Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Local issues vs non-local issues

I have been pondering a thought-provoking comment that was recently posted on Facebook. The gist of it: many people seem to find it easier to address and protest injustices that take place overseas, and are more ready to act on non-local issues rather than issues taking place at home.

As a Palestinian-Australian who is concerned with the 64-year plight of Palestinians (if you couldn't tell by now), I believe that working on local and non-local issues should not be mutually exclusive. We live in a global society, so there is some kind of expectation that people will be engaged in and aware about the world around them and beyond them.

I find that people who are genuinely concerned (I use ‘genuinely’ for a reason – stay tuned) with rights issues beyond their borders (and I can only speak from an Australian/western perspective) are very much involved in, or at least sympathetic, aware about and tuned in with local issues, whether they are indigenous issues, refugee and asylum seeker issues, women, housing and poverty, gay rights and racism. I believe it is fair to say that an Australian who feels strongly about the exploitation of immigrant workers in the Emirates will not be the kind of person who is apathetic about the mistreatment of asylum seekers in Australian detention centres.

It is definitely not easier to campaign injustices that occur in other countries (and I’m being vague here since ‘injustice’ in this context is a terribly broad word) unless you are simply showing support by using oversimplified slogans or by sharing a status, Kony 2012-style. That requires no effort.

Solid campaigning and humanitarian work usually requires a good amount of money, effort, dedication, effort and support.

But it’s not so much about addressing issues ‘here’ or ‘there’ – it’s the reasons behind why people are so passionate about what they are passionate about.

I am unsettled greatly by people who support certain social justice causes for very politicised reasons. People continue to cherry pick what they care about if it suits their politics, their ethnic background, their faith or their religious sect. Their solidarity is not motivated by sincere universal humanitarianism or anti-racism. In the Arab and Muslim community here, for example, some people might only want to see a free Palestine because they are concerned for their ‘Muslim brothers and sisters’. Or they reject Zionist racism against Palestinians, yet have anti-Semitic beliefs or hold racist views against other groups of people. A person might staunchly support Assad’s aggression in Syria because they are Shia, or Al Khalifa’s brutality in Bahrain because they are Sunni. There are people who hardly acknowledge colonialist brutality against Aboriginal Australians – the first people of this land – but are quick to denounce colonisation elsewhere. There are people who believe in full civil rights for all…unless you’re gay.

At first I thought I was giving this sort of attitude too much significance, but this kind of cognitive dissonance is becoming more and more apparent to me.


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