News & Views

Why Do the General Public Lack Interest in International Conflict?

Last month, Human Appeal and YouGov reported that 42% of the UK do not even know there is a war going on in Yemen even when considering the UK government is supplying the arms to Saudi Arabia whose coalition are responsible for much of the current bombing on innocent civilians. How can there be so much ignorance and lack of interest, not only with Yemen, but with all international conflict?

An American psychologist argues that there is a limit to human compassion as the human mind cannot empathise with millions or billions of people, he argues that such large statistics simply become incomprehensible and the idea that these are individuals become lost in the numbers.  The murder of Journalist Jamal Khashoggie sparked international discussions and led to global leaders questioning their relationships with Saudi Arabia, it took that one individual to trigger this skepticism, rather than the masses of victims who have been being targeted by the Saudi coalition and forced into famine.

Beyond struggling to find compassion in statistics I found five main reasons for the lack of interest in global conflict:

  • Complicated warfare – Conflict does not have a universal template and often has many contributing factors that led to the outbreak of war. The fighting may be taking place in a country that a person is not familiar with, a minority group they have not heard of or the violence may be a result of a complex history of grievances in a region which has resulted in years of on and off again conflict. This complicates the outcome for peace and further perplexes the situation. Unless you were studying a relative degree or had a general interest beyond the basics, the general public wouldn’t spend their time trying to understand these complications and therefore wouldn’t have any long term invested interests.
  • No Definitive Good and Bad guys - If there is no obvious team to side with then there is no immediate interest in warfare. Without a clear Hollywood narrative of a victim and Villain and a conflict that follows the general dynamic of war, there is often a lack of interest due there being no obvious winner and support for making a solution to the war is detached.  
    No Direct Connection from the UK/West -  If a conflict does not directly or at all affect the average westerner why would they care? Few cared about the refugee crisis until it hit Europe, beyond our own borders there is little compassion for refugees. There is lack of interest in international conflict and concern for the conflict is only offered if it works in favor of the national interest, which means many cases of war in African countries go untouched.   
  • No Direct Connection from the UK/West -  If a conflict does not directly or at all affect the average westerner why would they care? Few cared about the refugee crisis until it hit Europe, beyond our own borders there is little compassion for refugees. There is lack of interest in international conflict and concern for the conflict is only offered if it works in favor of the national interest,  which means many cases of war in African countries go untouched.
  • Lack of Media Coverage - this is too often the case, with no or minimal media time for international conflict. There are more relevant stories, such as Brexit which take center stage, forcing these global acts of violence to be benched and wait for their time in the spotlight. During the 1994, Rwandan Genocide, the tragedy was played down as “ancient tribal disputes”, when in reality it was a brutal extermination of a minority group that had not been done on such a scale since the Nazi persecution of the Jews. This follows similar today, with the brutalities in Yemen, Syria, Myanmar and many more being minor end notes, rather than full coverage stories expressing the true scale of the tragedies.
  • Too Much Media Coverage - On the other side of the spectrum, repetition and recurring news story can convince a news viewer into thinking that they have heard it all before and that they know all they need to know, in this case the coverage can simply become boring and irrelevant. The initial shock horror and original interest can wear off easily. For example, with regards to Brexit most people are tired of hearing about, and instead are actively choosing to avoid reading up about it, the same happens with other general negative news, and instead of engaging an audience, the audiences become fatalistic. The general public begin to see the same pictures, similar titles and stories and are no longer drawn in but instead can become plain exhausted from hearing about it.
     

How can we counteract this and engage the public more?

Discuss! Debate!  - By simply having a conversation with a friend of attending a public meeting, debating about the issue, keeping the topic relevant basically, you can spark and maintain others interest.

Inform and Promote - Maybe write your own articles or blogs about an issue, or promote and share a piece that does address the cause.

