Tag Archives: Syria

Pepsi Ad Reunites Country with Anger, Making Us Forget Syria

On April 6th, terrifying pictures of children and adults lying on the ground were flooding social media, denoting what The New York Times says is the “worst chemical attack in years” for Syria. At least 70 people were killed, and 100 hospitalized—many of them children. Many were devastated by this, but this news story only got so much attention over the course of the next few hours, and there were little to no following posts with fundraisers or support for Syria. Sadly, Twitter also lacked the typical hashtag go-to of millennials tweeting their support for a country in need.

The same day, much later, social media swarmed with pictures of posts regarding Pepsi. Pepsi recently released a very controversial ad starring Kendall Jenner that unintentionally degraded the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as underestimated the overall issue of police brutality. While this is definitely a massive issue, it is simultaneously acting as a distraction for what we all need to really worry about.

Our generation, particularly the millennials, are infatuated with bringing something down or making fun of people or things that mess up. It seems as though it’s easier to say “Haha, Pepsi is horrible,” than to discuss how scary a massive chemical poisoning is and what to do about it. An ad that does a horrible job of outlining a way to fix an issue is bad, but surely not as problematic as hundreds of children and adults dying from chemical attacks.

Syrian refugees
“What’s insightful about this is that it does show that the millennial generation will come together and tackle something that we all view as a problem.” Photo from: https://media1.s-nbcnews.com/j/newscms/2016_09/1440106/160301-refugees-calais-terrorists-mdl-904_a417a7420770175b4dc9239cfd90e096.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000.jpg

Stephen Colbert recently praised Kendall Jenner, reminding us how our country is more divided than ever, “but today, it seems that everyone has come together to join the protest against the new protest ad from Pepsi.” What’s insightful about this is that it does show that the millennial generation will come together and tackle something that we all view as a problem, but it certainly doesn’t display our ability to attempt to solve something in the right way, let alone distinguish what’s important and what’s not.

So Pepsi made an incredibly unrelatable and offensive ad—it happens and, while they at least apologized, this is certainly not the worst possible thing that can occur right now. It seems that anything we can make funny tweets or memes about will get more attention, which is a more mundane approach and interpretation of a situation. However, our perceptions of events in relation to our excessive use of social media are getting a bit out of hand, as displayed by the reactions to Pepsi. While it might seem fun and easy to put down a company for making an awful commercial, there are more important things to focus on that will impact us more than a bad commercial ever will. The Pepsi ad might have offended some people in the short-run, but in the long-run, chemical poisoning and death should affect us even more and could affect us even worse if we don’t act and try to make a change.

 

Art under attack

Rape, murder, and arson flood the airwaves. Flagrant disregard for the sanctity of human life clog television screens. Iraq and Syria are buried in rubble, and perched on top of the ruins like flocks of vultures is the Islamic State. Dust from destroyed homes, places of worship, and businesses coats everything in a fine gritty film. The landscape is so foreign it might as well be the moon.

Sadly, it’s not just modern trappings of domesticity that have been incinerated by ISIS’ vicious wave of terror. Mixed amongst glass windows, steel beams, and cement cinderblocks are millennia of priceless relics from the ancient world. For nigh on a year, Islamic State militants have been toppling, drilling, and torching irreplaceable pieces of art all over Syria and Iraq.

art under attack
“Mixed amongst glass windows, steel beams, and cement cinderblocks are millennia of priceless relics from the ancient world.”

Only last month in August, ISIS succeeded in blowing up the best preserved temple in Palmyra, Syria; which had previously survived almost 2,000 years of turmoil. The story for other artifacts is similar. Statues, reliefs, paintings all had managed to withstand the brutal tests of time; holding out against wars, erosion, and the black market. Monuments to the awe inspiring color and complexity of the Ancient Near East decimated where they reside. Museums and their staff bombed, ties to our collective past shredded. The horrors being committed by these religious extremists are numerous and unspeakable. The devastation and despair being inflicted onto hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians can not be understated. Flesh and blood are worth more than limestone and lapis lazuli ever will. However, when the basic principles of our collective humanity are being systematically turned into gravel, when the bedrock of our past and the eyeglass to our future lies in potholes, and the world’s heritage is actively threatened  by men who are so frightened of the idea of a world where things are not black and white that they are willing to kill the scholars who protect the greyscale? Then we as a global community must come together.

Dr. Khaled al- As’ad was a world renowned Syrian professor of antiquities, who spent his entire career preserving the Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra. When ISIS demanded he lead them to the temple’s greatest treasures, the 82 year old refused. Khaled al- As’ad was beheaded on August 19, 2015 for protecting the past, maintaining the present, and ultimately, preserving the future for generations to come.

Humans of The Middle East

If you have a Facebook, you’ve probably seen a Humans of New York (HONY) post at least once. HONY was started in the summer of 2010 by Brandon Stanton as a photography project. Stanton walks the streets of New York City and photographs the intriguing people who live there.

humans-of-new-york
“Stanton has a remarkable talent for talking to complete strangers and photographing them in a way that lets you see just a glimpse of their everyday lives, including a quote by the subject.”

Stanton has a remarkable talent for talking to complete strangers and photographing them in a way that lets you see just a glimpse of their everyday lives, including a quote by the subject. Sometimes these quotes are playful and innocent, but sometimes they’re extremely personal.

For example, one post showed a young man with a Mohawk and tattoos wearing spikes and leather. In his quote, the man explained that he went to jail for threatening to kill an older man who was stalking his younger sister. Many times Stanton photographs people’s hands or feet as they confess something personal, to keep their identity hidden. But even the photos that don’t show the hardship in people’s eyes somehow manage to show emotion.

Although the photos from NYC have always touched my heart, HONY’s newest adventure has done something incredible. In August, Stanton set out on a 50-day adventure around the world to photograph a whole array of people. While on this adventure, Stanton visited the Middle East.

Since 2001, the Middle East has been depicted as a desolate land full of barbarians and terrorists. Since then, it’s been hard to humanize the Middle East. But in the 13 years since 9/11, Stanton has done something that no one else has: he somehow overcame that barrier, and humanized the Middle East in a way that is absolutely beautiful.

If you’re a faithful HONY follower, you can appreciate the conversations that Stanton has with his subjects in New York. When you compare the posts from New York and the Middle East, you can see the same issues come up. One post in particular, a college-aged girl in Jordan explains that she pushes people away because she’s afraid to get hurt. I don’t know about other girls my age, but I’ve felt that way a million times.

Some of the heavier stories include a shop owner recalling the day the Taliban ripped apart his store and killed his friend. Seeing the sadness and terror in his eyes as he recalled the event is truly amazing. We hear about these things on the news, but we brush them off. Seeing a photo of the person, and seeing the words they have said really bring it home.

Since 9/11, there’s been so much judgment and hate towards Middle Easterners. I can recall snide remarks being made about some of my high school classmates who were of Middle Eastern descent, even if they lived in the US for their entire life. What HONY has done in the Middle East may be the most beautiful art project I’ve ever seen. Reading what these people have to say and what they’ve been through is heart wrenching.

No matter what stereotypes an area has, we must remember that the stereotypes are only true for a small group. As humans, we have to open our hearts and see that there are others who have the same battles, and there are some who have seen horrors beyond our imagination. Regardless, we need to start realizing these are people, just like us.

I challenge everyone to spend just 30 minutes scrolling through HONY. It will give you an amazing new perspective on not only the Middle East, but the people you pass on the streets. You never know what amazing stories someone has.