The Fetishization of the Fiend

24 March, 2014|journalism

As seen in Qmessenger 86.

Name a recently murdered woman. Name a passenger on the missing Malaysian flight MH370. Name someone whose death was caused by a suicide bomber. I’m guessing that, off the top of your head, you probably can’t. But if I were to ask you about a man on trial for murder, the suspected causes behind the missing Malaysian flight or the name of a terrorist, I’m guessing you probably could.

When bad things happen, it’s all too easy to begin pointing fingers. Students blame shoddy lecturers, politicians blame one another and the media likes to scapegoat. But in this great circus of finger-pointing and intensive blaming and shaming, we’re all missing the point.

Whilst the natural reaction to violence or a tragedy is to try and blame someone, to seek justice, or to avoid a repeat, we need to overcome this. As a society we have fallen into the trap of looking at the immediate effects and ignoring maybe the most important aspects of any event; the victims.

Whilst a large disaster or murder may be splashed across headlines for days, maybe even weeks, the victim(s) too often become the footnote to events. And of course, these are people, not disparate individuals; they had families, they had friends, they were part of a community.

Instead of giving attention to the investigation, as a society we ought to be extending our sympathies and feelings to those affected. Instead of trying to seek retributive justice or indulging in our nosy tendencies, we ought to be pulling together and looking out for one another.

Stop gawking at Oscar Pistorius and spare a thought for Reeva Steenkamp’s family. Stop brewing conspiracy theories around the missing plane and extend empathise for the communities of the disappeared 249 passengers. Stop whining about the government’s merciless cuts to all services and support and show solidarity with all who are suffering as a result.

Clearly, we care a lot about terrible things that happen in the world, events that cause suffering and pain, but perhaps we can express out care in different ways. When news is brought to us of the victim’s fate, instead of expressing our anger, disgust, or horror through fury and obsession with the perpetrator – who/whatever it may be – our focus should be with the wellbeing and protection of those harmed and left behind.

Surely it is not ethical to place so much attention on those who cause harm. Those harmed have already suffered enough and it should be our responsibility in the aftermath not to cast them into obscurity, and thereby disempowering them even further. Don’t ooh and ah over a killer in court or spend all your time making assertions because there’s one group of people we should really be caring about.

Respect the victims, respect their dignity and respect their memory.

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