Making memes about World War III exemplifies the extent of our privilege

Let’s rewind, say, three weeks in breaking news for the United States.

Before the Iowa caucus, the Superbowl, Kobe Bryant’s death, Coronavirus, the “March for Life”, the Senate impeachment trial, the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, the Ukranian plane being shot down, getting closer… anti-Semitic attacks in Brooklyn, earthquakes in Puerto Rico, wild bush-fires in Australia, the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Quds forces, killed by a U.S airstrike.

Stop there.

We are in the age of information overload. There are billions of things happening in the world and many of them will be alerted on your phone screen, with headlines created to make every event seem pressing, life- threatening, earth-shattering.

Every notable event has been streamlined through a marketing machine designed to make the reader concerned enough to “click”.

The effect of this phenomenon, in my observation, amounts to wide- spread desensitization and ignorance.

I notice this with myself; instead of feeling flooded with anxiety every time I hear an alert, I subconsciously reduce the importance of most pieces of news until I forget it completely. I only remembered those events from January because I scrolled through NPR’s January archive.

To forget those events is a privilege. To be able to remove myself so completely from human tragedy as it is announced on my phone exemplifies my whiteness and my wealth because it exemplifies pure apathy. I don’t have to take Australian wild-fires or disease in China seriously because it doesn’t affect me, chilling in Glencoe.

The day after Qasem Soleimani was killed, hashtags #WWIII and #TheDraft were trending on major social media platforms such as Twitter and TikTok.

Largely stemming from young adults, this was not a hub of discussion but a flood of memes, jokes, and parodies. The posts ranged from creative means of dodging the (currently nonexistent) draft to gags about trying to play dead on an Iranian battlefield and getting shot.

They all had a common denominator; cool, sheer apathy to the actual lives affected by the United States’ decision to, once again, engage with conflict in the Middle East.

Somewhere in our descent towards Internet addiction, quite a few of us have forgotten how to react to terrible events without either making it about ourselves or spinning it into performative comedy.

Many of us are so far removed from the horrors of war that when the threat enters into our sphere, we feel that we don’t have to take it seriously. Itwon’tactuallyinvolveus,andwe know it.

Some will cry that these jokes are coping mechanisms for the powerless,impendingthreatsofthe world.

First of all, war in the Middle East isn’t our trauma to cope with. The lasting result of U.S imperialism in the Middle East has been the terrorization of Iraqi and Afghani citizens, not Americans. There is no reason to believe that a war with Iran would be any different.

To quote a Twitter user, “I live with daily f***ing PTSD from the trauma and I left Iraq 15 years ago… There are real lives on the line and you idiots are making jokes.”

Let’s be honest with ourselves. These jokes aren’t a coping mechanism for real fear of war. They are attempts to use a well-known situation for comedy, a narcissistic use of disengaged empathy as humor. It is a privilege to make jokes about a potential war. It is a privilege not to have to take it seriously.

We have to fight our instinct to dissociate from our humanity. Instead of creating more dead noise, we should utilize our radical instincts for compassion; talk about the conflict, donate to victims of the decade-old Afghanistani war, vote for .

We can’t let ourselves fall victim to information overload. We have a voice that matters, and laughing at dumb jokes about a potential war is a waste of our breath.