I have spent my life listening to people lament the repetitive dreariness of the mainstream news cycle - murder, terrorism, economic woe, natural disaster - but the last two weeks have been particularly troubling. First, there was the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which led to large scale protests and rioting, resulting in a overwhelming police response largely seen as excessive. Then there was the execution of journalist James Foley by the Islamic State (IS) in Syria. Both of these events happened against the backdrop of the ongoing fighting in Gaza between Hamas and Israel and the separatist movement in Ukraine.
"What is the cause of all of this?" One might ask. Is it in our human nature, or is there something else at work? While it is a foolhardy exercise to try and reduce these tragedies to a single cause, there is something that they all share. They are all rooted in two groups of people that do not trust one another and, on a very fundamental level, do not understand one another.
This brings us to the heart of empathy. If I could truly understand your worldview - the reasons you feel the way you do about a particular issue or set of issues - then there is much less of a chance that I will resort to violence. I can put myself in your shoes.
How do we bridge this gap of understanding? One way, is through fighting ignorance.
This is one of the principle aims of Outernet. With a library that spans language, geography, culture, and history, everyone everywhere can finally read anything they want. We all crave information. If there is an unknown, we want to make it known. Nothing can take the place of experiencing diversity in the world, but if I am a white person who knows nothing about black history, I am probably much less likely to seek out that experience than if I do. Understanding breeds empathy.
We have been thinking about these events at Outernet, particularly the riots in Ferguson since they are so close to some of us, and we created this website as a way to talk about why this happens in the United States. Let us know what you think in the comments.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://blog.outernet.is/2014/08/a-statement-about-ferguson-missouri.html