Honouring Paris With Individual Acts of Support and Light

Jean-Jullien_illustration_Peace-for-Paris_attacks_dezeen_square

I don’t usually talk about politics or world events in my posts – to be honest, I’m not really a comb-through-the-news-everyday kind of girl and I usually don’t consider myself informed enough to start theorizing about what’s taking place around the world (I leave that to the experts), but I’m making an exception today because the deadly attacks that took place in Paris on Friday night were an absolute tragedy and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them. They left me (and I’m sure many of you) wondering what kind of people could carry out such vicious acts, what kind of a world we live in where attending a concert, or a restaurant, or a soccer game could end in such horrific violence.

Social media feeds were inundated by Paris posts immediately following the events and the hashtag #PrayForParis quickly spread, as did the Eiffel Tower peace symbol illustrated by French graphic designer, Jean Jullian. But while some people were posting to show their support, others were complaining that the sentiments were empty.

The New York Post held no punches in this piece where it claimed that the tragic events were “just the latest to be appropriated by celebrities for so-called ‘hashtag activism,’ allowing them to do little more than hit ‘post’ and feel as though they’ve made an impact on the world.”

On a more local scale, one Facebook post I saw on my feed read,

“Pray for Paris? This isn’t a social media trend. You want to show compassion? There are hundreds of similar situations happening in the world, are you going to post about those too? Because I am sure 99% of the people who will post “Pray for Paris” won’t pray, and don’t even pray to begin with. Social media is a powerful tool- for brainwash and creating sheep, not for actually making a difference or helping those in need. Maybe think before you jump onto a new trend… Think about what continues to happen in other countries, in our own countries, and are forgotten just because there isn’t anything NEW to cover. That is SAD. We forget about Palestine, we forget about Burundi, we forget about Lebanon, Sinjara (iraq), even the continued neglect and deliberate lack of resources given to the Aboriginal people IN OUR OWN COUNTRY. Wake the fuck up. Pray for paris?? Pray for humanity. Pray for those who don’t properly educate themselves. My heart goes out to the victims in Paris, but sorry I am still grieving the loss of the thousands of children caught in war in the middle east. I am still grieving the people who lost their lives fleeing their war torn countries. Paris, I’ll pray for you but never you alone.#‎prayforignorantpeopletowakeup”

I can understand the sentiment. It’s true, there are tragic events taking place all over the world every day. People live with violence, with fear, without the necessary food, water, and shelter to survive. And so I understand why people get upset, or even offended, when social media is flooded with a response to one single event, or when celebrities (or just regular people) are quick to follow suit. It can feel disingenuous at best, and exploitative at worst. I admit I found myself wondering whether or not I should post, and if I did, what were my reasons. Was I truly showing support or just jumping on the bandwagon?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can say that what finally made up my mind (and prompted this post) was this – when terrible things have happened to me in the past, the support of people around me (even strangers) has helped me know that I’m not alone and helped me get through the most difficult times. Let me be clear, I am in no way comparing anything that has happened in my life to the extraordinarily awful events that took place in Paris on Friday night. But I’m saying that when bad things happen, the best thing we can do is shed a little light and compassion in the darkness for our fellow human beings. And in this case, if that’s through a Facebook post or an Instagram photo, showing the people of Paris that they are in the collective thoughts of millions of people on the planet, then I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

So yes, I am praying for Paris, and for the world. I’m praying for a world free from terror, free from violence, free from fear. I’m shining the light of my compassion and support, no matter how small. Together with the light of all the other people doing the same, I hope the world becomes more illuminated.

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