Orientalism in November 2015

I think the events of the last few days show how little we, those in the ‘West’ think about the ‘Rest’ (to quote Stuart Hall). For those coded as ‘Oriental’ (as in Edward Said’s Orientalism) there has not been the same kind of sadness as there has been for France. Why is that?

Both Baghdad and Beirut experienced bombings this week. In 2011, Japan suffered a magnitude-7 earthquake that  left 18,000 missing or dead, with 230,00 still displaced. Nothing was said about the four year anniversary of the tsunami in Western media, nor did we receive much coverage of the small (30 cm) tsunami that hit yesterday. Devastating events that happen in non-Western countries simply do not get the same level of media attention.

Why is there no option to change our Facebook profile pictures to the flags of Lebabon, Iraq? Are the lives lost there worth less than those in France? What will happen the next time an ‘Oriental’ nation faces a large scale disaster? Will we be able to change our profile pictures to show support there, or no?

Or, is it just that we, as (predominantly white) settlers, see ‘ourselves’ in other nations that were historically white and are presently coded as white? Is it that we are we able to see ourselves in the people of France but not those other nations? Is it because their cultures and languages are too different than our own? Is it because we associate difference with detriment?

Also, I wanted to note that we heard very little about Hurricane Patricia making landfall in Mexico a few weeks ago. Mexico, another settler nation on the North American continent, is not coded as white like Canada and the US. It also is not a nation of ‘Orientals’ as per Said’s work. But nevertheless, are those brown bodies also worth less than our own?

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