HOW SLACTIVISM CAN BECOME ACTIVISM
At the time of writing this, it is just being reported on BBC News that the Syrian government has halted its evacuation of civilians from eastern Aleppo; they have accused rebels of breaking the terms of their agreed ceasefire. Buses carrying people who were in the process of evacuation have been fired upon. Syrian state media has said that the mission to evacuate has been suspended due to rebel fighters use of the process to cover up their own smuggling of heavy weapons and captives out of the besieged areas. I’m not even going to pretend to understand all the complex political nuances of this crisis, but you don’t need to in order to feel the intense human sadness surrounding these horrible events.
I hope with more coverage of the escalating crisis, at least, those critical of refugees may have their eyes opened to the horrors that these people are fleeing from. According to the United Nations, there are 50,000 people still trapped in the conflict with no functioning hospitals and food supplies have run out. Watch the footage from Aleppo and then spout on about people just wanting to take advantage of our benefit system, I dare you.
It’s hard to take any positive view in a situation like this, but - at least we’re hearing about it now. The escalating battle has been underway for years, and for most of that time, it’s been very much under our Western radar. Make of this what you will, whether it’s the fault of news outlets or on us to go looking for more information, but now people are well and truly aware of it, I’m seeing a lot on social media about how we can help.
People are often skeptical of so-called 'slacktivism' - it’s all very well sharing information and raising awareness of a situation but what does that mean if we’re all well informed and do nothing about it? A lot of posts being shared feature titles like 'how to actually help,' suggesting that our online community is becoming more aware of the gap between our good intentions and the outcomes they provide. It’s not that raising awareness of a problem is pointless, rather that, especially in this case, it’s too late for pondering and prevention. People are being massacred in their own homes. If you’re keen to do something, here is one list of charities to contribute to, who are helping people on the ground.
During times of humanitarian emergency, we can take to the internet, both to be involved in it and to distract from it. Videos of playing kittens might seem like selfish frivolity when there are such atrocities happening around us, but at the end of the day we have to stay afloat. I think that uplifting viral posts are actually starting to make a difference to our actions. Rather than just cute things to brighten our day, a lot of what you see now are incredible examples of goodness, kindness and selflessness. I’ve seen so many stories of normal people doing amazing things - like the couple from Birmingham who, after saving up for years to buy a house, instead decided to buy a house for refugees to live in. Among the usual clickbait we see lovely stories, humanising the refugees we are taught to be suspicious of, providing proof that charitable efforts do work and emphasising the richness of stories and experiences that come from being kind to others.
As much as these cheerful stories might bring us a happy tear or brighten our day, they also inspire people to be better - and sometimes we need to be better, together.