In as much as we sympathise with the French and the sad event that has befallen their nation, there has been a growing wave of pseudo and/or blind support for them on social networks by our kith and kin and more particularly on the social networking platform, Facebook. 139 lives were lost in France on the 13th of November, but truth is, thousands more souls have been lost right here in Zimbabwe and around the continent in countries like Nigeria, Lebanon, Burundi, Kenya, CAR and and and.
As a response to the bombings in Paris, Facebook has given users the option of applying the French flag filter over one’s profile picture in support of France. Facebook has also extended their “safety check” feature to apply to manmade disasters (read, the Paris attacks). Previously, safety check was a feature that applied only in the event of a natural disaster where one could tell their friends and family that they were safe. However, in reaction to what has been dubbed the “worst peace-time attack on French soil” since World War Two – although this is only true if you are selective about what attacks count – they have immediately amended this in an act of solidarity.
My question is where were both these features when the massacre of students at Kenyan University, Garissa, took place? I also don’t see the Lebanese flag filter on Facebook in solidarity with the victims of the bombings in Beirut that happened a day before the Paris bombings, do you? What’s more, more lives are lost due to terrorist activities in Iraq than anywhere else in the world but one would be hard-pressed to find their flag filter on Facebook. The Western (and this includes France) sponsored and controlled drone bombings in the name of “the war against terror” have killed dozens of innocent men, women and children all around the Middle East, and we don’t see these events receiving wide coverage for three straight days on every tabloid, TV and news channel. Clearly some lives matter more than others.
Now, if we localise our gaze and focus more on us, Zimbabweans, we have, due to colonialism, become lovers of all things white. Do you recall the post election period when people’s arms were getting lopped off for having voted wrong? Why did we not stand in solidarity with our own brethren, some of whom may have even been your own relatives? Did people “post for Zimbabwe” then? The Western and Europeanized education that we have received has elevated and glorified all things Western (and I use that term loosely to refer to all things white whether from America which is truly in the west or Europe) and propagated them as more progressive, advanced and to be aspired to.
Our own sense of culture and belonging has been slowly eroded and superseded by these views. We have become followers of the Eurocentric views and lifestyles and abandoned our own. We now know more about our colonisers’ ancestors who are often labeled as “the people who changed the world” and their “great” history. We know more of Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill, and George Washington to name a few; even their personal traits – down to their favourite book or the color of their lucky underwear! Do we know about Thomas Sankara, Jaja of Opobo, Queen Nzinga, Amilcar Cabral or Queen Yaa Asantewaa? Do we know about these people whom we are more descendent from, by proximity at the very least, than those formerly mentioned? These people who were the ones who contributed to the rich fabric of our history through their bravery and resistance to colonization by the imperialists. Today, our very own African brothers and sisters across the continent are fighting daily battles against widespread hunger, deforestation, insurgency, terrorism, famine, drought, disease, poverty etc. Our own neighbor may be fighting a personal battle against rape, domestic violence, neglect, physical and mental abuse and we won’t even bat an eyelid. Why aren’t some of us as quick and proactive in showing their support and solidarity with them as they were with Paris by rushing to change their profile picture? If you truly care, do you actually stand up and make a difference, a real difference in your own community?
Instead of putting up a flag of a country that is no moral authority by any stretch of the imagination and one you’ve never been to and that 99.8% of you will probably never visit, why not work on making your corner of the world greener? As we approach the season of giving and good cheer, there are a number of things you can do to make a real difference. For example, there are children’s homes dotted all over the country and plenty more children begging on streets and scavenging for food. Even in your very own community there are children who are much less fortunate than you who need your help. Would you mind ever so much, lending a hand and supporting them?
Bottom line is, while we are right to be concerned about such a tragedy, let us not be selective about it or feign sorrow just for show in a bid to validate your “I give a damn without actually having to give a damn” card with no real understanding of the greater narrative and its implications. Many disasters are happening all over the world. Let not the Eurocentric hullabaloo created by these our erstwhile colonizers blind you. Let it not dilute your sense of belonging or bastardize your sense of hunhu/ubuntu to be something only reserved for the perceived “better” few. Let it not be a smoke screen to the problems in your own backyard or right next door. Instead, let it open up your own mind to the true problems and true solutions you can bring in your own little corner of the earth in the event you can’t manage to do it for everywhere.