Our Indifference to War
by Leanne Welsh
'The reader’s eyeballs prick with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers' . ‘War Photographer’ by Carol Ann Duffy.
I think it is always difficult to truly associate ourselves with anything that does not directly impact us. As humans we are capable of feeling a certain amount of sympathy and empathy for a person/situation. It is also true that these feelings will vary depending on our relationship with the affected person and, perhaps, our own narcissistic tendencies. However, I think that this empathy is often passive; are we really just thankful that this distress isn't directly impacting us?
Wars influence us daily. These wars can be with another person, a situation or ourselves. As humans we often have conflicts arising from situations out with our control and we battle through them in order to live the happiest life we can. How often do we really think about the horrifying situations in Aleppo and the suffering of the people? Does it take a photograph in the newspaper or a retweet on Twitter to gain our sympathy, or does it just make us give a sigh of relief that it isn't us?
In the poem War Photographer by Carol Ann Duffy the indifference that human beings can feel towards war is showcased:
A hundred agonies in black and white from which his editor will pick out five or six, for Sunday's supplement.
The media is always looking for what will shock the reader most. There will be thousands of moments in the war where lives are lost and soldiers are helplessly powerful as their enemy drops a weapon and they still hold their gun. But we don't see these moments: unless we really think about it. We see moments that will make us gasp in horror. Moments where children are crying as they are covered in dust and blood whilst 'running in a nightmare heat.' We question how this can be allowed to happen and how wrong it is, but we are also subconsciously relieved that it isn't happening on our doorstep. We will take a moment to look at the devastating photos - if we have time.
We want to relate to situations and we want to feel a deep sadness for the misfortunes of others. Yet, we live in a world where it is so easy to cover our eyes and think about our own issues and priorities. In ‘War Photographer’, Carol Ann Duffy highlights this issue: an issue that is both human and political. A War Photographer experiences first-hand the horrors of brutal conflict. It changes him as a person when he is back in his darkened room reflecting on the horrific experience. He does his job when he is there but trembles at the memories. This is something which is not passive to him, he can put on a mask for his occupation but he has witnessed the devastation. Unlike the readers of the newspapers who glance, shake their heads and continue on.
History shares with us many wars with different outcomes, but in the end a 'leader' screeches their victory as the blinds are closed on the devastation humans created. We glance for a moment and then choose to look away. The loss of innocent lives is normalised as war is viewed as a solution with never-ending problems. However, the loss of lives has happened. It isn't fiction, but we can be guilty of treating it as if it is. We choose to be indifferent because we can: emotional investment is only a priority when it has to be.