Black Friday Chaos - What is it all about

Black Friday, the first Friday after Thanksgiving in America, which sees the dramatic temporary drop in prices across stores in a bid to force people to panic buy just as Christmas approaches. Black Friday began in 2006 and has been a growing international craze in recent years, but the sales are no longer limited to Friday, with many retailers continuing the sales over the weekend and recently rising Cyber Monday. Where the huge sales hit exclusively online, following on from the Black Friday madness to create a full weekend of bargains.

So what is the result of Black Friday?

The reality is, our relentless consumption is ruining the planet  “Climate breakdown, soil loss, the collapse of habitats and species, the sea of plastic, insectageddon: are all driven by rising consumption.”

Beyond this, it sends consumers crazy, with customers camping outside stores the night before just to get that bit closer to the sales in the morning. The injuries and deaths that have occurred for the sake of a bargain is insane!  A website titled Black Friday Death Count keeps track of all the deaths and injuries which occurred on this given day since Black Friday began in 2006.

Exploited workers remain victims during Black Friday

Amazon says that Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2018 was the biggest shopping day in their history.  However the Amazon warehouse workers felt differently as the overworked employees in Europe protested against poor conditions and low wages - during Black Friday the circumstances do not change for these workers who have to handle these products at an immense speed. This is just the grievances of one company and one set of employees, I imagine that the effects of Black Friday hit workers internationally.

How much money are you really saving?

Which? spent a year looking at the price of products sold six months prior to Black Friday and six months following Black Friday and found that 87% of the Black Friday deal items were available at the same price or cheaper during other periods of the year, with a whopping 46% products found to be cheaper on at least one day in the six month following Black Friday.

 

Can you ease the problem?

Buy Nothing Day is campaign group that encourages you to “Lock up your wallets and purses, cut up your credit cards and dump the love of your life - shopping”, on the same day the Black Friday hits the stores. They promote the motto ‘ShopLessLiveMore’ and encourage minimum spending for economic and environmental reasons. Check out their website linked above to find out more!

Before you hit the sales in Black Friday next year, question whether you actually need too or not. If you do feel you want to indulge in your shopping habit, why not hit up one of your local independent chains? Amongst the chaos, small business suffer as they struggle to match the ridiculous price drops of larger chains, help locally while you can!

 

Challenges Myanmar Face on the Road to Peace

Last year, 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh from Myanmar after being targeted by the Myanmar military as what the UN reports as Genocide. The Rohingya are a stateless minority group, who as a result are vulnerable and often excluded. The attacks left hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees stranded in Bangladesh after fleeing Myanmar with no immediate choice on where to go and unwilling to return back to the country where they were violently victimised.

International actors are now looking for ways to ease one of the world’s largest refugee crisis with the hope of returning the Rohingya to Myanmar. However, there are some difficulties that peacemakers face before Myanmar and the Rohingya see an end to the violence:

  • Settling the Rohingya back into a safe environment - The Rohingya refugees currently cannot return safely with violence ongoing and next to no change in the mindset of the military in regards to their brutalities. The Myanmar government are still denying that they wrongly attacked citizens, claiming that they only targeted rebel groups. However, many innocent civilians were brutally attacked, including women and young children who were sexually assaulted. The Rohingya cannot safely settle back in, when their previous attacks are not recognised and brutalities continuing. Amnesty have said that the remaining Rohingya continue to me persecuted by the Myanmar military. Amnesty believe that the military is committing crimes against humanity’with the remaining Rohingya, as they army continues to cut the minority group from their rice fields, rob them of their livestock and destroy their local markets.

 

  • Easing economic tensions - Building a secure economy and sustainable livelihood for all residents of Myanmar is essential in order to avoid future misconducts and prevent reasons for armed conflict. Human Rights Watch said that land confiscations and forced evictions that took place over recent years was a major part of the military rule and internal armed conflict. Without farming, and left with no source of income to supply themselves, many Rohingya would be left to starve. Human Rights Watch go on to say that much of this confiscation was illegal, with acres in their millions being illegally seized by the military. Beyond military takeovers, more than a quarter of the forests have been lost since 1990 in which International Alert stated that by some estimates was the third-highest rate of deforestation in the world. An Estimated 80% of Myanmar's population relies on forest for their livelihood, meaning such conditions can lead to major humanitarian famines and general deterioration of the societies wellbeing.

