In our age of technological advances, it is easy to satirize crowds that were jumping in fear from the Lumière brothers’ “Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat.” Primitive and lacking experience of humanity’s race of self-improvement, unfortunate viewers of an amusing attraction were like apes from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” taking a bone that we, as superior creatures with montage skills, have turned into a spaceship. However, I would argue that while babies on the giant’s shoulders are bringing us, adults, smartphones for Spotify and Tinder, we are no better than fools, screaming on the moving black&white picture.
Case and point – our response to photos, videos and stories towards the far away war conflicts. Whether it’s the Middle East, Ukraine or Africa, distances are providing us with well-illustrated pain and horror that cannot go unnoticed. You probably experienced the usual reaction towards such artifacts: “I wish I was able to help!”, “Makes you appreciate peace!”, “I guess it shows how little we know about life out there!” and more. We, the civilized people, are so concerned about the disadvantaged on the other side of the planet, almost as if hoping that the airwaves of our voices could come together in an acoustic peak right near the ears of war victims.
Never mind the countless organizations all around the world that could use any help from people with pure souls. Some of them don’t even require leaving your comfortable couch, since online donations, in fact, still exist. And while solutions for our extreme inclination to help are right in our pockets, most of us will go home to lie down in the friendly digital surroundings of ours. Whether we like it or not, our care about the distant is usually limited to words’ waste. Also, not every citizen can proudly say that their politicians are directly responsible for war crimes, so changing the atmosphere in one’s home state by voting isn’t always a solution. And many won’t do even that.
Let’s skip over the long tirade about the faults of men’s nature, since there is enough said, and rambling without searching for solutions is simply pointless. Even more pointless would be to encourage you to actually help. You’re either going to do it or not, and one blog post will never change that. So, what can we do?
Okay, let’s keep our focus on the impact of the war photos on us, since it is by far the only proof that we are not monsters. It is undeniable that many photojournalists and reporters are doing a great job in making us feel uncomfortable. War is wonderful in providing scenarios, revealing most powerful emotions that, if captured properly, will strike anyone. Impact is, by far, the only real thing that is present in the media-viewer relationship. But the impact simply doesn’t reach as far as the Middle East, does it?
Photos make us want to help. Altruism, with all of its fakery and bullshit is still pleasant to convey, but how? The solution, as I see it, is so simple it may very well be obvious: we should give help, but to the people nearby. Just ask yourself if there is a friend or a relative that is in need. A complement, conversation, company, hugs, money or anything else can help people way more, than your morality dance around an old photo. Sure, your friend may not be a screaming Iraqi mother that just lost her children in a gunfire, but you’re not a Red Cross volunteer either, are you?
If people won’t understand that their image is by far the least important thing in the world, we would not be able to make any progress in our lives on both personal and global scales. Maybe we hate politicians that brag about their good causes and ideals right till they hit the office, but if you’re wasting your time “telling no wrong” over a tragic photo, you sir, are no different.
Illustration by Stanislav Press
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by “Silent No More” contributors do not necessarily represent the stance of the Lennon Wall staff or Anglo American University.