On Friday November 13, 2015 the world was shocked to hear the news of a coordinated terrorist massacre that took place in Paris, claiming the lives of 129 victims.1 It’s the deadliest terror attack in Europe since the Madrid bombings of 2004.
The world reeled back in horror as video was seen of gunfire erupting in the middle of a rock concert in Bataclan concert hall, explosions could be heard at a soccer match, and video cameras depicted people running out the back alley of the Bataclan for their lives, stepping over the bodies of the bleeding and dying, others saving who they could, dragging their bodies to safety. A woman hung from a third story window ledge trying to hide from her assailants. You can hear her calling for assistance in French saying, “Please, I’m pregnant.” Amateur footage even captured the French Security Forces rescuing hostages and killing terrorists in a cafe.
This has happened a mere 10 months after a similar attack at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, claiming the lives of 12. The famous #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie) took a viral hold on the internet as the world rallied in support of Paris and against violent religious extremism.
Less than 24 hours after the November 13 attacks, Facebook posted a French Flag profile picture overlay for users to show their support. They even activated their new Safety Check feature, so users could easily let friends and relatives know they were ok. On Twitter, #PrayForParis was the hashtag of the hour.
I’m particularly cautious about symbols and the baggage they come with, and even I have changed my profile picture to a French flag overlay.
“Et tu, Brute?’
Yes, even me, special snowflake that I am.
Amid the sympathy, solidarity, prayers, and concern, there exists a feeling of scorn among people from countries who have had comparable or worse attacks in the recent days and months, yet without the media attention and social media outcry.
It’s just just as unkind to dismiss these feeling of marginalization, as it is unwise to broadcast jealousy in the wake of a tragedy. It’s a lose-lose situation that brings division.
A day before the Paris attacks, 43 were killed and 239 injured in a suicide bombing in Beirut, Lebanon.
A global outpouring of grief for Paris attacks, but not so a day earlier for Lebanon https://t.co/bHZBlVHtU0 pic.twitter.com/kkQXPypd0T
— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) November 16, 2015
On October 15, 2015, 95 were killed and 250 wounded at Ankara, Turkey’s capital, in the deadliest terror attack in Turkey’s history.
There’s also been some social media confusion about an April 2, 2015 massacre by Al Shabab on Garissa University College in Kenya, where 147 students were gunned down by Islamist extremists. The comparison has been made between the attack and Paris, as to why there was less publicity and outcry, making some social media users think it was recent.
The day before the massacre in Paris, 142 students were killed in Kenya. Where is the international outrage about that?
— Ann Wilson (@AnnHeartMusic) November 15, 2015
On January 3, 2015, Boko Haram slaughtered 2000 civilians in Baga, Nigeria, burning entire villages to the ground. Tens of thousands were displaced as they fled the violence. No one knew the full body count because the Nigerian government couldn’t go into the town. If the country’s own military won’t go in, it means no aid, no support, no rescue planned, and no news cameras. Just a poor town taken over by Jihadists where you could scarcely find a smartphone to video tape the atrocities.
Then we will fight in the shade
It’s like visiting someone in the hospital and complaining about how many flowers they received.
“You don’t deserve all these flowers, there are other people in the hospital that have it way worse than you!”
It’s not in good taste. In fact, it’s nauseating.
All that does is subtract from whatever flowers you might receive should you ever find yourself in the hospital.
It’s as if to say, “You know about the Paris attack, but you don’t know about the Lebanon suicide bombing, therefore you’re a bad person.”
That’s not how you win friends, positive attention, or support. No one likes to be bullied into caring for you, or having their ignorance confused with malfeasance. All it does is alienate potential allies, and it unfairly places blame at the feet of people who really do have good intentions.
As an African living in America, I get it, I really do, but please stop. Yes, people do care more about a terrorist attack in Paris, than in Garissa, or Lebanon, or Ankara, or a thousand other cities. But it’s not because they’re racist, elitist, callous, or privileged. It’s because they know Paris.
