something I’m thinking about: social justice

March 31, 2013

I went to a friend’s house tonight and watched 5 Broken Cameras, a documentary covering five years of protests first-hand in a Palestinian village against Israeli settlers taking their land. This is a subject I know very little about, but I reacted strongly to particularly emotive images like guns being fired into a crowd of non-violent protesters, soldiers pushing their way into houses to take children as hostages for good behaviour and a man blindfolded, brought before some soldiers and coldly, deliberately shot in the leg. Just. What. My immediate reaction to this is These Things Are Wrong, but I’m aware that what I’m reacting to isn’t so much the Israel-Palestine issue as it is a whole set of complex ideas to do with power and the right to be heard and the concepts behind soldierhood and obedience to authority and the dehumanisation of soldiers. So as strongly as I feel about these images, I can’t just stand up after watching this and say “Israel Should Not Take Land From Palestinians!” It would be a gross simplification, particularly since I know next to nothing about the whole problem and I’ve only seen one deeply emotive (which is in no way an invalidation-) perspective on it.

The things in my head, then, are currently questions like what gives people with guns the right to bully people without guns? and how do we turn people into faceless annoyances to be disposed of when they’re in the way of our ideas/plans? and what happens when you are sworn to obey authority but what you’re told to do violates what you believe is right? and why don’t governments listen to individual people? and words like de-humanisation, voiceless, human rights, poverty, media and advocacy. It’s a big churning flock in my head right now. There’s also the question that I finished with as the credits rolled and we sat in silence watching the screen: what can we do about this? how can we help? what can we do?

what can we do so people don’t live in an atmosphere of fear? so kids don’t get taken away from their parents? so kids don’t grow up seeing the people they know shot and beaten by faceless uniforms? so adults don’t think that taking someone by force, blindfolding them and shooting them is the Right Thing To Do?

and maybe I just know too many people on the activist side of the fence to walk away after something like that and not try and see if I can help, but it felt a little like the other people watching with me were too willing to label it ‘sad’ and then do nothing at all and retreat back into the easy, everyday world of study and buses and work and cars. But it’s very easy for things to spring up in my head like middle-class apathy and easier to stay where we’re comfortable and easier to keep your distance and throw money at something if you need to, so I also need the ensuing thoughts like remember not to judge the people around you just because they’re not as immediately vocal as you are about doing something- you don’t know what they have and haven’t done. and you’ve been there yourself.

and if I get deeper into this, that’s something I’m going to need to remember. I’m very much aware that I can be easily, hotly idealistic with no tempering judgement to rein in my biases, so I have to be careful.

I think we should want to do something, though, when faced with injustice, even if it’s a deeply complex issue that speckles the word justice itself with so many different meanings and so many people on all sides hurt. And I don’t know how to help, but I want to, so I’m going to need to learn, because uninformed help is no help at all.

that’s where I’m going to start. figuring out how to learn more about this stuff. and that’s the biggest thing in my head right now.*




* sort of. the issue of poverty is also a big thing in my brain right now, although, like above, I don’t know nearly enough about any of this. also in my head is the problem of how to make people aware of and actually care about issues of poverty, enough so that it affects their wallets and their time. alongside this is a somewhat-unrelated reflection on the nature of beauty. however it adds up, I foresee a whole lot of reading in my immediate future (because it’s not like I had enough to start with for school or anything, hurrah).

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