Sunday was World’s Women’s day, and I was quite pleased to see that one of the foremost items on the women’s agenda all over the world was the #BringBackOurGirls movement, referring to the 239 girls that were kidnapped from Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria by terrorist group Boko Haram. In a nation where the people are reputed to be plagued with short memories, it is something pleasing to see that nearly a year after they were kidnapped, the dream that one day all the Chibok girls will be found, is still being kept alive.
While I was reading about the #BBOG movement, I found myself thinking back to another Blog post that I read on the one year anniversary of the Buni Yadi massacre, where 59 boys were killed by Boko Haram on the 25th of February 2014 in Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe state. The writer of the blog was arguing along the lines of the Buni Yadi killings not getting as much attention as the Chibok kidnappings because the victims in Buni Yadi were boys instead of girls. As if they don’t deserve as much sympathy. While the writer was essentially correct, in truth Buni Yadi did not get as much attention as Chibok, but I felt he was going about it in an asshole manner. He was simply trying to imply that the media is more partial to the suffering of girls than of boys.
Some weeks after I read the Buni Yadi massacre blog post, and on a totally unrelated note, I was reading a website where a man was sharing his experience of being raped by a woman. He confessed that the most difficult and surprising thing in the whole episode was not that his male friends did not believe he was raped; it was that the women he turned to for advice, simply spouted off statistics to show him that he had no right to complain because women have it worse than men when it comes to rape.
This set me to wondering why this is so. Female rights activists try to dismiss female on male rape, because male or female rape is more common. Male activists try to downplay male on female domestic abuse by bringing out statistics to show occurrences of female on male domestic abuse. Heterosexual people dismiss homosexual rape because heterosexual rape is a more pressing issue. Let an Asian raise concerns over white on Asian racism, and you will see people shooting him down with stats of White on Black racism. Perhaps it is the “the world is a cruel place and only your team has got your back” mentality. The “team” in this case could be people that look most like you in age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, social class among others. The cruel world mentality makes us think of everything in terms of resources that must be competed for. Wars have been fought over resources, over territory, over skin colour, so there is the tendency for us as people to think that other people are generally assholes who only care for things that matter to them, and that empathy as well as the ability to feel it, are resources that must be doled out to only people who share our condition. It is generally believed that those who are not careful about giving out sympathy freely like social workers soon become jaded, as their ability to sympathize with others run out like oil. The result of the cruel world mentality is a quest for groups to try to show themselves as most deserving of sympathy in order to collect and hoard the scarce resource of empathy, while regarding other groups as competitors who must be put down as fiercely as possible. It is a manifestation of the “me/my team” mentality. We feel that any other group having the same problems that we do is somehow a deduction from our own uniqueness, and that is not good for our ego at all
The world certainly as enough resources to compete for right now, oil, territory, religious freedoms, racial equality etc. It will really be really sad for humanity if we have to compete for the most basic of human resources, the ability to sympathize with others, the ability to feel pain, to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Men are as guilty of this as feminists, atheists are as guilty of this as religious people, and black people are as guilty of this as white people. Empathy is not a resource to be fought over, the goal of the world must be to ensure that every underdog, everybody in pain, everybody who is suffering, has a chance to express themselves without being looked down on or hounded. This is why I am pleased with the #BringBackOurGirls movement. In spite of the latent animosity between Northern and Southern Nigeria in recent years , it is pleasing that #BBOG is no longer a Northern Nigerian problem, it is not even a Nigerian issue anymore, it is an issue the whole world is speaking strongly about. Issues like #BBOG, #JeSuischarlie have come to prove than the world can lay aside its divides and sympathize free with the suffering of a group of people proving that empathy need not be a resource to be hoarded, because this… is not a competition.