“The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of a million is a statistic.” Stalin's famous quote has never been more true than now, in a growing climate of political and social upheaval. The tragic murders at the Charlie Hebdo offices are garnering national attention and sparking much needed debates about freedom and the meaning of freedom of speech. A couple days later, the news of 2,000 killed in Nigeria, considered one of the deadliest attacks by Boko Haram, received little attention and has since provoked little outcry or sympathy from the Western public. While both events are tragic, it is something to note when our society as a whole can come together for the loss of 17 lives while completely ignoring the loss of 2,000 as though it is just another statistic.
Both events are completely different in their circumstance and many may argue that's the reason for providing one with more attention. Nigeria is after all seen as a third-world country to the West. Charlie Hebdo happened in the industrial country of France. Charlie Hebdo is a satirical publication that continually published cartoons mocking the Islamist fundamentalists as well as other political and religious groups. The public rallied behind Charlie Hebdo for their continued persistence in printing, even after they're building was bombed a couple years ago. The recent attacks has sparked more debate on freedom of speech and freedom for the press.
At the same time, Nigeria has been in constant struggle trying to defend itself against Boko Haram. Boko Haram didn't even become a world-known group until the kidnapping of more than 200 girls last April (some of the girls are suspected of being used as suicide bombers in this massacre). This recent massacre of 2,000 people in a market which has left over 20,000 displaced leaves little impression on the West. There are no massive protests to condemn the violence against the community. There are no pencils and pens to raise in champion of continued freedom or free speech for these people. Freedom is seldom where they live and terror is constant.
The irony of terror hitting the West is that when it hits, its impact is felt throughout the world and people come together to condemn the violence. When terror happens in third-world countries, where these terrorist groups are known to be, we have little to say other than starting a hashtag campaign (#BringBackourGirls), only to be forgotten months later.
When we think of the idea of terror and the countless victims that are claimed in its name, we should direct attention to the other civilians living in constant terror. Rather than ignore the problem or figure its a lost cause because of its repetition, we should put more efforts on helping the community and providing a safer environment. When terrorism is a constant in one region and we consider it an unfortunate circumstance, we are giving into the very nature of terrorism allowing it to fester and grow.
It's not helpful to ignore the plight of our fellow human beings because they live in a warzone far away from us. We're also ignoring the blowback of our foreign endeavors. If anything, by helping these people and sending aid and community assistance, not military equipment, we have a better chance in ridding the region of terrorist groups. Make the community more stable and less likely to feel the impulse to join groups out of desperation due to their own dire living situation.
Everyone's life is important. Our sympathies should extend to France and Nigeria. We should focus on both locations and share unity with everyone. The fact that we don't recognize Nigera with the same national uproar as we do with France is important to acknowledge. Are they being ignored because of race or economic issues? Like the hashtag and message of #BlacklivesMatter for Ferguson, we're not putting black people above everyone else. We're bringing attention to the fact that black lives are just as important as everyone else and should be treated as such. So when a black kid is shot, we recognize the death of a person, not a stereotype, thug, or statistic. Likewise with Nigeria and other countries (Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, etc.) that suffer under the strain of terrorist networks, we need to acknowledge that their lives are just as important as the French and everyone else in the West. All lives matter and we should acknowledge each life lost.