Mercy and the Failure to Form Moral Imagination

By Nichole M. Flores and Mary Jo Iozzio

Confronted by a classmate’s concern over the possibility of contemporary totalitarian regimes using genocide as a tool of political control, another student commented, “I don’t think genocide is a realistic possibility today.” Contrary to the ongoing destruction of whole cities in Syria, for example –from infrastructure to housing and schools and hospitals and cultural artifacts and to life—the student argued that social media makes suffering and violence visible, thus reducing the possibility of the systematic killing of an entire population of people. Ah, the innocence of college privilege to think public shame via social media would generate social solidarity.

The comment reveals the assumptions of a naïve hope that by exposing regime-responsible suffering and violence social media is sufficient to garner international condemnation and swift cessation of hostilities. It is true that social media now plays a crucial role in publicizing news from around the globe with near instant speed. However, while social media –in commentary and images—can inspire a surge of sympathy, it fails to sustain compassion or prompt material support for those in the midst of a conflict with roots in the dynamics of colonialism as well as the fall of the Ottoman Empire within the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere.

Read more on the CTEWC Forum.

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