Pray for Paris - but don't fuss too much about the Parisians
After the twin terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut in November 2015, there some discussion about the disproportionate focus of the news on Paris. A common take away was that in our world today French lives matter more than Lebananese lives.
Is this true?
Terrorist acts have an effect on two groups: the people individually affected, and the world’s structure of power. The terrorist attacks that upset us, who live in powerful countries, tend to be the ones that affect the power structures. A person dying is not news, but a change–especially a sudden one–in the world’s power structure is enormous news. As part of the news coverage, we see incredibly sad images and we are sorrowful for the people affected.
All the substantial responses (war, changes in law, etc…) to terrorism are responses to its effect on power structures, not people. We don’t ignore Beriut because it’s people are worth less, we ignore it because Lebanon is not a powerful country and a bombing there doesn’t change anything world wide. We ignore mass killings in Rwanda and Darfur and Burundi because nothing that happens there has any immediate impact on the G7, or even the G20.
So, are Parisians worth more than Beirutis? Nope, they are all equally worthless in the eyes of the powerful who are first and foremost committed to maintaining their power. So, in a sense, those who died in Beirut are better off because they will have the dignity of obscurity, mourned only by those who actually knew and loved them. The deaths of the French will now be used by the powerful to justify whatever they decide to do next.
One final thought: this shows us how out God is holy, is set apart from and above all other authorities. We cannot take any statements by our leaders at face value, because we know deep down that they are looking out for themselves and their power. But God is omnipotent, He has nothing to fear, He is not threatened by terrorists or by powerful nations. And so when we speaks and says He cares about us, He has no ulterior motive.
His power is so absolute, that He even lays it down for us. His power is complete and unthreatened and He turns it to us, to do good.
Update: “U.S. President Barack Obama has characterized Friday’s violence in Paris an “attack on the civilized world.”” - what he is saying is that Lebanon is not part of the ‘civilized world’, Kenya is not part of the ‘civilized world’, Burundi is not part of the ‘civilized world’. The powers that be only care when they power, their civilizations are threatened.