Before we proceed any further, please allow me to be perfectly clear. Just like millions of other people all over the world, I am outraged and saddened by the events now happening in Ukraine.
But, as this conflict goes on I am also struck by my own hypocrisy, and I’m wondering why so many of us (especially in the United States) are so angry about Russia’s invasion and so sympathetic to the people of Ukraine; yet we are basically silent about similar conflicts that are now raging in several African countries (and other places around the world).
Yes, it’s true. The people of Ukraine are suffering horrible circumstances. Towns and villages are being wiped out. Hundreds of people are dying every day. Refugees have been forced out of their homeland. Innocent people have lost their homes and basically all their possessions.
But here’s the thing. The same exact thing is happening right now in Ethiopia, Central African Republic (CAR), Sudan and many other places, where ongoing civil wars and other conflicts have been raging for years. Children are being killed by warlords. Territories are being occupied by those with military might.
Why are we not getting nightly news updates about those conflicts? Where is CNN’s round-the-clock coverage? Why aren’t people updating their Facebook profile pictures with the flag of Cameroon?
I have some theories about why we seem to care more about Ukraine than many other nations.
- Americans have been indoctrinated for more than 60 years now about the evils of Russia and its threat to the free world. From drills that involve hiding under school desks to free-flowing rhetoric about the evils of communism, we have a long and well-documented history of loathing and fearing Russia.
- Unlike many of the aforementioned African nations, Ukraine is rich in natural resources that are very important to the United States and other western nations, including recoverable reserves of uranium ores, titanium ore reserves, shale gas reserves, food resources (wheat, corn, etc.) and on and on.
- We tend to have short attention spans. Although profoundly sad on many levels, news about an actor slapping a comedian temporarily overshadowed the media’s news priority over Ukraine and lots of other things, including how millions of Americans are struggling with record-breaking inflation.
- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine came as a flashpoint in Eastern European geo-political theater. Meanwhile, war and civil unrest seems to be par for the course in several African nations. It’s been going on for centuries and shows no sign of ending any time in the foreseeable future.
- It should be noted that Ukraine’s location is a high strategic resource for the western world; hence why Putin is so bugged about Ukraine becoming part of NATO.
- Finally, the majority of Ukrainian people are white. Just like us. It’s easier to sympathize when the people and the landscape look familiar. We see towering steel and concrete apartment buildings that have been destroyed by Russian rockets. It’s much harder to envision war-torn regions in many African nations before they were involved in war.
As I wrote at the beginning of this post: what is happening in Ukraine today is horrific and gut-wrenchingly sad. Vladimir Putin should be tried and convicted of war crimes. The people of Ukraine did nothing to provoke Russia. They are innocent. It is more than understandable why the free world is outraged by what is happening.
It is good and laudable to send humanitarian resources to Ukraine. It is good to place economic and other sanctions upon Russia.
But let’s not forget that a whole lot of other people are also suffering the same exact nightmare in places you won’t read about on the front page of the Washington Post or other daily papers. Let’s make what is happening in Ukraine awaken the rest of us from our slumber.
For every dollar of relief we donate to Ukraine, let’s match that gift with an equal donation to the people of Ethiopia or any other war-torn shithole around the globe.
Let’s not beat our chests of moral indignation and sympathy only when it’s convenient to do so.