I’m not going to sit here and argue that the recent Boston Marathon bombing wasn’t that bad. 3 people are dead, more than 150 wounded – many of which were injured so severely that they have lost limbs – no one can possibly say that the attack wasn’t a tragic, horrific occurrence. At the same time, things could have been much, much worse – and we need to thank our lucky stars for that.
Now you’re not going to find much media coverage of this event in an American news media source like CNN, but if you checked international news sources this weekend you might have seen the rather horrifying story of how a possible 185 Nigerians might have been killed on Friday in the border town of Baga. Apparently Islamic insurgents moved into the area looking for someone and started a firefight with Nigerian military, and between the two sides ended up destroying some 40 percent of buildings in the town according to some reports.
Absolutely terrifying, isn’t it? Suddenly the Boston Marathon bombing doesn’t seem nearly as horrific. In a numbers game, 3 dead and more than 150 injured doesn’t hold a candle to 185 dead and countless more injured, plus the number of families that are homeless now in the wake of either the insurgents or the Nigerian military burning down their houses as they fought. Yet somehow an attack on American soil is a worldwide headline while a horrible slaughter in Nigeria isn’t even reported on major American news sources. The narcissism of the Western world – especially from an American point of view – is ultimately embarrassing, and part of why Americans have such a terrible reputation in so many parts of the world.
At the same time, there are billions of people on this planet, and sometimes we have to inure ourselves to horrible acts of violence when they’re far removed from us. Most Americans may have heard of Nigeria but might not be able to place it on a map of Africa – but nearly every American knows that the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees are bitter rivals. An attack on our home soil, no matter how relatively minor when held up in comparison to the kind of wholesale destruction in other parts of the world, hits us harder because it’s in our backyard; we can imagine it happening to us personally, especially if you’ve ever lived or visited Boston, or if you have friends or relatives that have. In comparison, how many Americans can say they’ve visited Nigeria?
While it’s easy to lash out at those of us who are outraged and distraught at the Boston Marathon attacks yet have no knowledge of the similar but more deadly attacks that occur overseas as ignorant, uneducated hypocrites, our insulation from such international horrors may not be Western ethnocentrism or cultural egotism so much as a survival mechanism. As much as no sane person would ever want to see someone else suffer violent or fatal attacks, it can be exhausting to be constantly bombarded with news about how bodies are piling up in Nigeria, or Syria, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, or any other country where there are greedy, power-hungry men fighting for supremacy and resources; what can we do when there are billions of people all over the world suffering under one corrupt regime or another? How can one person make any sort of difference?
I’m a firm believer in the “no man is an island” approach to human interaction. We’re all interconnected in some way or another, and kindness or cruelty done to one person that you don’t even know can send vibrations out that eventually will reach back to you. In a purely selfish way, this means that if you work to increase the amount of kindness in the world while reducing the amount of cruelty, there’s more positive energy going around than there is negativity: when it gets back to you, it’s more likely to be good vibes than bad ones. One person trying their best to be a good, caring person may not seem like they can make much of a difference, but every time someone else chooses to do the right thing or takes the harder, more compassionate path instead of going down the path of least resistance – regardless of who they may hurt – makes that good vibration just a little bit stronger.
In other words, the only way to stop the horrors of the world doesn’t involve sticking our heads in the sand or deriding each other for not adopting a global perspective when terrible tragedies occur on our home soil. The solution is, in fact, quite simple: