The overwhelming majority of attention given to the events in Northern Africa and the Middle East, and those in Japan, focus on the easily discernible. For instance, on April 22, according to Al Jazeera’s Libya Live Blog, U.S. Senator John McCain has urged “every nation, especially the United States, to recognize the Transnational Council as the legitimate voice of the Libyan people.” And in Japan, as reported by the Christian Science Monitor, “the government banned residents from entering the 20-kilometer (12 miles) evacuation zone due to concerns about high levels of accumulated radiation.”
Despite their seeming disparity, these reports share an underlying, though not immediately apparent, similarity. In both cases, new boundaries are being set. McCain is hoping to encourage a new political boundary around Libyan domestic affairs. In particular, he is encouraging Americans, and the world in general, to believe that the proper intermediary between them and the Libyan people is the Transnational Council, not Gaddafi. And in Japan, a different, more physical sort of boundary has been erected. This one intends to keep those whose homes are located near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant away from dangerous levels of radiation.
But, what does noting this dimension accomplish?
It is important to notice which aspect of the boundary setting is being reported on. Those who are setting them are given a much louder voice in the press than those who are affected by them. Why should we take notice of what an American politician has to say about the legitimacy of Libyan governance? And, how did those whose homes are within the newly established no-go zone respond to the new declaration? In both cases, the voices of those reorganized by the declarations are excluded or, at the very least, greatly marginalized.
We might be quick to assume that these measures are primarily focused on “human security,” to borrow a term used in an April 14 meeting of the United Nations’ General Assembly. Perhaps these new borders are intended to protect against what Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro described as “threats [that] can be as sudden and unpredictable as a tsunami or … as protracted and unyielding as an oppressive dictatorship.”
However, being taken in by an apparently universal notion like human security will obscure these situations just as much as focusing on the decisions of boundary-setters. To lump all of the humans involved in these situations as possessing the same concerns is inaccurate. The people of Libya are certainly not either in a pro- or anti-Gaddafi camp. Never are social issues so cut and dry. Nor are the issues facing the Japanese government the same as those whose lives have been devastated by earthquakes, flooding, and radiation, read more from here.
What can we conclude from taking this confrontational approach to interpreting major global events as they are presented to us?
Take notice in these ongoing stories of where in the demarcating of boundaries you are being directed to observe. Who is setting these new borders and why are they doing so? Also, pay attention to those aspects left out of the discourse. Whose voices are not being heard on par with the well paid, highly educated, over amplified spokespersons? The more important news stories, the more difficult to find perspectives, are likely to be hidden behind the walls being erected.