AS humans, we’ve taken generational comfort in the excuses we have concocted to exempt ourselves from historic atrocities. The Atlantic slave trade, the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide – the average person when prompted would unequivocally abhor such events.

Often, we even express confusion when we speak of them, as if it’s beyond our comprehension that they could even have been allowed to happen.

Where were the good guys like us? Why did no-one speak up?

The advancement of news delivery, and particularly social media as a tool for that communication, has provided us with instantaneous access to the windows of the world in a way never afforded before.

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We tend to use that to excuse our ancestors for the silent permission they gave aforementioned acts of atrocity. It was a different time, they didn’t know. If they did, there’s no way they would have allowed it. 

We are now fortunate enough to live through a time of vast advancement in technology and communication, ironically, advancement that in and of itself is the source of the increased suffering that we are so instinctively against. See Congo for reference, and the atrocities being perpetrated against its people, for access to its natural cobalt resources so that privileged people in the West can have the latest technological device.

Only, when history reflects on this moment in time, our descendants won’t be able to parrot the same excuses that have helped generations of us sleep at night. The genocide unfolding in Palestine is happening right before our eyes. The maimed corpses of children are imprinted not only on our timelines, but in our collective psyche.

The video of the Congolese man who set himself on fire, in the hope that it might bring some awareness to the plight of his people, will find itself permanently etched in future history books – shrouded in shame.

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And no excuse will be given any credibility. There can be no excuse, we are watching it in real time, like some kind of twisted live horror.  The blasé nature with which these acts were carried out, to global approval, will be so well-documented in years to come, that ignorance will no longer be plausible, and the collective complicity will be a core element of how this moment is remembered.

I’ll admit, prior to recent events, I entirely bought the idea that if people really knew what was happening in atrocities gone by, they would have been stopped.

What I’ve watched happen over the last few weeks has changed my worldview forever.

I’ve realised that really, this is a generational coping mechanism we have employed to avoid the harsh truth. To sit with the discomfort of the ugliest of human behaviour and accept the part “good people” had to play in it.

A coping mechanism we are, evidently, damned to recycle and determined not to learn from. 

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That genocide, and atrocity on the scale that we are currently witnessing, does not happen on the whim of one person or leader. It has to be excused, ignored or willed by its witnesses.

It’s deepened my understanding of how evil is permitted and gradually upscaled. How atrocities begin, how narratives are quietly reframed, and how deeply self-preservation and career progression penetrate the highest offices in the land, to the detriment of the people their occupants are supposed to serve.

I think it’s true that social media and constant exposure to suffering have desensitised us to it. I would argue that we have all become so comfortable in our own privilege in a modern world, that the suffering of others doesn’t feel relevant to us as the holders of that privilege.

We are morphing into the society that dystopian movies used to warn us about, at the behest of incomprehensibly bad leadership and broken politics and class systems. Our collective humanity, somewhere between the last atrocity and the latest iPhone, was lost – and individualism has well and truly taken over at the top.

Celebrities are the perfect example of how this manifests.

Taylor Swift, arguably the most famous woman in the world – whose fans hang on her every word, who has the power to initiate seismic activity, who knows the impact of her platform and the social power she wields – hasn’t even brought herself to pass comment.

Because the fear of being cancelled, or losing work, or losing favour publicly trumps concern for human suffering for the modern-day powerful. Even with all the infinite resources in the world, they won’t risk putting further advancement on the line.

See also: Keir Starmer rebranding the Labour Party as one that is seemingly tolerant of genocide because he wants to be Prime Minister.  But in what has been my source of strength over the last few weeks, I also think that it’s showing the gulf between the people and the powerful.

The National:

The people are on the streets week in week out in record numbers fighting for what’s right and human. The people are putting their jobs on the line, to take a stand for humanity in the twisted reality that being anti-genocide is a controversial, sackable offence.

There has never been a greater divide between those who rule us – not just politically, but economically and socially – and the people. The problem is that they call the shots, and for as long as they do, atrocity will be committed with impunity, in our name.

It’s incumbent on every single one of us to wield the individual power we have to stop it.

Even amidst the glimmer of hope, the vast majority of everyday people are still going about their lives as normal. Seemingly unaffected in their day-to-day by the horrors that are unfolding. That complacency, though it may seem innocent, a quiet permission for the likes of Benjamin Netanyahu and his genocidal cheerleaders. 

If we cannot, as a collective, have the moral standing and basic awareness to speak out against mass murder and suffering; we are condemned with certainty to repeat the mistakes of our past.

We are complicit and we will be remembered for it. Whether it’s boycotting genocide-funding corporations, or voting with our feet in elections – we all hold the power individually. It is them who, for their own benefit, have convinced us that we do not.