So I’ve just spent time with my daughter. Watching her play, laugh and empower the world around her. Everytime: the best time of my life. It never stops. She is all that is good and innocent in my immediate surrounding and life.
But with some perspective?
After her bedtime, I sit by the computer and run through the daily news and events. A video comes across my flow. It is a compilation of undescribable scenes from the recent strikes in Gaza. My heart rises and chest aches for what evolves in front of my eyes.
(Since the graphics in this video is so disturbing, I just paste the link rather than embedding it.)
You can watch it here.
Dead children. Molested infants and their parents, former lively citizens on the streets of Gaza. The victims of for us, meaningless violence. The conflicts taking place in the Middle East are hard to comprehend, for several reasons. One cannot however isolate the humanity from knowledge. Without knowledge I believe humanity, in its greater potential, is impossible to reach. Or is it? I will come back to this at the end of this post.
Too many people say they don’t have time to learn and engage.
Too many people say they feel empathy, but they don’t do anything about it.
But videos like these must surely empower some emotions? I teach a lot of visual language through moving images, about how the shaky amateur video signals authenticity, that the visual language of user generated content through handheld cameras give the impression of proximity and reality. Through Youtube, Bambuser, Ustream – the world has become visible, for better or worse. We can continue to turn our head, but we can also choose to see. See the world. See what we so easily distance ourselves from. The things, the stories and the people we do not know. What we fear. And I despise the religious rhetoric that no one would be innocent; an idea built on ancient texts with apparent truthclaims. Look at these children. See how palestinian families wake up every day to fear of losing everything they have. Observe the results of the Israeli war crimes. I don’t need to rely on Islam to state the obvious.
Nor am I obliged to have read Dante to say that guilt has several grades and dimensions. We are all guilty to the suffering, even if it’s on totally different levels. Not just those who act and commit the deads, but we who passively observe as well. Compassion, empathy, humanity and involvement can be demonstrated by both small and large incentives. We can share videos like this through social media, we can help to get attention in more ways than through the eyes of tightly controlled journalists. We can donate money, we can engage in humanitarian organizations. Above all, we can increase our interest and knowledge about the conflict.
I’m not the best of people. I do not always practice what I preach. But I put down my soul in trying to teach and discuss how parts of the human development work, on the condition of the world and how we can understand the world and actually act to make a better future for others and ourselves. My biggest commitment regards the Middle East and northern parts of Africa. Obviously there are certainly greater needs for attention to other parts of the world, where countries and conflicts lies beneath the mainstream media radar and not even getting a notice in the newspaper. But still.
I look at the video once more. But this time I cannot finish.
This suffering that has gone on for so long, between Palestinians and Israelis, with the intersection of the Gaza Strip, is fairly unique in our history. And since I am aware of so many people who no longer raise their eyebrows over headlines about new rocket attacks, over standardized articles in our newspapers about people who suffer while political powers can not even sit at the same negotiating table, I become even more convinced of the importance of new information outlets, above all things the social media emergence. The opportunity to witness and share the misery in order to raise awareness and at best get more people involved and the surrounding world to put pressure on the political establishments.
I get even more determined that my small contribution to this world, when teaching and writing about these issues, trying to reach out, is what I am supposed to do. I am resolute in continuing to learn Arabic, to develop my understanding of the conflicts, to work methodically to discuss with students here on how participation is possible, how resistance is possible, not least thanks to the media technological development.
My interest in communication and technology goes hand in hand with my interest in political and social development. No matter where it takes place.
I want to look my own daughter in the eye and stand for my beliefs and attempts to contribute in the best way I can, and tell her that I at least try to live what I preach. Even for issues beyond her and my way of life. And when she told me this weekend that a new girl is starting her class, a girl who has fled war and conflict in the Middle East region, we discussed the importance of helping, of welcoming and make her feel at home here. And trust me, when my baby girl stressed these issues (telling me that she and her friends already thought of this) even before I got the chance to preach for her, I felt more pride than ever before.
Talk to people, show them what humanity can be. In conflicts far away, or in the safe everyday life. Sometimes we just have to listen to children to learn for ourselves.