name of a religion, and the very foundation of its principles, is being twisted, contorted into something so far removed from its reality. In the midst of it all, think of the other countries that have been suffering.
The result of all these actions, these thoughts, these emotional responses? Fear, more ignorance and violence.
I’m tired of this world that seems to be falling apart every single day. I’m tired of hearing about Donald Trump or Marine LePen. I’m tired of hearing of people who can’t acknowledge that first world countries can feel pain as well. I’m tired of hearing about all these innocent people who have had to pay the price for violence and hatred, regardless of where they are in the world.
“I’m tired of being torn between a culture – my French culture – that is devolving to pure instability, fuelled by ignorance and a culture, in Singapore, where Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism, Christianity can cohabit.”
I’m tired of hearing French people calling others racist or trying to show the world they’re so culturally tolerant. I’m tired of people who cannot, or will not, try to relate and who’d rather shove their own problems front-row.
I’m not sure where we’re headed but it seems like a very scary place.