  • Demilitarisation - In the past, ceasefires have struggled to uphold in Myanmar with not all armed groups agreeing to the conditions. Saferworld in their latest report on Myanmar comment on the fact that the Myanmar state has never had control of the whole country despite military efforts, causing a complicated security environment. The report stresses that inclusivity is crucial for peace to be successfully, and that an equal voice for all parties must be provided in order for there to be sound communication and understanding throughout the country. This includes a sound understanding on who is in control of arms within the country.  

  • Holding those accountable for Human Rights violations and acts of genocide - To avoid future attacks and for the Rohingya to feel supported, the Myanmar military need to be held accountable for their brutalities. But doing this will be a challenge, acts of genocide are difficult to define and distinguish from general conflict, particularly when the Myanmar military are rejecting the UN reports and deny investigators access to government sites. But the UN upholds the view that Myanmar military leaders must face genocidal charges and crimes against humanity which include murder, rape, torture and persecution.
  • Inclusive peace and security - For there to be sustainable peace, any future peace deals need to be consented by every resident, including small communities and minor ethnic groups. Some ethnic groups have come forward to say that rarely do they have government representatives travelling to their parts of the country to discover what issues smaller groups and communities face. This exclusion will not uphold a peaceful environment and could be counteractive. A common ground is essential in going forward, currently there are far too many voices unaccounted for within the country, and many acting out of their own accord, rather than working together for peace and security.

  

These are just a few of the challenges Myanmar face in brief and certainly issues that need to be addressed to ensure a sound peace deal. Although the road to peace will be a difficult one, with the guide of international actors it is possible that the people of Myanmar, including returning Rohingya can have stability and security in the future.

How can you help?

British Red Cross are collecting donations to help towards shelter and healthcare for those who have fled Myanmar. Details here: https://www.redcross.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/international/myanmar

Also, pop to your local British Red Cross charity shop to see if there is anything you want to buy, all donations will go towards similar causes.

Check out our article on simple ways you can help international crisis locally!

How Can Local Communities Help Internationally?

When international disaster strikes or when humanitarian crisis are occurring, sometimes, you can feel helpless. But there are many ways that you can contribute to international issues from your local areas.

Here are five simple ways you can make a difference locally:

  • Write - Writing about issues you are passionate about, highlighting a cause you’re concerned about or calling for change, can make a substantial global difference. This can enlighten people on an issue they may have not been familiar with, demonstrate support for a cause and pressure those targeted to advocate change. The Brighton and Hove Amnesty run an annual Write for Rights - Amnesty describe it as a global letter writing campaign and they express the importance of how words can change people's lives. Writing letters to the press and various other media outlets is also a good way to encourage change, as well as writing to your local MP who will be able to take your concerns to parliament to discuss further. Publications and newsletters are also progressive ways to educate and advocate change.

     Amnesty has a local newsletter which provides local information of the work the group has been involved in that month. https://www.amnesty.org.uk/groups/brighton-and-hove -