It’s not just Paris either. It’s New York City, it’s London, it’s Tokyo. These are all cities that will capture headlines, dwarfing any competition, with London and Paris near the top.
Before you forget, I am an African; a Nigerian born in Lagos. I will say that a thousand times, if you let me. I care about my home, I care about Africa, I send money back home. I keep up with the news. I’ve researched the history of my country and continent without anyone urging me to.
Yet when the Kenya attack happened, it’s not that I didn’t care… it’s just that I have no real frame of reference for Kenya. I don’t think I’ve seen a single Hollywood movie that I knew was filmed in the country.
I’ve never been to Kenya.
I couldn’t even remember the name of a single city in Kenya until I cheated and checked Google. And then I did feel a little silly, because I do know of Nairobi, the capital, but it just wasn’t coming to me at the moment.
Similarly, names of famous people like Tom Hardy, Hugh Jackman, and Jessica Chastain always elude me, despite the fact that I could never forget their face.
I don’t know them. I haven’t seen very many of their films. Honestly, these are people who I just don’t think about every day. So I don’t feel bad forgetting a celebrity’s name; we aren’t friends.
Whereas Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith, Tom Cruise, and Beyonce are emblazoned on the tip of my tongue, if not for any other reason than their names are easy to remember and even catchy in a strange way. I don’t know them either, but they hold a special place of super-stardom, like a Manhattan or a London, over a Dallas or a San Diego – formidable cities in their own right.
Why do people know Paris, and not Beirut?
In the 70’s, Beirut was called the “Paris of the Middle East.” They wore blue jeans, listened to disco music, drank alcohol, wore lipstick, and rocked European hairstyles. To do any of that today in Beirut would be to put your life in jeopardy.
To even be called the “Paris” of anything, puts you lower on the totem pole than Paris by default. It’s a compliment, but it also places you in your big brother’s shadow. Let’s take a look at that long shadow.
Most students in America, Europe, and even Africa are taught French history. Off the top of my head, I know the names of famous french kings and conquerors like Emperor Charlemagne, Louis XIV, and Napoleon Bonaparte.
I know about the French Revolution, and how the Enlightenment took hold in the country.
France is even infamous for how quickly they were conquered by Adolf Hitler in World War II, and have trouble living that down in American eyes.
Language, Literature, and Film
French is the official language of 29 countries. Even in countries where it’s not the official language, it’s offered as one of the few languages to choose from for school curriculum, and is usually the most popular choice.
I don’t speak French, but due to exposure I know maybe 100 words (how to pronounce them and their meaning, not necessarily their spelling).
How many schools worldwide offer a Swahili, Turkish, or Arabic course? What extensive libraries of literature are available in Swahili?
“Monsieur s’il vous plaît!”
French is the language of love. What other language in the world holds that magnificent title?
I read Les Miserables in high school (the English translation), and watched Anne Hathaway 2 take away the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the 2012 film adaptation.
France even has an entire genre of film for itself: Film Noir or the “black film”. Hundreds of famous Hollywood films, if not thousands, have been set in Paris.
Monuments and Tourism
The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Versailles, Notre Dame, and the Arc de Triomphe, surely you’ve heard of those? What internationally famous monuments do you know in Kenya, or Lebanon, or Turkey? It’s not to say that they don’t have monuments at all, but even if they do they’re not on the same ostentatious scale, beauty, or notoriety as those of France.
People will buy an airplane ticket just to take a picture in front of these things! That’s a big deal for a country’s economy.
Egypt has the Pyramids, a wonder of the world surviving millennia, but how many people even feel safe visiting Egypt since 2011?
Have you been to Garissa? I haven’t, and again, I’m an African.
I don’t travel often. I’m content to stay in my city most of the time, but even I’ve been to Paris. And you know what? They were really nice to me when I visited!
Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Dior…have you heard of those names? How many fashion designers do you know from anywhere else in the world that could join that A-list?
Who sets the tone for what the rest of the world wears in each season? Isn’t it usually Paris?
