Every week, Playboy, with journalist Lilly Dancyger and Creatives for Progressive Action—a national community of artists, filmmakers, writers and activists using their influence and voices to pursue meaningful and measurable progressive action—will deliver a timely overview of global and domestic political events, controversial policy changes, elections, campaigns and government happenings that deserve our attention and citizen action. From bite-size activism to in-person engagement, our goal is activate the marginalized, make our voices heard and ultimately win the fight for social justice for all. From protecting free speech and freedom of identity to safeguarding freedom of (and from) religion and a free press, both here at home and around the world, we will promote the ideas and values that support equal representation for all under the law. Now get out there and make a difference.
THIS WEEK: A FOCUS ON SYRIA
Social media has made the atrocities in Syria feel both more urgently real, and at the same time more remote and abstract.
Because of the 24-hour news cycle and the constant barrage of news updates and graphic images, people in the United States have watched in real-time as a brutal civil war destroyed Syria’s greatest cities, killed and displaced its citizens and traumatized its children. As their despotic leader used banned chemical weapons against his own people, and as our own used that as an excuse to drop more bombs. It’s been ever-present, un-ignorable. If Facebook had been around in the 1940s, German citizens would have had a much harder time claiming they had no idea what the Nazis were up to. The question is: Would they have done anything more about it?
Syria has been imploding before our eyes, but because we see and hear about it every day, many people have fallen prey to what’s known as “tragedy fatigue.” If we see something enough—apparently even photos of dead children, decimated cities and victims of chemical warfare—we become immune to it. It becomes just more background to our ever-more-crowded online lives. If you see enough photos of refugees, you stop seeing individuals and start to see an anonymous mass. It stops feeling real.
But then something else happens, worse than before, that momentarily shakes us out of our apathy and makes us feel real human compassion, pain and outrage. The question then becomes what to do with that emotion. We’re across the globe. How can we help? Unfortunately, because what’s happening in Syria exists, for detached Americans on the internet, that’s where our reactions happen too. We express our compassion, pain and outrage in what seems like the only way we know how any more: on social media.
But, as we all hopefully know by now: Retweets are not actually activism. Posting a crying-face emoji with the hashtag #Syria doesn’t actually help doctors who are risking their lives to help the injured get their hands on more supplies. Sharing that now-iconic photo of Omran Daqneesh, the little boy from Aleppo covered in blood and debris, staring ahead in heartbreaking shock, didn’t stop subsequent bombings—not even from our own government.
Yes, raising awareness is important. We need to share information and shocking images with each other to keep the malaise away. Talking about it is better than not talking about it. But it’s not enough. The next time you feel a pang of real human emotion about Syria, don’t just feed it back into the internet loop of unreality. Use that real emotion in the real world.
There are a lot of organizations odoing real-life, tangible things to help the people of Syria. Giving a few dollars to one (or all) of them doesn’t take much longer than writing a status update about how your heart is breaking for Syria, but it will have an exponentially larger impact.
Here are a few organizations doing important work in Syria that could use your help:
1. THE WHITE HELMETS
The White Helmets are a boots-on-the-ground organization made up of volunteers who go into the most dangerous areas of Syria and bring as many people as possible out of rubble and into relative safety. This is some of the most important work being done right now. Help them do it.
Through IRIS (Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services) you can co-sponsor a refugee family resettling the United States. This is a direct, impactful way to make a difference for one family, and is an especially powerful statement amid so much ant-refugee sentiment.
3. PROJECT AMAL OUSALAM
Project Amal ouSalam provides educational and social services to refugee and displaced children. Ivanka Trump claimed to be “heartbroken and outraged” by what’s happening to Syria’s children. Prove that your sentiments aren’t as empty as hers.
4. ISLAMIC REFLIEF USA
Islamic Relief USA is providing food, medical aid, water, blankets, mattresses, clothing, and more to people in Syria who desperately need those things.
5. KARAM FOUNDATION
Karam Foundation is a nonprofit whose overhead is covered through means other than donations – which means that 100% of what you give goes directly into helping Syrian children and family. It’s also run by a team of mostly Syrian-American women.
Check out this more comprehensive list for more suggestions.
Have an issue you’re particularly passionate about? Maybe it’s anti-racism, or LGBT rights, or the environment, or women’s issues? Email Kristen Murtha, firstname.lastname@example.org, to get involved in this organization and to have it featured in this series.