  • Run Local Events - Running local fundraising events or holding public meetings all can contribute to the bigger cause by raising funds and helping promote a message. Running/attending public meetings is also a handy way to discuss future campaigns, fundraising ideas, provide training and bring along expert speakers. Running music nights or comedy gigs for funding can also be fun ways to raise money and help where you can. Brighton’s local Amnesty group frequently run a AmnesTEA where they share tea while simultaneously raising money for Human Rights and discuss ongoing issues. Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign run a weekly stall, usually at the Clock Tower, where they raise money and educate people on any current updates within their campaign. Info of their events can be found here.HYPERLINK "https://www.facebook.com/BrightonandHovePalestineSolidarityCampaign?ref=hl&ref_type=boo
  • Campaign - Campaigning for change is something that can be done anywhere. Campaigning is all about highlighting that people are advocating for change and willing to demonstrate action. It can be something small such as handing out leaflets in public, to creating large demonstrations outside a targeted spot.
  • Connect and Unite - By connecting and uniting with other support groups/people it can create a domino effect of change, and boosts support for the cause. Changing it from a single act from within a local community to a national or even internationally backed up. Also, many larger companies such as Amnesty, Campaign Against Arms Trade and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom have smaller branches in local areas that support the bigger scheme of things within the larger group. Unity is such progressive tool to promote messages, campaigns and events while also being able to spread a cause beyond local communities. For instance, you may not be able to travel abroad to a particular country, but by connecting with individuals or group who can, you can feel just as involved and be more directly engaged in the cause.
  • Spread through Social Media - Twitter and Facebook is the most accessible way to share and spread information quickly and efficiently, allowing direct and instant communication with any followers. Many local NGO’s have facebook pages where latest news, views and events are shared. Social media can be used to promote events, raise money, publish stories, share news outlets, spread petitions etc. Social Media does not limit you to just your local communitity, the outreach of social media posts is global and such a tool should be taken advantage of and put to good use.

It may seem that as a local community or individuals it can be hard to make an effective change in the world, but by doing any of the above we are able to give a voice to those without one, as well as promote powerful change in the world.

Here is a list of local campaign groups in Brighton and Hove, or those who have noteable branches in the area and links to their pages:

Brighton and Hove Amnesty International

Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Brighton Migrants solidarity

Brighton Against Borders

Brighton Kurdistan Solidarity

Womens International League for Peace and Freedom Brighton Branch

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) - https://www.caat.org.uk/ have connections with brighton and other cities such as scotland and London. There website and facebook page share what events/public meetings/ speakers they have going on across all the country. Keep and eye out for any local events coming up. OR run an event yourself, CAAT also provide some suggestions online for how you can raise funds towards the cause locally. https://www.caat.org.uk/support-our-work/local-fundraising

The new wave of conscientious protectors against Climate Chaos

Environmental activists took to the stormy sea one cold Brighton morning in protest of the continuing government inaction on climate change and ecological collapse. The newly formed Brighton arm of Extinction Rebellion has quickly grown from two founding members, to over 70 climate defenders in just under two weeks. The Extinction Rebellion is part of a larger UK movement that has been hitting the headlines for the acts of civil disobedience across London. The movement has received the support of prominent UK activists, academics, politicians and thinkers including Guardian columnist George Monbiot. The 17th November marks the official start of the Extinction Rebellion with a Rebellion Day, with "conscientious protectors" flooding London in raise awareness of sea level change amongst other issues.

Extinction Rebellion has three demands:

  • That the Government must tell the truth about how deadly our situation is, it must reverse all policies not in alignment with that position and must work alongside the media to communicate the urgency for change including what individuals and communities need to do.
  • The Government must enact legally-binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions in the UK to zero by 2025 and take further action to remove the excess of atmosphere. It must cooperate internationally so that the global economy runs on no more than half a planets worth of resources.
  • By necessity these demands mean an initiative similar to those enacted at times of war. We do not however, hand further power to our Government, we demand a Citizens Assembly to oversee the changes, as we rise from the wreckage, creating a democracy fit for purpose.   

The Rebellion Day marks the start of a UK-wide civil disobedience movement, starting in London and expanding across the country to cities such as Brighton and Hove. One of the founders said “ as Conscientious Protestors, change will only come when we are willing to commit acts of peaceful civil disobedience. In the past two weeks over fifty people have been arrested, enough to propel the ecological crisis into the media and public consciousness. If several thousand arrests are made in a short space of time this will trigger a political crisis and force our government and other leaders to take committed and legally accountable action.

”If you are interested to join the Extinction Rebellion please see their webpage https://rebellion.earth/ or follow on twitter - @ExtinctionR.

Photo credit: Laura Gunbie

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