Morality as Social Currency

Recently I saw a Facebook post made by a friend of mine in which he proudly claimed to have donated an undisclosed sum of money to an international charity aiming at alleviating the suffering of Syrian refugees. While I am happy that there are people like my friend in the world who support such noble charities, I couldn’t help but feel a bit irate over the fact that he chose to advertise his action over social-media as if making sure that the whole world recognized his own moral superiority.

After all, morality is in a way, a type of social currency. An example of this in the world today can be seen in the media storm surrounding the influx of refugees into Europe. Many of whom are fleeing the Syrian Civil War, a bloody conflict now entering its fifth year with no end in sight. Last year, the world was shocked and saddened by a widespread picture of a young Syrian boy named Aylan Kurdi who had drowned in the Aegean when he and his family made a desperate dash for a better life in Europe. His death marked a turning point in the media’s coverage of the war, it was no longer a distant power struggle in some backwater country, but a gripping story on the reality of war. Although to be fair, before his death the war and the European refugee crisis was of course covered on the news regularly, yet these issues rarely dominated the headlines as they do today.

Not long after Aylan Kurdi’s death I heard someone mention the famous words that Stalin uttered when discussing Russian deaths during his regime, “the death of one man is a tragedy, the death of one million is a statistic.” These words still hold their power today just as they did during WWII. Now however, the tragedy was Aylan, for whom the whole world wept yet it remained indifferent to the countless lives that had hitherto been lost in Syria and Iraq.

Tragedy sells on the morality market it would seem as everybody’s social media feeds were peppered with people outraged at the poor treatment of refugees like Aylan and the perceived indifference of the western world to wars in the middle east. Sadly, now Aylan Kurdi and his tragic story no longer dominates the headlines as more tragedies unfolded such as the massacre in Paris and the recent attack in Brussels, both perpetuated by the same Islamic terrorist organization Aylan’s family was escaping. I for one call for more direct action when it comes to helping refugees, lets not create and then discard more stories like Aylan’s, lets stand together and remember the multitudes of people needing help, and most importantly lets do it in a respectful manner. Instead of proudly boasting that we’ve done our part by donating money or volunteering, share information in a humble manner and make your posts about the charities you support the main subject instead of yourself. One tactful way of encouraging people to make donations to charities on social-media is to encourage others to match your donation.

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