Back in the Saddle: Thoughts on Baga attack & solidarity

Europeans and Americans alike are still reeling from the Jan. 7 Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. And, perhaps for good reason.

Millions have gathered around the world to stand in solidarity for Charlie Hebdo and freedom of the press. From unity marches in Paris to #JeSuisCharlie, the world’s response to terror has been anything but terror.
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And while I hope the legacy of this moment is not soon forgotten, I wonder if it’s time to lace up and get to walkin’ the talk again.

That is, assuming the talk is more than Twitter hashtags and  fear mongering.

The resilience of journalism that I wrote about in my last post is worth celebrating. It really is. At it’s heart, journalism has the power to truly illuminate, challenge and defy–three experiences that Charlie Hebdo’s work certainly embodies.

And it is good to be reminded of that power. However, rather than get stuck in a rut of personal defense, I have a feeling that perhaps the most cunning response may be to just get back in the saddle. Cartoon. Report. Repeat.

This is not a poke at Charlie Hebdo; in fact, the satirical magazine has already responded in suit. If anything, this is a poke at mainstream news and social consciousnesses, both of which often struggle to move passed big headlines and carry concern for more than one thing at a time.

For example, during the same 24 hour time frame that the the stand-offs were occurring in Paris, massacre in Nigeria was in full-swing.

The death toll continues to fluctuate from anywhere to 150 to 2,000, but there is no question that militant Islamic extremist group Boko Haram is at fault for what is widely considered the group’s “deadliest massacre.”

I am not the only one left to wonder, why did the world–in relative comparison–ignore Boko Haram Baga attacks?

And it is not just Western media–Africa’s own leaders are eerily quiet on the subject.

Where are the fearless journalists? Where are the headlines? Surely, this is the first opportunity to stretch out our recently cracked–but doubly sharpened–wooden pencils to illuminate injustice and terrorism around the world.

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As Simon Allison wrote for the Daily Maverick, “I am Charlie, but I am Baga too.”

“There are massacres and there are massacres,” Allison continued, arguing that “it may be the 21st century, but African lives are still deemed less newsworthy – and, by implication, less valuable – than western lives”.

It is my hope that the same solidarity extended to European and French terrorism that claimed 17 lives would be extended to Nigerian terrorism that claimed hundreds. If we are to wear the “press” badge of watchdog and truth-bearer, we must wear it relentlessly or be less surprised when it is attacked.

A timely reminder from Romeo Dallaire: “Certainly we in the developed world act in a way that suggests we believe that our lives are worth more than the lives of other citizens of the planet… The only conclusion that I can reach is that we are in desperate need of a transfusion of humanity. If we believe that all humans are human, then how are we going to prove it? It can only be proven through our actions. Through the dollars we are prepared to expend to improve conditions in the Third World, through the time and energy we devote to solving devastating problems like AIDS, through the lives of our soldiers, which we are prepared to sacrifice for the sake of humanity.”

– md

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