‘Psychic numbing‘ is a relatively new term, assigned to the phenomenon which shows people tend to feel less urgent compassion, and tend to give less, when the suffering in question is shown to be more systemic and more pervasive, or affecting larger numbers of people. Some psychologists believe it is linked to our intuitive sense that if one suffers alone, the suffering is worse, but if one is accompanied, there might be some security in numbers, not just emotionally, but practically.
The individual does not actually suffer less, but somehow, human beings —across cultures, ages groups and regions— appear to have an almost inborn tendency to convince themselves that the one who suffers with others is somehow safer. This is, of course, rarely true. While yes, a young boy might survive because his older sister goes without food, two young children in a population beset with pervasive, persistent scarcity or political disorder, may be at significantly heightened risk of violence, or even enslavement.
Continue reading “‘Psychic Numbing’: Why does mass suffering induce mass indifference?”
A UN envoy has said the fighting in Sri Lanka, which has continually targetted unarmed civilians and civilian infrastructure and has left an estimated 190,000 without shelter, food, water or adequate medical care, could become “an unthinkable humanitarian catastrophe“, according to the Red Cross. A UN spokesman in Colombo has warned there could be a “bloodbath” as government forces escalate the intensity of their fight to seize the last remaining territory held by the rebels.
The UN spokesman said the slaughter of further numbers of ethnic Tamil Sri Lankan civilians “seems inevitable” as he charges the government appears to have “no end except the end-game”: the UN has warned the Sri Lankan government against indiscriminate military action in civilian areas, and today there have been calls for an independent investigation, including possible charges of war crimes and/or crimes against humanity for the still unconfirmed but reportedly high number of civilian dead.
Continue reading “‘Unimaginable Humanitarian Catastrophe’ Unfolding in Sri Lanka”
The government of Sudan, based in Khartoum, and under the rule of Pres. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has expelled more than a dozen international aid organizations from the country, charging that their activities in Darfur helped agents for the International Criminal Court (ICC) develop their war crimes case against Bashir. Bashir has been indicted on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes, and a fierce crack-down on dissent, press and international visitors, has been underway since.
One source, who wished to remain anonymous for reasons of personal safety, said there is increasing volume of calls and messages coming from aid workers in Darfur, saying they are afraid and the situation is deteriorating rapidly. While the government has pledged that local aid workers and UN agencies will fill the gap left by the departing NGOs, those expelled represent as much as half the aid, in the world’s largest humanitarian aid project.
Continue reading “Forcing Aid Groups Out of Darfur Puts Millions at Risk”
The Sudanese government attempted an artful campaign of misinformation by way of its presentation at the 53rd Commission on the Status of Women last week in New York. The event, hosted by the Sudanese Women Parliamentary Caucus (SWPC), focused on a government-backed study that was designed to show Khartoum to be concerned about violence against women, willing to take great pains to combat it, yet unable to find evidence of many cases in war-torn Darfur.
Despite hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, and reports of rapes per year exceeding 10,000, eve of the government supporting the use of rape as a “tool of war”, the study counted only those cases where the government’s narrow legal definition of rape (”proven” and documented prior to any investigation) permitted actual charges and an eventual conviction. Despite the session’s being advertised as focusing on “women in conflict”, not one aspect of conflict, in the abstract or the particular, was mentioned, save the sparing now-and-then references to “the camps”.
Continue reading “Explaining Away Violence Against Women in Darfur, Sudan Gov’t at UN”