The shame of our time.

Today, 98% of those who took part in the Hungarian referendum voted against the EU plan of resettling the refugees arriving on Europe’s beaches. 

People who lived through World War II outside the Nazi-occupied territories had to later confront the pertinent questions: “what did you do during the war? How did you react to the atrocities? How have you helped, or if not, how did you sleep at night knowing what was going on?”

Well, now we know. It’s remarkably easy not to care about others if they’re far enough, or different enough. It’s easy not to think of the victims as human, of the dead as people, of the refugees as anything other than an invading horde. It’s so easy, it doesn’t even take a sustained campaign of dehumanization, by the media and the politicians, to do so – it seems as if all we need is the flimsiest of excuses not to give a fuck about anyone else than ourselves.

ctrskvow8aa60abWhat is the point of teaching history, if we don’t see the most obvious of parallels when they hit us between the eyes? What is the point of reading about Anne Frank, and building her a museum, when we don’t care about today’s Annes, like Bana Alabed live tweeting from bombed Aleppo? Only worse, because this time we all know she – and so many others – are there – and still we do nothing to help.

You know what’s the most terrifying? It’s that Syria is so fucking close. It’s the closest war to the West since Yugoslavia – both in terms of geography and culture. It’s one of the oldest civilizations in the world. It is – or used to be – what we like to call a “proper country”, with universities, science, literature, classical music, everything we expect of a people “like us” – and yes, I’m using those awful, racist categories, because this war has shown what awful, racist scum we all have become in response. It’s easy to imagine Syrians a few years ago thinking, “we’re not Afghanistan or Somalia – if anything bad happens, we’ll get help, because we are like them”. But no, all of this wasn’t enough. The colour of skin and the foreignness of religion was all it took to turn a nation of doctors and poets into a barbarian horde of “cockroaches”, swarming against our borders, their real intention to blow us up and rape “our” women.

I could go on, but it doesn’t matter. Those with their heart in the right place, already know all of this. The rest of you – just remember this: karma is a bitch. Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Syria… They used to be like “us”. Like you. One day, your country too could become a living hell for some random, unexpected reason. One year you host the Olympics, or the Euro, the other – cluster bombs and poison gas are falling on your head.

For your sake, when that happens, I hope the world will treat you better than how you treat others today.

 

How we all won the Syrian War

  • Did you know the civil war in Syria is actually still going on?
  • Did you know people are still dying in their hundreds due to artillery fire, plane bombs, machine guns?
  • Did you know the chance for a peaceful solution to the war is now actually further than ever?

Because you might be excused for thinking that between Putin, Obama and the UN all high-fiving each other joyously, some major development in the civil war had happened; that Assad was punished for his atrocities; that maybe even an end to this horrible debacle is in sight. As a matter of fact, no such thing occurred.

Let’s look at the situation a bit closer. Before: an estimated 100,000 killed in the war, some 99% of them due to “conventional” weapons. A minor opprobrium on part of the Western world, some angry journalists, a vast majority of global population largely indifferent to the conflict; however, as the news begin to seep to the media consciousness, the pressure slowly grows on the Western powers to “do something about it” – more importantly, the French, British and American leaders are itching to prove their moral fibre, hopefully without actually having to do anything.

The gas attack happens, and the shit seems to kick the fan; a few weeks later, however, it’s all over. The situation after: people keep dying; Assad doesn’t need to change anything for at least half a year, possibly more. Now, even if there is another chemical attack, he can clearly point the blame at the rebels: “of course it wasn’t me. I promised not to do it, see?”

The Western leaders can breathe a collective sigh of relief: they did something; they threatened to use power, and Assad refrained from doing… what exactly? Using the weapons he couldn’t control anyway, which are highly ineffective in an actual war, and which killed less than 1% of his opponents? And not even immediately – he still has months to comply with a resolution which is not even there yet.

The public is distracted, as always; the pacifists are satisfied, because there’s no war. The hawks are happy that Assad had, seemingly, his nose bruised. The on-the-fencers who don’t pay much attention to the news can also be glad – after all, everything turned out fine, right? Otherwise why all the celebration?

Putin and the Chinese can congratulate themselves on proving tough and unyielding to the West. And Assad, the main culprit of it all, can continue doing whatever it was he was doing with only the slightest of inconveniences. It’s a win-win-win situation all around.

Except of course for the Syrian civilians smashed to bits by cluster bombs, burned to death by napalm, and torn apart by scud missiles* for months to come. But then, nobody cared about these guys in the first place.

*) all confirmed by independent sources