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Rachel Smalley: Duff talking guff – Aleppo is our problem
You may have read Alan Duff’s column. He penned it for the New Zealand Herald.
He’s frustrated, it seems, with the way the mainstream media covers the Syrian crisis. Duff believes we’re being emotionally manipulated, particularly by television news, because we’re being shown images of dead or distressed children caught in the midst of the conflict.
In essence Duff says Aleppo is not our problem. Leave it to the Middle East to sort out, he says. It’s not our issue.
He points to that emotive image of the Syrian toddler whose body was found washed up on a beach last year and says the media was trying to pull at our heart strings by showing that image in Greece. Although it wasn’t in Greece. It was Turkey. But either or, I guess. It’s the other side of the world. Not our problem, as he says.
But Duff’s flippancy to the killing in Syria is not unusual. I’ve met quite a few Alan Duffs while reporting on the Syrian crisis.
Some attempt to find reasons or justifications not to help. It’s easier that way, isn’t it, then just saying no? It’s tidier. Emotionally tidier. It means our money stays in our pockets and we don’t open ourselves up emotionally to the suffering of others. God forbid. Move on, there’s nothing to see here.
I remember a Facebook comment posted last year on a story I’d written about a young Syrian mother. I’d met her on the Lebanese border and her situation was, well, wretched. She had a toddler and a newborn, and no money. It was winter and her tent was freezing. Her milk was drying up, and she was suffering complications from the birth. Possibly an infection. And she was in the darkest of places.
She’d lost everything in Damascus, her home, her income, her future, and she was trying to manage two children in winter in a tent, with severe post-natal depression. After I posted that story on Facebook, a New Zealand woman commented and she said “I would happily give money to this cause but 99.9% of it goes on salaries, and none of it reaches the refugees.”
I don’t know who she was, but I do remember her profile picture. She was competing in some equestrian competition somewhere, and riding a rather well-bred and expensive looking horse.
Yes, she was ignorant. But it’s more than that. She was also looking for a reason to disengage. She was looking for a reason not to care, just like Duff. It’s just that Duff says the media’s overplaying the situation, and pulling at people’s heart-strings. That’s his reasoning to look the other way. “Aleppo,” he says “is simply not our concern”.
But on that basis, then Rwanda was none of our business, either.
Nor was the Ethiopian famine in the 1980s.
Or the Holocaust.
Let’s overlook the killing of people because of their race or religion because it’s nothing to do with us. Let us enjoy Pure New Zealand and our geographical isolation and our geopolitical ignorance.
Well, I don’t want to live in Duff’s world where we shrug our shoulders at the destruction of a state and the killing of its people.
That’s not the New Zealand that I grew up in.
Aleppo, challenging as it may be, is our problem. It’s the world’s problem.