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GV Face: On Beirut and Paris, Why Some Tragedies Grab the World's Attention and Others Don't

‘Some bodies are global, but most bodies remain local, regional, “ethnic.”‘

In this episode of GV Face, the Global Voices Hangout series, Joey Ayoub, a Lebanese blogger and Global Voices contributor, Lova Rakotomalala, our Paris-based French language editor and Laura Vidal, our Paris-based Latin America community manager talk about race, the politics of death and the unequal reactions to tragedies around the world.

Global Voices is a border-less, largely volunteer community of more than 1400 writers, analysts, online media experts and translators. We set a news agenda that builds bridges, global understanding and friendship across borders. We focus on telling stories from marginalized and misrepresented communities. Our trusted team of editors and writers — people like Joey, Laura, and Lova — report on 167 countries around the world. Our translators render these stories into more than 35 languages. Many of our community members speak multiple languages and call more than one city and country their home.

After the Paris attacks on November 13, Joey wrote a post titled, “The Streets of Paris Are as Familiar to Me as the Streets of Beirut“, which went viral:

I come from a privileged Francophone community in Lebanon. This has meant that I have always seen France as my second home. The streets of Paris are as familiar to me as the streets of Beirut. I was just in Paris a few days ago.

These have been two horrible nights of violence. The first took the lives of over 40 in Beirut; the second took the lives of over 120 people and counting in Paris.

It also seems clear to me that to the world, my people’s deaths in Beirut do not matter as much as my other people’s deaths in Paris.

We do not get a “safe” button on Facebook. We do not get late night statements from the most powerful men and women alive and millions of online users.

We do not change policies which will affect the lives of countless innocent refugees.

This could not be clearer.

I say this with no resentment whatsoever, just sadness.

Laura Vidal was a block away at a bar when the first attack took place at a restaurant on November 13 in Paris. Laura moved to Paris seven years ago from Venezuela as a student. In, “After the Paris Attacks: For It to Be Unity, It Can't Be Partial“, she reflects:

Since I arrived in Paris I’ve followed the endless discussions on origins, skin colours, backgrounds and religious faiths. Part of my research work is based on—of all subjects—intercultural sensitivity. These conversations are emotional, and therefore uncomfortable. But they’re necessary. And I say this because it seems that dividing the world between “us” and “them” isn’t useful. And it never has been. In fact, the artificial creation of difference is what fuels all of this. And this is how we learn to see “ourselves” and “others”, and this is the lens through which we have studied history and watch the news. “Us” and “them”. “Here” and “far away”. I don’t think we can afford to keep this view of the world anymore—assuming we ever could—and maintain this denial of reality.

Lova's essay, “Creating a Media of Empathy One Letter at a Time“, published after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, co-authored with Global Voices Nigeria contributor Nwachukwu Egbunike:

The time to have a global discussion on terror attacks, free speech, empathy and Islamophobia is not when tragedy strikes but beforehand and when cooler heads prevail.

Yet, whether we like it or not, the public thirst to make sense of the world is highest when such sad events occur. The timing might not be ideal, but we have the opportunity as media contributors to reframe the conversation for thousand of readers all over the world, while they are paying attention.

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