Does Anyone in the West Actually Care?

Originally Published on Medium - March 21, 2018

The genocide in Myanmar, the ongoing war in Syria, the poisoning of an ex-spy. These are all occurrences that have had little affect on the West and their stances. Terry Glavin writes a fantastic article for the National Post.

He talks as if our leaders are weak. He talks as if Western countries are weak. But I believe it is us who are weak. We the citizens of our privileged countries, who no longer demand much, if anything, from our leaders. We who were seemingly appalled by the Syrian civil war, until the next exciting thing took control of our media channels. We who comment on the Humans of New York Rohingya series saying how sad it is this is happening.

And yet we do nothing. We are content to sit by our computers and tell people how sad it all is. Posting your support on social media is more to show other people how much you care, rather than for the caring in and of itself. If all the people who read Humans of New York think something should be done in Myanmar, why don’t we do something about it. A protest of 2,000,000 people would sure say a lot to leaders. The odds of that, near zero.

It is particularly bad in our generation, but it has overtaken all Western society. This well-known culture of slacktivism. If I tweet about Syria, people know I am mad about Syria. I wonder how the Viet-Nam protests would look, or not look, had they been needed today.

I don’t know my feelings on war. I don’t know if I think Canadian (or American, or other) lives should be put at risk, and lost, in the protection of the Syrian people, of the Rohingya people. That is a difficult question for anyone. But it seems to me that the same culture that claims the unique importance and innate dignity of every human is often paired with pacifism. The world is not how we wish it were; there is death and destruction still all over the planet. How do we square those competing beliefs? How do we protect everyone. Perhaps you believe in active diplomacy, but that is still not what is being enacted.

Terry Glavin argues these leaders are getting more ambitious, and each step they are met with barely any opposition from our Western values. With each passing day, Russia and other countries become more and more certain that our countries will do nothing. They do as they please, and we meekly threaten them at best.

Our leaders reflect our society, whether we like it our not. And right now, I am not too happy about how that reflection looks.

I thought the prevailing thought was all of humanity is brothers and sisters, it certainly doesn’t seem that way. Will we care when it is our actual brothers and sisters being attacked? Maybe we will care when it is one of our countries, maybe we will care when it comes to our shores. To argue we care now; I just don’t believe it.

David Birnbaum