Another shooting today. 14 dead in California. The liberal social media-ites are revving up their engines scouring The Huffington Post and Vice for whatever alternative and unique perspective they might share on today's events. For those living in the U.S this must be heart-breaking. It seems insane that with so many high-profile shootings in the past year congress is still unwilling to budge on a solution to gun control. I absolutely understand that this is devastating for those living in the States, but I'm not quite sure why so many of my liberal friends living in New Zealand are sharing about it too?
Don't get me wrong, I fit the above description! I'm the first person to post a piece of compelling political or social commentary when I find it. Yet as I look down my predominantly left-wing New Zealand news feed I have to wonder 'why so much about the United States and so little about home?'
I have a couple of ideas why.
Firstly, because as much as we may criticise it, we buy wholeheartedly into the US media which sells North America as the centre of the world. Horrific human rights abuses, rapes, shootings and more are happening all around the world every day. Social movements are arising that don't have a hashtag but still argue for the same principles of dignity and equality. However we don't seem to be interested in causes unless they are placed neatly right in front of us on our newsfeed or everyone our age is talking about them. No system is as adept at getting information to us without requiring us to engage our brains first as the American media machine. When we share what they send us, we participate in the proliferation of the continuing belief that trauma is insignificant unless it happens in the West. With each post, we further drown the stories of the suffering in West Papua, in Nigeria, in Myanmar.
I am wondering why so many Kiwis are so whole-heartedly interested in these American movements specifically. Why pledging their allegiance to these things even when they may have almost no cultural relevance to their lives at all? Why these causes above all others and, more specifically, above those in our own backyard?
I watched the other week as the same New Zealanders who posted memes about US gun law reform and racial equality post photos of fireworks on Guy Fawkes' Day while never sharing anything about one of the most significant non-violent resistant movements for racial equality in global history which celebrated it's anniversary that same day. Parihaka, which happened right here on our own soil, saw an entire generation robbed of fathers and sent to jail. These same practices of marginalisation and racism continue today in the makeup of New Zealand's prison population but where is the meme, the fierce debating, the cry that 'something must be done!'?. Our social media accounts were very quiet that day.
Let's call it for what it is, identity politics.
Every time another shooting happens, another occupy movement arises, another human rights abuse goes public, or another bomb is dropped the race is on to see who can prove their liberal credibility. First we begin by changing our profile pictures, then we begin criticising the profile picture changes, then we post alternative profile pictures, then we talk about how no one really 'gets it' anyway. If we're honest, most of us don't align ourselves with these causes because of how it helps the cause, but because of how it helps our own self-perception and belonging to a political/social community. We end up making the death and suffering of others a vehicle for our own pursuit of identity and end up just as guilty of ulterior agendas as the governments we criticise.
So how about we don't post about that thing that happened today? The U.S media have got it covered I'm sure. How about we look over our back fence and look for the least attractive cause around us that will buy us the least credibility and throw our might behind it? Let us not echo the institutions we hate by working for our own interests, but instead for those who are truly voiceless by telling the untold stories no one wants to hear.