Ok, so Facebook created a flag overlay for France, and not for Kenya. They activated Safety Check for Paris, but not Beirut.
How many Kenyans do you think work at Facebook out of their 6000 employees? You could probably count them on one hand. How about Lebanese or Turkish? Probably not a lot, right?
How many Kenyans are in Facebook’s upper management? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’d feel comfortable saying zero. Do any of those countries even have a Facebook office as of November 2015? Paris does.
There are probably scores of employees in Facebook from France, and even more that speak French as a second language, and hundreds more of mixed French descent. When something happens in Paris, those employees are going to find ways their company can help.
Apple Maps has flyover tours of Paris, showing the entire city in 3D glory, that you can watch on your phone, tablet, or desktop. Every popular mapping service has every square inch of the city digitized.
The city of Paris is called the “Heart of Europe.” It’s where you go to fall in love. It’s where you take romantic strolls in parks, and have affairs, smoke cigarettes, and get drunk on some of the world’s most delicious wine.
There’s nothing honorable about infidelity, but there are certain contradictions that resonate with human nature, like it or not, such as “unbridled romance.” There’s nothing august about slurred speech, vomiting in a public restroom, and hangovers the next morning, but people still like to get drunk on some good wine.
Even the name “Champagne,” comes from the city in France where the sparkling wine was created. If you’ve ever “popped a bottle,” you’ve experienced a little bit of France.
The Scorned Wife
There are two approaches you can take to get the attention of your spouse. I’ll use women as an example only because of the popular trope of the “woman scorned.” One approach is positive, and the other negative.
Negative: Complain about why your husband doesn’t take you out anymore. Complain about why he’s always working. Complain about why he doesn’t buy you flowers. Complain about why he doesn’t spend time with you.
This turns you into a psychological burden for your love interest.
Positive: Go to the gym and do some squats. Run. Attend yoga in the mornings. Find a fulfilling career. Buy yourself some nice clothes. Put on some make up. Join a book club or a ballroom dancing group. Write a novel and go on a book tour. None of these things involve being unfaithful to your husband, but you can bet he will take notice.
Because you love yourself, because you love your own company, you will be desired and sought after not only by him, but by others. And you’d better believe that will get his attention.
This makes you an object of desire.3
It’s demoralizing to have a tragedy in your country, and people not know about it or pay attention, but it’s human nature. We have limited attention spans, and a small circle of interests. For people to truly care, you have to earn your way into their attention span.
If we lived in a world where every area of interest received equal attention, we wouldn’t have a world at all. Welcome to Earth, where Kanye West can tweet a picture of his salad and get 100,000 retweets, but your wedding photos barely get 100 likes. Kanye West knows more people than you. He’s signed orders of magnitude more autographs than your entire sum of friends and family.
It might not be right, but you can’t say it’s not fair. You are entirely in control of how the world perceives and interacts with you. Maybe others have a head start, but the future is in your hands.
“Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite.” Joseph de Maistre
When tragedy strikes in the City of Love, the world takes special notice because the French love themselves.
That’s why they built monuments, and and made their country safe for tourism, and export culture and arts around the world.
Stop trying to force others to love you. Love yourself.
Eventually, others will take notice. Vive la France!
My heart goes out to the many nations whose populations are experiencing tragedy at the hands of cowardly criminals, that wish to destabilize your country: France, Nigeria, Kenya, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Iraq and more. You’ve all been in my prayers as of late.
Photo Credits: Jean Jullien (Peace for Paris), Norio Nakayama (Arc de Triomphe).
As of publishing this article. ↩
Another name I had to google just to remember.↩
I get that this will go over some heads, because you are the scorned wife, metaphorically speaking. You operate in a cycle of self-sabotage where all your problems are someone else’s fault, you’re a victim, and you live in a false narcissistic reality where you deserve attention, praise, fame, and money for just being you. You don’t love yourself and you’re living a delusion, always mad at the real world for not living up to the expectations of your fantasy. You might legitimately be a victim, and you can’t change the past, but it doesn’t mean you have to stay one.↩