Oh no, a victim like me

[I wrote this as the end of 2012/start of 2013. I only publish it now as exactly the same misguided victim grouping-by-religious-identity is being repeated as can be seen here. As an aside note, that like any sane person, I do agree with this link's main point (that the current UK government's policy on the middle east is an utter mess).]

Many people have highlighted the plight of Christians in the middle east. This was poetically summed up into the soundbite that "the Arab spring is becoming the Christian winter". 

Lets start with my own personal view of the so called Arab spring. No true liberal can deny the Arab spring went a bit wrong. The social media assisted overthrow of brutal dictators by relatively peaceful protesting1 seemed perfect. The next stage envisaged by most western supporters, where the dictators' cronies were replaced with nice modern liberal democratically elected politicians, well that did not exactly go to plan. There is no absolutely doubt that for some minorities, the Arab spring has turned out to be an utter disaster. Alas if anything the follow up to the Arab spring bolstered the common right-wing assertion that middle east dictators were stabilizing forces among inherently unstable populaces2.
 
Whilst all of this is fairly obvious what is depressing is the language used. It implied as those who were murdered were Christians that UK based Christians should be more sympathetic. I personally truly hate the implication that victims like "us" should matter more. I, as an atheist, entirely disagree with almost all of what the average Muslim civilian in Gaza wants in an ideal society. However I don't think for one second that those civilians who are murdered by Israel are worth less sympathy because of their differences with me. When humans are murdered why does what they, as the victims, believe matter in the slightest?

You can damn the belief of a group doing persecution if statistics show persecution and their belief appear to be correlated3. However persecutors choose to persecute but victims do not choose to be victims which is why you can't extend similar analysis to victims. You can of course logically argue that you choose to believe something but no sensible person thinks that what a person believes, or not, is sufficient justification for murdering them. Killing people or even forcing them to change their stated belief (or drop them all) at gun point is simply an affront to humanity. Whether you are "converting"  Jews, Muslims, Christians, Atheists or anyone else is utterly irrelevant.

That is not to insist victims must be reported in an anonymous way. Sometimes victim descriptions are very understandably reported to increase sympathy. Harsh as it initially seems we all subconsciously rank victims. For example most people accept it is sadder when a toddler is murdered than say an adult. Many would say that the Christian label is merely to increase sympathy but they are wrong it does more. Unlike Toddlers the Christian tag is being used to merely mark out the victims as like the reader (and author). Your description immediately forms a nasty us and the others4 division. You're implying that your readers should listen up as these were not other random (ignorable) types being killed but people we should actually care about. What even worse about this particular divisive language is that it draws long running religion-based arguments into a debate about mobs murdering people. It is utterly unnecessary. "Protesters encircled a house and killed the family including the children" should not be less (or more) emotive than "Arab protesters killed a Christian family including the children".

The truly great thing about the universal declaration of human rights was that it applied to all humans. It gave the same minimum rights not just to those like you or that you liked but to every single human. It basically drew a line in the sand with regards to the minimal acceptable way to treat a human. It is sad to think that it would never happen now. The right wing press would damn it for handing rights to paedos and mass murderers, short sighted victims' groups would scream about their assailants getting unwarranted rights and religious fanatics would be damned if they'd sign something stopping them killing free thinking heretics and gays. 

If only the modern world could live up to the articulate considered progressive humanist ideals of 1948! Admittedly they had had two relatively recent world wars to shock the need for humanity based laws into them. Even still it's really sad to think that this shared identity as a human being is fading. Sad probably is not strong enough a word. As once those in power value not human rights but rights for some shared identities god help those without that identify.

In a soundbite: We are all humans first. Try not to forget that.



Footnotes
 

  1. Oddly in the UK at this very moment people who supported the Arab spring through social media are trying to get censorship added to social media networks which will greatly help prevent similar events in the future. 
  2. The old "We have to support (ie sell weapons to) Mr. Dictator as it's him that holds the region together (ie maintains our strategic military and oil interests) and prevents worse tyranny (ie a those who won't sell us oil and buy their weapons from someone else). 
  3. I do just that here 
  4. Divisive language is common amongst protest movements and it is always a bad idea. I mentioned this point previously with respect to "Gay rights".