When Europe stood united with Ukraine with offers to help Ukrainians, many people from the global South accused them of racial bias. Others scoffed at the Western media making a hero out of President Zelensky. People started their ‘what-about-isms’ to deflect attention away from Ukraine and towards their pet issues of Palestine, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Syria. Some from the left even deemed Putin a reasonable man who has been unduly demonized by the West. But are these criticisms emerging from a place of care, or is it armchair criticism?
It is true the Europe has been overwhelming in its response. More recently, Canada has put forth an offer to host an unlimited number of refugees. The same was not done for Syrian refugees, against whom people raised concerns about integration. A few journalists have emphasized the “blonde, blue eyed” attributes of Ukrainian refugees. But this response only alludes to the universal human tendency to reach out to those who seem more familiar. For instance, Muslims are largely attuned to the concerns of other Muslims, and Hindus to the concerns of those from the dharmic faiths (Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism). And as long as human beings exist, such tribal affiliations based on race, ethnicity, caste, or religion will continue to be made.
One can indeed deflect from the response as racist, downplay the heroism of Ukrainians, and remain complicit in Putin’s aggression. But to what end? If we have Ukrainian friends, do we really want to project this moral stinginess to them? Additionally, on what basis did people from the global South immigrate to Ukraine or Europe if in their hour of need we remain complicit and silent? Are economic opportunities to earn dollars and euros the only reason we move to the West? Do we simply want to institute our way of life and always downplay the West because of colonialism and empire? If all we focus on is criticism, then what would it tell us about ourselves when the same hypercriticality is turned inwards?
Do people forget that Russia was aiding the Syrian dictatorial regime in its human rights violations?
Consider the issues of Palestine, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Syria. How many people understand that the strongest voice for Palestine emerges from the West and not the Middle East, where Saudi Arabia, U.A.E. Bahrain, and Oman amongst others have made overt or secret deals with Israel? How many Palestinians have these Arab countries offered citizenship to compared with the West? In Yemen, is it not true that Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E have bombed the Houthis and caused incessant human rights violations? How many people were actively critiquing these countries before Ukraine flared up? How many Muslim countries have offered economic assistance and refugee sponsorship help to the Yemenis? Or for that matter have Russia or China stepped in to help the Yemenis settle down in their vast areas of land with all the human rights and social safety nets?
In Afghanistan, President Ghani fled with his millions of dollars and left his people to the mercy of the Taliban. The same has been true for many dictators across the world, including Saddam Hussein, who was found hiding in a pit, and Colonel Gaddafi, who was hiding in a large drainage pipe. Yet, people ignore all of that, and instead spread conspiracy theories through messages and videos on WhatsApp downplaying President Zelensky and the brave Ukrainian resistance against the second most powerful army in the world. Do people forget that Russia was aiding the Syrian dictatorial regime in its human rights violations?
To reiterate, people need to look within and question from where their unbridled contempt emerges. Why do they forget the 2014 annexation of Crimea and Russia’s stoking of separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk? How many of these people would tolerate the same in their own countries by neighbouring regional powers? These are hard and biting questions which people need to address. But above all people need to ask where exactly is their humanity for a people who are making their last stand?
The human predilection for scorn should never trump humanity. Slava Ukraini, Heroiam Slava (Glory to Ukraine, Glory to the Heroes)