Since the bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, the BBC and CNN have been covering the aftermath extensively. And it was surprising to me when that level of concern was not reflected in the various ubiquitous WhatsApp groups I seem to be a part of. There was the usual banter in my alumni group about someone who’d recently become one of those marathon fiends, the family group had its usual spew of good morning messages with dancing unicorns puking rainbows all over my screen, the parents group had an interesting ongoing quibble between two spandex soccer moms. Where was the outrage? Not even a blip of concern? No changing profiles – Je suis Sri Lanka? 250 dead and counting? Why don’t we care?
I put the blame squarely on the media reports. The obvious bias of the international media which picks and chooses which event deserves our outrage and which doesn’t. It is a cruel and unpleasant subject to think of and that’s why I believe most of us simply don’t. But look at the reports? Are there any such stories running right now which will help build outrage? The ones which do make the cut are again largely focused on the stories of foreigners visiting Sri Lanka who have suffered tremendous loss. It is indeed an immense tragedy to lose a member of your family. One can’t even comprehend. What about the other 249? Are they not worthy of your news bite? And it’s not just the media. Look at the world leaders. Where is the compassion for the people of Sri Lanka in Mike Pence’s statement? It’s these nuances in the style of reporting and wording of news that help portray the people of Sri Lanka as a faceless community. A community with which the world finds it hard to build an empathetic connection with.
Why not show the local relief workers working day and night to help people? Why not portray stories of the police force going way and beyond to help detect more bombs? Relentlessly and tirelessly? These are people as worthy of international recognition as the Parisian and NY police and rescue workers were. Don’t let them be out of sight and out of mind. Let’s talk about Sri Lanka.