The Deserving and Undeserving Dead

Posted: 08/05/2014 by editormary in Children\'s Corner, Counter-terrorism, No thanks!, Hasbara Deconstruction Site, Human Rights, Middle East, Palestine, Politics, Refugees, Resistance, Syria, War
Aftermath of attacks in Douma, near Damascus. The Assad regime drops barrel bombs repeatedly, sometimes just to target those who recover the dead and wounded.

Aftermath of attacks in Douma, near Damascus. The Assad regime drops barrel bombs repeatedly, sometimes just to target those who recover the dead and wounded.

WRITTEN BY RUTH REIGLER
In the 19th century, wealthy Western philanthropists wishing to bestow their patronage on the less fortunate would first distinguish between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor to decide, in effect, who among the poorest, most wretched and powerless ‘deserved’ to eat or starve, live or die.

While this concept has largely, thankfully, died out at least towards Western peoples, it has since been adopted by Western ideologues and others worldwide to distinguish between which non-Western peoples being subjugated and slaughtered by oppressive states deserve patronage and a show of compassion and which should be dismissed as unworthy of empathy – the deserving and undeserving dead.

The ideologues of both the Western left and right base their faux compassion on which governments nominally or actually support or oppose those states and rulers perpetrating oppression and genocide and in what name the oppression and genocide are perpetrated. Broadly speaking, liberals and leftists will claim to oppose injustice, oppression and genocide as and when they’re backed by Western powers and support them when they’re perpetrated and backed by non-Western states, with the right inverting this – Western-backed oppression and genocide good, non-Western-backed genocide bad.

It’s noteworthy that the stance of the neo-nazi far right is indistinguishably aligned with the Stalinist left, sharing the same taste for totalitarianism.

In both cases, the subjugated and slaughtered peoples are one-dimensional ciphers, existing only to support the ideologues’ and activists’ own political views; thus, when Pol Pot’s anti-imperialist rhetoric to justify mass oppression and slaughter was swallowed and regurgitated by the left, there was not a word of complaint from the Western left about the killing fields; only after the covert US support for Pol Pot was exposed was there a sudden outpouring of outrage for the victims.

When Iraqis were killed by US warplanes in the name of a US invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein, the right smeared the victims as terrorists while the left professed outrage at the slaughter. Iraqis are still being slaughtered in massive numbers by US helicopter gunships, but now that these aircraft are bought and used by the Tehran-allied Maliki government, the left has lost interest – the subjugation and genocide are, as usual, approved or disapproved dependent on the perpetrator’s and backers’ identity, and the left’s long love affair with Tehran means that there can be no liberal or leftist condemnation of that regime’s participation in and sponsorship of repression and mass slaughter, either domestic or regional.

Likewise on Palestine, the fact that Israel’s subjugation and oppression are primarily backed and sponsored by Western powers means that expressing support for Palestinian freedom and horror at Israel’s brutal subjugation and slaughter are rightly de rigeur for any liberal or leftist, while the political right automatically aligns itself with Israel. In both cases, this is only nominally out of any concern or interest in the subjugated people being slaughtered by warplanes, who simply serve as useful props for either condemning or supporting Western governments’ policy, being labelled victims of genocide or terrorists by the left or right respectively. If, by some miracle, Russia and China were to switch overnight to being Israel’s primary supporters while the US proclaimed itself the backer of Palestinian freedom, there is no doubt that the vast majority of liberals and leftists would become ardent Zionists overnight, while the right would take to the streets for Palestinian freedom, despite the actual subjugation and slaughter themselves being unchanged.

This is most clearly shown at present in Syria, where the world’s liberals and leftists have adopted the same Islamophobic rhetoric they properly abhor when deployed by Tel Aviv or Washington to justify a totalitarian regime’s genocide which has now been underway for over three years. Assad and Tehran, just as adept as any hasbara at prompting the hatred of Muslims never far beneath the surface with most Westerners fed War on Terror drivel for over 13 years, add a patina of anti-imperialist oratory to keep the useful idiots happy in justifying a genocidal Nakba unprecedented in the past 65 years. Meanwhile Tel Aviv’s supporters on the right, who themselves have no real objection to Assad’s genocide continuing, enthusiastically point to the left’s support of Assad in order to justify their own backing for Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

This monstrous alternate indifference to or exploitation of people’s subjugation and slaughter as a political tool is, of course, not limited to the Middle East; it can also be seen in North Korea, DRC, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, Kashmir, Burma, where oppression and slaughter are also viewed as ideological tools in an endless point-scoring ideological dispute. With Washington having outsourced its endless ‘War on Terror’ as a global franchise and the world’s left long ago abandoning the great ideals of universal brotherhood, of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité as rights for all humankind in favour of selective, expedience-based faux-compassion, the bodies of the subjugated and slaughtered peoples are reduced to a one-dimensional backdrop for political posturing. Reduced to mere ciphers useful for political debate, the dead, both ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving,’ are, in the end, ‘collateral damage’ all round.

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