By: Madeleine Chan, Staff Writer
Don’t get me wrong. I like memes just as much as the next Gen Z/Millennial youngling. Two identical Spider-Men pointing to each other? That’s my shit. Joking about SFU’s lack of adequate response to snow? Chef’s kiss. But when I see memes that joke about WWIII, I am appalled. Not simply because of the serious possibility of a war happening in the Middle East, but because of the enormous amount of privilege that creating and sharing these images demonstrates.
Recent conflicts between the United States and Iran have sparked a flurry of #WWIII content across the internet. There are constant tweets joking about being drafted into war. Meanwhile on Facebook, SFU’s own Dank Memes Gang have posted multiple memes about student conscription. These images fly in the face of the real human costs of war around the world, while at the same time flippantly flaunting the fact that conscription hasn’t been a part of Canada’s military agenda in generations.
This country has had the luxury of not being an active target in recent wars. Canadian civilians can watch newsworthy aerial highlights of dropped bombs safely behind their screens, without having to experience or even witness the micro-level human carnage on the ground. How can people joke about a war whose effects would most likely never touch their lives? War has not been seen inside Canada’s borders in ages. There have been no bombs, no wartime human rights violations, and no propagandist racial prejudices abroad against Canadians or Canadian culture.
This isn’t to say that people in the west have not been affected by overseas conflicts, though. Tragically, the Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 was recently shot down in the midst of tensions between the US and Iran, killing 176 people — including 63 Canadians. But how dare some sit comfortably in the west, jokingly positioning themselves as the major victims in this situation, when in reality it is people in the Middle East who have suffered for decades under the United States’ endless imperial conquests masquerading as proactive security?
I understand the desire to joke about frankly terrifying concepts in a seemingly non-consequential way. However, when we joke about being conscripted to go kill the people who will be affected by the horrors of war, we show just how rich in safety we are. To have the privilege to poke fun at this topic when we sit secure and safe in our homes with no fear of danger is dangerous in itself, as it breeds apathy towards the real atrocities that our neighbour to the south is committing — again.
I implore everyone who creates or shares these kinds of memes to think more deeply about jokes made about war. We should be looking for solutions and advocating for peace, not lounging in our existential self-entitlement. Save the memes for something that doesn’t put petty displays of privilege above those who actually are under threat of dying.