The Boston Bombings put in perspective

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A terrible tragedy occurred yesterday in Boston.

Left: Victim of Boston Bombings  Right: Victim of US Drone Strikes
Three innocent people were killed and dozens more injured at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The cause of this disaster? Two bombs were detonated 50 to 100 yards apart as competitors crossed the finish line at the world renowned sporting event.

The reaction, and rightly so of course, has been a volatile mix of sadness and mourning, coupled with anger and a seething appetite for justice. In regards to the issue, President Obama made a statement, claiming that they “will get to the bottom of this”, and “any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”

Three people needlessly died yesterday in Boston, lives brought abruptly and very sadly to a catastrophic end. My question is, what would constitute as justice in this regard? More death? More destruction? This has been the response from the White house in regards to previous attacks on the US mainland.

The Boston attack has been the worst of its kind since the September 11th bombings, hence it is of no surprise then that this should be such a pressing matter for the US government, and a dominating headline for the media worldwide. The army, navy and FBI swarmed the devastated city to catch any lingering presence of the assailants – closing down phone lines, roads, and searching bags for any more explosives left undetonated. And we all saw this with live coverage,  beaming into our rooms, from the many news teams scrambling to give us every morsel of information they could conjure.

And this pertains to the issue I hope to raise today, which is simply; why does something like this always seem so much worse when it happens to a wealthy industrialized nation? What constitutes as justice to such an abhorrent attack on innocent people?

I think we need a little perspective before we can really gauge what is an appropriate response to the deaths and injuries incurred yesterday at the Boston marathon. If we are to accept the premise that every life counts, every life has objective meaning – then surely the weight of yesterday’s tragedy pales in comparison to the many deaths that accrue worldwide on a daily basis. Many of these deaths may also be directly correlated to actions by the US government, the actions of wealthy industrialized nations and their citizens.

For instance, one of the three killed yesterday was an eight year old child, and we mourn for them – rightly so of course. However, when you look at the issue of infant mortality worldwide, over 16000 children die a day from easily preventable causes, such as hunger, poverty or curable illness. Throughout the 1990’s more than 100 million children died from starvation. A terrible loss undoubtedly, and more so even, when we consider that all these deaths could be prevented for the price of ten Stealth bombers. All these lives could of been saved with what the world spends on its military in two days. Did you know, that the cost of a missile could feed a whole school full of children for five years straight? Even in wealthy countries such as the US, one out of every eight children under the age of twelve goes to bed hungry every night. A child died as a result of a suspected retaliatory attack from the loosely grouped extremist organisation known as Al-Qaeda. Thousands die every day because we’re to busy waging war to care about our sick and impoverished, our poor and destitute – you tell me, what is the real tragedy here? 

Disparity between the wealthy and poor families in the world. 
In aggregate, there are a great deal many more lives lost in the pursuit of power, the financing of destruction for profit.  Similarly, there are also many lives lost through capitalism and the allure of unrbidbled wealth and enterprise. All of these deaths are considered acceptable,  as they produce substantial economic gain for a privileged and unscrupulous few. And often we find such stories are very rarely adequately reported, and such data only found and used by the most persistent of fact checkers and activists. Sadly, it seems the majority of us are uninterested in the cold hard facts, which make for somewhat depressing and uninteresting news. Several more people were killed in Iraq? Happens to frequently to care about. Thousands die of hunger every day? We’ve heard it all before apparently, and we feign empathy for these poor individuals, watching their plight on fifty inch plasma screens whilst we tinker away on frivolous and expensive gadgets. 

Three die in bombings in Boston, and it’s all over the news – 24 hours of unrelenting live coverage. I turnt on the TV at 3am yesterday, in the UK, and there is still little I can do to avoid coverage of the attack. Yet there was no talk of world hunger, there was no mention of the Iraq attacks, the Afghan drone strikes that killed 40 at a wedding prior to the Boston bombings. We can’t just cherry pick what lives matter like this. We ought to be impartial in how we treat others and how much we value their well being.  While a dramatic and fear provoking attack in Boston caused people weep, caused the world all over to send their prayers to the people killed and maimed, their families – yet today alone, over 16000 children have died quietly and unknown of starvation. The most basic human need, we could not provide for these children. And not a single tear was shed by us for them, the people in the wealthy west, who live lives of comparable luxury. 

