Alpesh Patel’s Political Sketchbook: Happy Christmas

Wednesday 20th December 2023 06:26 EST

Dear World,

 16th December was the anniversary of the public surrender of the Pakistani Army to Indian forces. It happened in 1971 because of the mass genocide (verified by the UN) in East Pakistan of Hindus and Muslims by the Pakistani Army. Indira Gandhi, appalled by the genocide, mass rape policy of the Pakistani Army, ordered Indian Army to declare war on Pakistan. The world stood by. America and UK in particular did not take the Indian side. Memories in India reverberate to this day on this. Kissinger referred to the Indian PM as ‘that bitch’.

 Now we have the Middle East conflict.

 Ah, the sweet irony of human compassion - so selective, so sporadic. It's truly heartwarming to see how the world has suddenly woken up to the plight of suffering children. Of course, these are the "right" children, aren't they? The ones whose distress fits neatly into the narrative we're comfortable with, the ones whose faces grace our TV screens and social media feeds, evoking a conveniently palatable blend of pity and outrage.

 Let's have a round of applause for this newfound empathy. It's amazing how we can mobilize resources, organize marches, and flood social media with hashtags and profile pictures when the tragedy du jour aligns with our geopolitical or social tastes. It's a modern miracle, really – this selective sensitivity that awakens in us a temporary urge to be the saviors of the hour.

 But, oh dear, what about those other children? You know, the ones who have been dying every four seconds for years due to something as mundane as hunger. Yes, hunger – that old, unglamorous cause that fails to stir our collective conscience into action. There are no viral hashtags for these little souls. No celebrity tweets urging us to "Pray for the Starving." No profile frames with slogans like "End Hunger Now." How dreadfully unfashionable.

 It's almost as if we've accepted this continuous, silent massacre as a background noise, an unfortunate but unchangeable constant. After all, how could we possibly be expected to care about something so persistently unremarkable? Where's the novelty in children dying from a lack of food? It's been happening for so long, it's practically a tradition.

 And let's not forget the absence of geopolitical intrigue or ideological battles in these deaths. Where's the drama in fighting hunger? There are no villains to demonize, no heroes to lionize in this mundane tragedy. Just the slow, inexorable march of malnutrition and preventable diseases – hardly the stuff of a compelling social media campaign.

 It's fascinating, isn't it, how our empathy has its trends, just like fashion. One season, it's all about refugees. The next, we're up in arms about children caught in a particular conflict. But the timeless classic of child hunger? That's just not in vogue.

 So let's pat ourselves on the back for our selective outrage, our momentary bursts of altruism. Let's bask in the glow of our well-curated concern for the "right" kind of suffering. After all, it's so much easier to be moved by the tragedies that ask so little of us – a tweet, a post, perhaps even a small donation. But the unsexy, ongoing crisis of child hunger? That's a bit too real, a bit too demanding of our sustained attention and action.

 In the end, dear World, it's not really about the suffering children, is it? It's about us – our need to feel like we're doing something, our desire to be seen as compassionate, as long as it's convenient. As for those other children – the ones dying out of the spotlight, in silence – well, they just need to wait for the day their tragedy becomes trendy.


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