Today, a friend shared a link to this post on Facebook about the Garissa Massacre. In my opinion, maarnayeri is spot on…
Using pictures of charred, mutiliated and decapitated foreign bodies as a westerner, a first worlder or someone otherwise generally not exposed to such a reality doesn’t make you brave, or radical. On the contrary, relying on such shock imagery exposes a weakness and insufficiency in being able to respectfully report on the complex geopolitical matters concerning war, which means that you shouldn’t discuss such matters to begin with. It doesn’t take anything but a google search of “dead Yemeni” or “Af/Pak drone strike victim” to render such photographs, especially not a reasoned comprehension of the science and politics behind calculated warfare.
You rob war victims of their autonomy, personhood, consent and lives previous to political instability when you post them bloodied or battered or dead. You make them, their nations and nuanced stories one-dimensional, which insidiously plays into the “primitive, war-stricken brown/black people” trope. You present their lives for them to the world, without understanding how they would’ve wanted it narrated. Intentional or not, there is a serious savior/imperialist complex with those who believe its within their right or capability to select photographs or brief snippets off the internet and essentially give an unsolicited account of another human being’s tribulations, of which they’ve never met, lands they’ve never visited and lives they couldn’t possibly comprehend.
Also, death is a serious consequence of war, but its hardly the only one. What most don’t seem to understand or give enough consideration to about war is that its ramifications can last several generations, whether it be through desertifed soil and subsequent food insecurity through combat, radiation to food and water due to aerial bombing and undiscovered/exploding landmines. In addition to various injuries sustained, mental illnesses, such as PTSD, GAD and depression that afflict those who survived are also a very underappreciated consequence. There are so many facets of war that hold serious weight that can be displayed without dehumanizing those affected, which are also, to no surprise, severely neglected.
War is a serious, complicated and heavily politically charged catastrophe. Without prior/proper resources and knowledge, simply posting violent and exploitative images of full fledged persons with no context or understanding is counteractive and immensely disrespectful and demeaning to the parties involved, seriously.
For you reckless folks who show no respect to the Garissa Massacre victims. Ask yourselves why we’ve seen zero pictures of Germanwings casualities, why we’ve never seen pictures of Columbine shooting or Boston bombing victims, but when something happens in Africa (or Asia), you leap at the opportunity to splatter their pictures all over social media.”
Instead of reposting or sharing the many images splashed across the internet, you could show solidarity by contacting friends or colleagues in Kenya who were likely to be affected – supporting them and listening to their experiences.
You could also seek out, share and amplify local/regional/national accounts, stories and analysis (like this) coming from Kenya and Kenyans themselves – giving them autonomy and control over the narrative. People like Ory Okolloh Mwangi on Twitter are really tapped in to what’s going on in Kenya and are worth following.
With love and respect to all those affected.