Death knows no hierarchy, hence every life should hold equal importance. Every life lost should surmise in the same amount of sadness and anger. But being merely evolved primates, that rely on social interactions, that depend of mainstream news outlets to tell us what to think and how to feel – we simply can’t empathise with these people who we seemingly hold no relations to. The use of repetitive, headline grabbing, mass produced and simplified content for the general public has blinded us to the real grave injustices  perpetuated in this world. US led drone strikes to the Mumbai bombings in 2011, where 26 were killed and 130 injured – they just don’t seem to resonate with us as much, nor do the killings seem as profound. The many deaths as a result of world hunger or curable disease also seem to lack the potency of a terrorist attack in rallying a nation behind a cause. But the point is, they are just as appalling, and even more so, when we consider that our tax money pays to finance such destruction, and to antagonize those who now wish to harm us. 

What would you rather we made? Schools or Missiles?
Instead of sending bombs to oppress those in these distant lands, why don’t we build schools to educate their children? Instead of making missiles and stealth bombers to kill and destroy, why don’t we facilitate the industrialisation and modernisation of these countries? What’s really important to us in this world? The lives and wellbeing of others? Or our own safety? The well being of our neighbours over the well being of people in distant lands unbeknownst to us?

We advocate, or at least allow the killing of many innocent souls in state sponsored terrorism. Families destroyed, lives wiped out by an unmanned drones that drop well coordinated, and well financed terror from the skies. Two days ago, four innocent people were killed by drone strikes in Pakistan. Yesterday, 40 innocent died in Afghan drone strikes, and many more seriously debilitated. Where is these peoples press coverage? Where is the outrage we feel for the Boston victims? Why should these lives matter any less to us? If we are to accept that these are people also, with their own dreams, hopes, ambitions and worries – then why do we not care for these lives, as we do for the citizens in our own nations? 

The problem is that these people have become mere statistics to us. A foreign life destroyed holds no comparative importance to a domestic life lost. Where is this sense of entitlement coming from? Simply because we live in a rich and powerful nation, and we are not used to such domestic attacks, a domestic attack seems so much more unjust. Yet the reason for this infrequency is predominantly because we are too busy oppressing the very nations that are likely to have carried out the Boston bombings. When you wage war in other nations, of course you must expect some retaliation. If this does ultimately turn out to be another “terrorist” attack, it seems America’s chickens are coming home to roost yet again. 

In regards to the far right’s response to the issue – I read a story of a Fox News reporter, who tweeted after hearing about the bombings, with no evidence or inkling as to the perpetrators, that we should kill “all Muslims”  because they are “evil”. This is a foolish and narrow minded viewpoint to take. If the Boston Bombings upset us, so too should all deaths worldwide, particularly those we could alleviate by simply objecting to our government’s foreign policy, and those lives we could save with little loss to our own well being. Erik Rush should know very well that genocide is never an acceptable means of ending violence – there are innocent Muslims just as there are innocent American’s. Further death is never the solution to such problems. 

On the issue of media bias – of course we expect, and are used to media bias for a news agencies country of origin. And perhaps the frequency of such events, or the lack of more concisely, played a part in the stories dominating of headlines. Yet the US media is wide reaching and pervades many global news outlets. Thereby the stories leaving the US have a large sway in what the world thinks, and how the actions are perceived by the international community. Afghan media for instance, does not have the financial backing nor international credibility to spread such stories of US terrorism as effectively. And any US citizen who should question the US’s tacit use of drone strikes is an unpatriotic extremist supporter in the eyes of many. However, I believe that the media at large should be an impartial force for good in the world, and consider the welfare of all people when choosing what news to report. Hence, news outlets ought to report stories impartially, giving the appropriate time to all tragedies and human rights abuses that require our attention. And similarly, we the public who consume this content, ought to take the time to treat all stories objectively, and give all people the love and respect we show our neighbours, friends and kin – even those in distant lands that are unknown to us. 

