Two months ago, a plane disappeared and 239 people simply vanished off the face of the earth. No one could say where the plane had gone or why it had disappeared. The world media persisted with the story for long, with experts of all hues giving it their all. The governments of the world chipped in and displayed the technological marvels at their command to scour from the sky and to spy swathes of under-sea, to search for a plane no one knew had gone where. A lot was also said about crowd-sourcing the search and thousands – if not millions – of netizens pored over hundreds – if not thousands – of satellite images looking for the lost plane. Nothing turned up. No plane, no people, no clue about what might have happened. The media’s interest dwindled, the governments withdrew their largesse quietly, and no one knows what is the stage at which the crowd-sourced search is.
A month ago 276 young girls were kidnapped in Nigeria by a cowardly group that terrorizes people in the name of Islam. The area of operation of this group is not a secret but no government operations have been initiated in earnest – neither by the home country nor by countries that presume to be the global conscience-keepers. Reports BBC News, ‘A senior US official said Washington was … considering a Nigerian request for surveillance aircraft’ and the British High Commissioner had said ‘The eye in the sky, even if it were able to be focused on the spot, isn’t a panacea,’ explaining that while drones could help gather intelligence, caution was of the essence. [What caution when young girls are being assaulted by a bunch of goons and are likely to lose more than their life in any case?]. This dust off the sleeve kind of response of the government perhaps takes a cue from the media, which lost interest after initially going to town reporting on an individual from the delinquent group who issued an open challenge, seemingly to the powers of the world to do what they could to rescue the girls, publicly announcing the intention of his group to sell off or marry off the school children who had dared to try and educate themselves despite having been born in the wrong gender. After a hiatus, the media turned its attention to the Nigerian girls once again yesterday: they were agog with the news that the US President’s spouse took the unprecedented step of taking over her husband’s weekly address to say they were ‘outraged and heartbroken’ over the abduction of the Nigerian girls. There is, to the best of my knowledge, no crowd sourcing, sharing of satellite imagery, etc. as the world doesn’t seem to be interested as much in the prospect of tracing some missing girls as a missing plane. On the other hand, eyes in the sky, perhaps, cannot penetrate woods and discover what lies moving in the midst of the undergrowth beneath. In any case, the girls remain lost to their families. There are valid guesses that can be made about where the girls are likely to be, and where their captors can be caught. But who is looking?
Two events for an unaffected world. Twice two hundred tragedies for the individual families. That is all it boils down to in the end. But should we pause and ask how far we, the ordinary people, can bring to bear the power of our eyeballs on the media, and how much we can make the power of democracy work to bring the governments down from their elite, boardroom mindsets. A mysteriously missing plane is a priority – if only to bring to some kind of closure the angst of the loved ones left behind. But don’t missing girls matter at all?