A few days ago my uncle passed away, he was eighty-nine. That left my aunt, who I freely admit is not at a hundred percent, to try to pick up the pieces of her life as best she can. They had been together for more than seventy years, a number I am still trying to wrap my mind around, and I realize she’s going to need help… lots of it. Anyway, some of their life-long friends seem to have effectively taken over her life, making all the choices on her behalf (up to and including burying my uncle, who considered himself Jewish, in a coffin that was decorated with a huge crucifix). I know these people mean well, I know they are doing their best, and I am grateful for everything they are doing, I would be lost without their help, but at the same time that gratitude seems to have become a trap because there have been some instances in which I feel those friends have crossed the line, making my aunt feel both humiliated and disrespected. I tried to point the problem out to one of them, but I was summarily dismissed, I tried to contact other family members to ask for some backup, but most of them are too caught up in their own grief, so here I am, wondering where the line between caring and abuse happens to be, and feeling utterly powerless. It’s not a pleasant feeling.
Yesterday Amnesty International released a report on the dismal conditions experienced by migrant workers in Qatar, where preparations are underway for the 2022 World Cup, and something that seems to amount almost to modern day slavery is legal (that would be the Kafala system).
Anyway, the BBC’s headline reads: Qatar migrant workers ‘treated like animals’ – Amnesty
CNN’s headline is: Amnesty International: Qatar rife with abuse of migrant workers
Reuters’s reads: “Alarming exploitation” of workers in Qatar: Amnesty
The Guardian’s is: Amnesty Report on Qatar exposes ‘grim’ abuse of migrant workers (BTW, The Guardian also features a piece on the rather amusing design of one of the stadiums, you can find that one here)
I think you get the general idea as to what the content of the Amnesty report happens to be, but then -if you dig a little deeper- you come up with the following gem from The Gulf Times, a Qatar-based, English language newspaper: Amnesty commends ‘accessible, open’ Qatar…
Say WHAT? Are these guys even reading from the same freaking report? Well, the truth is that they probably are… with a magnifying glass, and looking for the one or two favorable sentences that were inserted out of politeness.
Of course, while this example is more transparent than most (in fact it is so transparent as to be downright pathetic), the fact that Qatar is a tiny country that is not English speaking serves to make the discrepancy even more glaring by providing us with a single headline from the one local source that is trying desperately to put a favorable spin on a train wreck. If Qatar were a large, English speaking country, the general picture would be more balanced, and the truth is that there is always some bias when it comes to the local news. In other words, while this is an extreme example, it probably reflects a reality that is far more common than we’d like to believe… so, how aware are you of what your country looks like through the lenses of foreign, and preferably foreign language, news organizations?