Imperialism on the ocean
actually, maybe even all the isms
It’s a strange thing to have to compare tragedies, but I think that the irony and blatantness of hypocrisy is rather apparent here. A quick look at my Youtube news feed this morning confirmed what I already knew about the airtime being given to the Titanic submersible incident vs. the Greece migrant boat tragedy. The two happened within days of each other and I know that there are some people out there making comments on the racism of it all, but I’ve decided my pondering too deserves an outlet.
One video showed up about the boat disaster by DW from 4 days ago, and I watched the whole thing, and I looked through the comments. I also watched a video posted 7 hours ago on the latest on the submersible, with 100x the views, and also looked at the comments. Youtube comments are a goldmine for the perceptive lazy girl field researcher. The video highlighting the Pakistani migrants on that boat had attracted all sorts of comments, a few condolences, a lot of blame placed on human traffickers, and a disturbing number of racist comments by what looked like European white guys saying how sad that some survived.
Over to the Titanic video by CBS:
A screenshot of a Dawn headline on the latest might even be enough to shed light on what’s important here:
Reportedly, young people from Pakistan were made to pay somewhere around $7000-$8000 to get on that boat to Europe. A lot of people said that if they had that kind of money they should have gone legally, or that they don’t need to migrate.
The passengers on that submersible paid $250,000 to get on that thing to see a ship that sank a hundred and eleven years ago. Perhaps the biggest irony is the fraction of the attention to the ship that actually sank a few days before their exploratory expedition. And this happens all the time in the third world’s quest for greener pastures. A light remark on the irresponsibility of the submersible passengers may be made, but that’s about it. The rich seem to inspire a greater humanity in the wake of tragedy.
I feel a lot of grief regarding the Pakistanis who drowned and are missing from that boat. Perhaps an inner attachment to my own Pakistaniyat, as much as I question and often loathe it. But also there is a recognition of the desperation that led them to make that journey. In recent months I’ve been grappling with my own inferiority complex(es) especially with regards to the West, and I think it is quite safe to say it is collective. The outflux of people from this country in recent years, friends and family alike, has triggered a wave of life-choice-questioning, if not outright panic, among all of us. People are either leaving, or thinking of leaving, have once wanted to leave, or have tried to leave and failed. Others are content in their privilege, or otherwise explicitly patriotic in some way or form.
There’s a bit of internal gaslighting, too - agendas set by media and news agencies inform what we think is important. The lack of attention that is consistently paid to tragedies in the global South probably on some level has us thinking they’re less sad. I find myself actually making comparisons - yes, it would be absolutely frightening beyond belief to be in a claustrophobic vehicle thousands of feet below sea level in pitch dark. More frightening than drowning in a deep sea on a boat loaded with poor people, surely. It’s a classic case of being a person vs. a statistic. An act of terrorism by a white man has everyone looking into his childhood trauma, while the same by a Muslim man creates a narrative for the entire population of the supposed world he comes from.
Responsibility, of course, lies ultimately in the hands of the individuals making their life decisions. But if we’re always seeing things from the myopic lens of Freudian psychology, and if we refuse to zoom out just a little, we will continue to miss the point.