Mourners from different parts of the world.
Left: Boston Bombings Right: Drone strike victim in Pakistan
My love and condolences to everyone who died today. The starving children and adults alike, the people who died in the Iranian earthquake, the Afghan bombings – those murdered through the pretence of war,  those who died as a result of curable illness in poverty stricken lands, those of us who are underpaid and overworked, those who’s lives were cut short working as slaves to the corporate elite. RIP to you all, and may the responsible groups “feel the full weight of justice” one day soon.

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  • Bee Ay

    Spot on. Why do you call it controversial?!

    First, I think (&/or hope) the main reason for such disproportionate coverage is because of the genuine fact that incidents like this are just rare in mainland US. It’s also a sharp reminder to everyone that all the inhumane security measures put in place mostly since 9/11 such as drone attacks, without due process killings & detentions, mass surveillance, Guantanamo Bay, water boarding, illegal wars etc. simply haven’ been effective!
    Secondly; the intensive media coverage in the next coming days will make sure that we’ll learn most of the names, faces and facts about the victims of this Boston attack, we’ll learn how they are/were all individuals with loved ones, hopes, dreams and aspirations just like us, whose lives were cut short or debilitated forever by the action of psychopath(s) using some sort of twisted ideology and egotistic reasons to somehow carryout & justify a mass murder (the media won’t put it like that though, well, it depends on who turns out to be responsible).
    But it’s a totally different kettle of fish for the victims of the bombing that occurred across Iraq on the same day, and for the 40 innocent guests killed at a wedding yesterday as result of a drone attack in Afghanistan, and for the victims of the attacks in Mogadishu the day before, and for the victims of the powerful earthquake in Iran & Pakistan earlier today… we might learn about the estimated casualties of those incidents and may be which sect or tribe they belonged to (if related), and how this sect or tribe have always been at war with another. That’s right, they’ll only be talked about by the same media as mere statistics and their links to complex ongoing conflicts that’s too complicated to explain even by “experts” (errr, how about you get local people from the region on to explain), subsequently that’s how most of us will think of them too. And that’s just not unfair and wrong, but also it’ll only make matters worse for everyone .
    And lastly, will some Muslims around the world please stop acting all apologetic and somehow responsible for an action of individual(s) who might or might not share their religion!!!!! Jesus Christ, this annoys the shit out of me… little you sitting there having lunch in Kuala lumpur/Cairo/Auckland while checking your Facebook have nothing, absolutely NOTHING to do with that attack because you just happen to believe in Islam!!!
    OK, I’ll stop now.

  • jimmeh

    Ah, my first comment, and what an eloquent one at that. Thanks B! = )

    Controversial in that it isn’t exactly the mainstream view, but I’m glad you agreed with the point I had to make.

    In regards to the disproportionate coverage – I suspect domestically this played a key role in the stories prevalence. The issue then is of course, why are such attacks less common? Because the suspect nations are too busy defending themselves against constant assault from the supposedly civilised world.

    In regards to the 40 innocent guests killed at a wedding – I read about this story but forgot to cite it in the article. It’s shocking how such a devastating loss of life can just slip through the MSM barely reported on. On the other hand however, I think it’s simply because people just don’t really care anymore, desensitized to such news by the sheer frequency of similar attacks and killings. The comparative coverage has been poor at best. I’m sure the news agencies in Afghanistan reported extensively on the US attacks – despite it being a foreign country.

    Your final point – I think regardless of what the majority of moderate Muslims may think and say, there will be people with the intention of turning this into an issue of faith. But the comment by Erik Rush sparked furious reactions, and rightly so. I hope the vast majority of people will not let such ignorance pervade their sense of justice and fairness. We must remember that Muslims by and large are not to blame for terrorism. Nations, governments, individual people – it is their greed and short-sightedness that spark war and cause destruction.