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On flags and indignation and guilt tripping

Updated: Oct 29, 2019

Facebook is awash with Tricolour faces I have to squint to see, which feels darkly emblematic right now. This morning my mind started roaming about how I would feel if anything so horrific happened here in the UK. Would the rest of the world know that the Union Jack seems to have been hijacked as a symbol of racist extremism in this country? Is that the same everywhere?

I’ve never really paid much attention to flags as they have always made me feel quite uncomfortable. By the time I knew what a flag stood for, it had already become the symbol of the National Front. The petrifying skinheads in my town used to wear their Union Jack with pride whilst they quite literally spat at and kicked people of colour as they walked down the street.

And so I don’t put flags over my face on Facebook, and I wonder if this will be seen that I don’t care enough, as it is with poppies, and what about that moment you decide to change your profile picture, does that mean you don’t care any more? I’m aware this probably sounds judgemental, but I’m honestly a bit lost in it.

But what got my mind wondering further was seeing a string of six consecutive posts screaming “What about Beruit? Where is the Syria people finder to mark them safe? What about an Iraq flag?”. And though I understand these points are valid, I am just not sure the indignation helps any of us.

Rightly or wrongly Paris was so shocking to so many of us because it was places we know, people we know and close to home. But it makes sense to me that if your next door neighbour gets run over, you are going to feel more impact than if someone you don’t know in a different town gets run over. It doesn’t mean you think the other person deserves to be run over, or that their life was worth any less, but your personal connection intensifies your feeling of horror and devastation.

I get it, we are hurt and angry about what has happened. We feel out of control. And we need someone to blame. There has to be someone to blame. And there has to be somewhere to throw our anger. And it can’t be ISIS, because hell that’s massive, and what if I can accused of being an Islamophobe, so let’s hate Facebook instead. Because it’s real and part of my daily life.

Of course I am simplifying but I don’t see where this outpouring of WHAT ABOUT THEM? gets us. It just feels like throwing guilt around to at people who already hurting. You have social media. Use it. Did you put a picture of a Lebanese flag up when the Beruit bombing happened? Did you tweet about the suicide bomber in Iraq? How can you make sure that people in Syria / fleeing Syria / in refugee camps are safe even if they don’t have Facebook?

As long as we are waiting for someone else to change, we lose our power to make the world a better place. Let’s take responsibility for our own reactions. And please, let’s stop wasting energy expecting large corporations to put the same value on human life as you do.


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