How our hatred for the white man saviour complex is allowing us to belittle our heroes
You want to witness privilege in action, read a column by Nicholas Kristof or watch an episode of Oprah. Call it a way of life if you will, to assume that the burden of the world’s problems lie on your shoulders and you can solve it by the click of a button. Poverty in Africa, child marriage in Afghanistan or the Taliban in Pakistan, name anything and it can be resolved by sheer enthusiasm and a condescending sense of privilege.
It’s got nothing to do with solidarity or justice.
The white-saviour-industrial-complex consumes most of our international media coverage and, unfortunately, most of our diplomatic relations too. It’s a world where nuance goes to die. People become regional experts instantly; if you’ve read an article or two about Pakistan, seen a few news items you’re well in the race to become an expert. Toss a bit of experience with eating daal or biryani and you might as well start commenting on the threats facing the country’s nuclear weapons and the women that need saving.
Fortunately for us, a considerable number of people call it out, but more recently our critique of the white saviour has deprived us from acknowledging our most valuable; our children.
When the story of Malala first emerged and as the media coverage began showing the ‘evil Taliban’ killing children for going to school, a wave of retaliation emerged, like most societies or people most of us don’t like being criticised. It would be okay if it wasn’t for the fact that it wasn’t our criticism to take. The Taliban do not represent us, their views do not represent ours, we don’t want to live in a society where children are threatened to go to school; if anything we want to live in a country free from the insecurity, the constant scrutiny and the corruption we struggle with every single day.
It’s true that not all human rights violations get the attention they deserve, the media industry we have is at best manipulative and heavily politicised. When children that are reported dead in drone strikes or military action do not get the attention they deserve, attention that would call an end to extra judicial murders, we are in the right to be angry. But we are bigoted, hypocritical and self flagellating when we blame the victim of one act of terror for the lack of acknowledgement of the other.
Think for a moment about being attacked or losing a family member. Now imagine having to battle reactions that question you on why you should be allowed to grieve when others aren’t. It’s delusional nonsense that’s rooted in apathy not concern for human life. The criticism of the white man’s burden, the criticism for people selectively raging on human rights issues, the criticism for possible media bias should not rob us off our empathy, it shouldn’t blind us from the realities of our lives.
By demonising Malala’s struggle, her critics follow the trait they loathe — the politicisation of human rights.
Ironic as it seems, the rightful but blind rage against hypocrisy has aided bigotry for our own. Malala’s struggle isn’t her fight alone, it is the fight of the children of FATA who due to excessive military action — both drones and air-force shelling — have been deprived of their right to life, it represents one of every ten children in Pakistan who is unable to go to school.
Rather than frowning upon the fact that Malala’s family chose to live outside of Pakistan, let’s work towards a country where our children should never have to fear for their lives or be rescued and forced to live a life away from home. Politicising a human rights issue in response to politicisation of another human rights issue only leads to polarisation not reason.
It’s not farfetched, a rational possibility that one could condemn suicide bombings and also be outraged by drone attacks. As people, we stand painfully divided and unless we break free from our passivity and apathy and mobilise to take back our rights, there’s little hope for the future.