I feel slightly personally affected by this series of attacks in a way that I did not feel when Paris fell victim to terrorism last November. I feel less of a sense of injustice at the relative lack of media coverage for the Ankara bombing that happened a week or so earlier; in contrast, when the Paris attacks happened, I thought the mass outpour of grief and the like, especially on social media like Facebook (well, only Facebook; I don't use any other form of social media, and in fact, I hate the term 'social media'), rather vulgar. The differentiated response of the Western media to an atrocity that happens in a Western country compared to a non-Western one is understandable to a point, even if it should not be condoned; the Western media primarily targets Western audiences, and it is intelligible that the Western audience would feel more affected by an atrocity that happens in a country like its own. Still, this seems to place a different premium on human lives, and the differentiation seems to be based on a factor as irrational as the geographical location of the said human lives; and there seems to be something morally questionable about this. I think this is especially so for people who don't live in Western countries and who have had little contact with these Western countries apart from going to those places as tourists, and yet condemned the Paris attacks online without saying a peep about the attacks in Beirut shortly before the Paris attacks. The tragedy of the senseless loss of lives should be keenly felt and equally condemned, no matter where it happens; and it seems to me, from media coverage of these events and the reaction to them on social media, it is more shocking when a Western city is attacked, but when it's somewhere in the Middle East, it's business as usual, and people scarcely pay it much attention.
I say this in respect of myself too. I saw headlines about the bombing in Ankara, but did not bother to read what it was about. When I saw the headlines about Brussels, after my first reaction which was not much of a reaction (I didn't register it as a terrorist attack initially for some odd reason), and when the story hogged the top section of my Guardian app, I started reading about it. I also found myself feeling more than the normal amount of outrage, and feeling less disdainful towards the "show of solidarity" efforts, than I felt when Paris was attacked. I thought about the reasons for this. It seemed somewhat odd, considering I've been to Paris four times and I love Paris, while I've never been to Brussels and I have little interest in going there.
When I thought about my two friends who live in Brussels, however, it became obvious. Pieter, my friend from the LSE, lives and works in Brussels. Arthur, my housemate here in Cambridge, had just gone home to Brussels a few days before the attacks. In contrast, I don't have any friends in Paris. I thought about my friends in Brussels and how they could have been affected, and how scary the prospect was, and the personal connection was immediately established. Quite clearly, the way we respond to tragedies that happen in other parts of the world is quite often shaped by our feelings towards those places, and these feelings are informed by different things for different people. While I still think that atrocities that happen in non-Western parts of the world deserve greater media coverage, at the same time, it is almost essential to be disconnected from the awful things that happen in the world. There is only so much outrage a person can take, only so much grief for the unfairness and arbitrariness and injustice of the world that one's heart can carry.
On a lighter note, I had a really nice evening with Dominic after spending the afternoon attempting to write about defamation as a restriction on the freedom of speech and expression in Singapore (ugh, so painful; I spent five hours on Tuesday reading this massive 137-page case, Review Publishing v Lee Hsien Loong, that almost killed me). We had dinner at what is now my favourite restaurant in Cambridge, an Indian restaurant that is more or less on par with Singaporean standards, which is high praise coming from me, and which I might have mentioned already (I went there with Barry last week). We had a drink at Novi; Dominic bought me a cocktail. I was excited to be having a cocktail but it wasn't nice at all. Oh well. I still find it really funny how his views are so similar to the Singapore government's.
It's past 1am. I have not been sleeping before 1.30am these days and I am worried that my late sleeping time is making me look old. Hence, I really have to go to bed, but not without first doing some French exercises on Duolingo and reading a bit of Porterhouse Blue. This means that I will not sleep before 1.30am again. Alas!