Wednesday, July 13, 2005

All lives are not equal in our eyes (duh....)   posted by Razib @ 7/13/2005 11:21:00 PM

Listening to the BBC (and reading a few articles) I hear some British Muslims griping that the bombings are an inevitable response to British foreign policy and they note that dozens of Iraqis often die in one day. Oh, but did I mention that soldiers are chowing down on vagina roast in the Congo? Sometimes when I get tired of comment threads where Muslims and Jews are arguing as if killings in the Middle East are of world-shattering proportions, or when Muslims and Hindus get into online shouting matches over the regular brown-on-brown-riot-fests, I simply to point to the bloody wound that is Africa. Usually I am ignored, as the conversations blissfully sail on toward their inevitable Godwinian-MAD denouement. Not that I care particularly much about Africa or Africans, I get much more disconcerted when my computer crashes and I am about to lose precious files or when I find out that I can't get George R. R. Martin's latest book "early" by purchasing the English copy from,1 but, I don't really care about foreign Muslims or Hindus or Indonesians to a greater extent than Africans.

Now, I am willing to grant that for Muslims or Hindus that what happens to their co-religionists matters to them, they have a sense of affinity which I lack. I even grant that Muslims or Hindus or any other group (Jews for one) can and should argue for the interests of their fellows if their values, principles and common feeling so dictates, but, those of us who lack such fellow feeling beyond common basal humanity (something I concede I was shorted on by God when he got down to shaping me from gold-dust) for those in distant lands should simply point to Africa, for if humanitarian concerns are foremost than that is where our sentiment should lay. Otherwise, let the rest of the world keep eating cake, for even that small boon is something Africans are still too often denied. Of course, because of our lack of intensity over our apathy those of us unconcerned about the body-count of Jew vs. Arab or Hindu vs. Muslim will lose these battles, Africans will keep starving while the Gaza Strip will continue to have some of the world's highest birth rates because of UN aid, but at least we might prod the communally self-interested from off their moral high horse and force them to grub through the mud of naked group ego to grasp onto the public monies and resources.

P.S. Of course I care more about British deaths than Iraqi deaths. I have a lot more in common with British people than Iraqi people, and one of my co-bloggers is British. Personal interests matter a great deal, even for the pathologically narcissistic.

1 - I measure concern by the time expended and elevated physiological response that a given situation or information elicits in me. For example, a few years ago I had a roommate who had a really bad case of the flu, and frankly, this elicited in me a far stronger emotional response of concern than the killings of tens of thousands that were simulteanously going on in the Ivory Coast. Now, if millions were being killed in the Ivory Coast, I think the concern would have matched that of my friend with the flu, so I figure 1 million Ivorians = 1 close friend.