Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Too Much With Us, Late and Soon

This week Facebook is filled with images from Gaza and posts that carry links to articles. Photographs of bodies are absorbed into the consciousness of the world along with morning coffee. Not since Vietnam, when network TV brought napalm and jungle warfare into living rooms at dinnertime, has the carnage of war come so close to home.

But the Internet serves up this news 24/7, in thumbnail photos and soundbites--human tragedy in 140 characters, link-clicking optional. A good thing, right? We should know, we should see, we should act. We can click "like" and "favorite" and sign online petitions until our fingers turn red. It's the new activism--read, react, feel good that apathy can be put so easily at bay.

Who can forget the striking photo of Michelle Obama, fierce and beautiful, holding a sign that said "Bring Back Our Girls." Like, like, like--thousands of them clicked on Facebook back in April. Now it's almost August. Far from "brought back," Boko Haram still has the girls from Chibok. A video was released on Nigerian television that showed them reciting the Koran and wearing hijabs, "liberated" from Christianity  claims Boko Haram's leader. That was reported in the New Yorker in late May. In late July,the girls are still being held as ransom, to be traded for imprisoned members of Boko Haram, which the Nigerian government refuses to do.

But what the hell? We all clicked, right? And the world's disasters keep coming to our screens--how the hell can we keep up? In a more naive time, we believed that had we known about Auschwitz, about Pol Pot, genocide could have been prevented. Now we know that we would have decried, clicked, signed online, and moved on to the next photograph.


Nicki Chen said...

My experience of the Vietnam War was in two parts. Until September 1971, the war was all around me. We watched it every night on TV. We discussed and raged; I cried and sang anti-war songs.

Then we moved to the Philippines. We were closer to Vietnam, but the war seemed to move farther away. It became a paragraph at the bottom of the page in the local newspaper. Our international friends commented and went on to other subjects.

I feel obligated to keep up and care, but sometimes I wonder what difference it makes.

Janet Brown said...

Oh Nicki, I do believe it matters but not if we flash our caring on and off in soundbites of concern--here this minute, gone the next.

Sherry said...

Cool is not accurate. Right on would be a better heading. I've been feeling for some time that all our instant access to horror is even more morally numbing than the small time lag of television. It becomes overwhelming in a NY minute because it's so HUGE. One horror you could get involved in protesting on an intense level.... a multitude available in an instant is simply oppressive. Clicking "Like", posting on FB, forwarding.....even donating .. may feel good but also feels powerless in the end. Like voting, it's a thing I do but don't invest much hope in. Like instant oatmeal - it lacks texture .

Janet Brown said...

Hate instant oatmeal--love your analogy!