The spectre of ignorance

As you read the next few sentences, let this sink into your consciousness: more than 20,000 people were slaughtered recently. I don’t fear the BNP. They’ll never be a serious force in British politics because I know that in this country people can tell the difference between right and wrong. Perhaps in Parliament people cannot tell the difference when it comes to public money, but I hope they can when it comes to life and death. More than 20,000 people were massacred in Sri Lanka. Unarmed and ignored, hidden from the world too toothless to demand to see and too distracted by our own affairs to care.

More than 20,000 people died, standing on a sandy beach in the sunshine. Mothers with children, people of all ages and abilities. As the sun beat down, so did bullets and mortar bombs. The shimmering, cerulean blue sea must have clashed with the blood red sand. Did you see? I didn’t. Did you know? I didn’t. Did you care? I’m ashamed to say I didn’t. I know I would have and you would have too.

I care about right and wrong, which is why I hungrily devoured news of MP’s failings. I joined the clamouring to decry their idiocy, even their morality. Yet as this issue raged, I didn’t ask to see more about Sri Lanka. As those unnamed innocents lost their lives somewhere far away, I wanted to hear more about a couple who sometimes live in Bromsgrove. More than 20,000 people were murdered.

Thank goodness for The Times

As they feared for their lives, I feared the BNP, who will never have power or influence past the dark, dank places where they pray on people’s fears. I ignored those in power; who held the power to save those standing in the sunshine; to stop the bullets before they sprayed indiscriminately; to see that sight that I didn’t see nor wish to see. No-one saw it but those faceless men behind the machine guns but no-one clamoured to see it, not like they sought to see what happened in Luton South.

The media were shut out of Sri Lanka and the world is a worse place for it. The same media who are greeted with a tut and a shake of the head, “the media”. The media that politicians love to blame and the media who are never happier than tackling a scandal in government. The scandal is that the government did nothing to get the media into Sri Lanka. The government did nothing and to my shame, neither did I.

UPDATE 6th June: Once again the power of imagery convinces me that a strong press is a great thing.

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2 Responses to “The spectre of ignorance”

  1. NaughtyAnthony Says:

    While I agree that the Sri Lankan issue has been disproportionately diminished, I think we’re justified in putting the expenses scandal at the centre of the public mind (in Britain, at least). Greater focus on Sri Lanka may have satisfied our “moral” desire to know a lot about the world’s horrors, but to little effect. As with Rwanda, Zimbabwe or N. Korea, clamour to do something about it has always been minimal, and we’re well aware of the risks of intervention.

    However, in Britain, it seems fair to make a big deal out of something we have some control over. For effectively the first time, we’re presented with a serious debate over electoral reform within England, not just Scotland and Wales, and potential for a constitutional overhaul of what now seems a rusty political apparatus. We’re faced with huge changes, and if the media had sidelined this story to concentrate on Sri Lanka, we’d instead be preoccupied with a horror story over which we can exercise little influence.


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