I have been living in Sweden for a little over three years, the other day something happened that certain communities on the internet and around the world have been suggesting would happen for quite some time. Ever since Sweden made the headlines for supposedly letting in too many syrian refugees in 2015, right up to the recent (ill informed) commentary from one well known power-man in the USA, a man whose name i refuse to utter in this post.
As those of you know by now – a deranged individual drove a truck into a crowd of people killing four and injuring many right in the middle of central Stockholm. When i heard the news i was just minutes out of a meeting with a young Syrian refugee.
I had agreed to meet this person because i had been informed by a colleague that the young Syrian had a dream, a dream in which my colleague believed i could help make a reality. The young man wanted to make a documentary film, a film about what has been happening on the ground in Syria – his goal, in his words – “to bring the truth of the situation in Syria to the Europeans”
Working as a citizen journalist in Syria, he told me he had accumulated over twenty hours of video footage from demonstrations, air strikes and his own journey with the people in which he was able to escape Syria. Naturally, i first asked what are the risks in you pursuing this film project? are your friends and family at risk if you make this film?
He explained to me that he sees no risks, and that his family are in a safe part of Syria, his explanation stumped me immediately; as i was not aware there are any safe places in Syria. I dont pretend to be the most well informed person when it comes to Syria, but the idea there are safe places in Syria took me slightly by surprise.
He wanted help to make a documentary film from the footage he had collected, I did my best to explain the processes involved (having not yet made a documentary myself, but very much in the middle of the very same processes) We parted ways and agreed to meet up again once he had written a synopsis for the documentary in English, so i can begin to see what he sees.
After coming out of that meeting with the young Syrian journalist who was trying to shine a light on what happened in his country; i was immediately approached by a colleague with the sound of a panicked Swedish reporters voice coming from his mobile phone, the broadcast stated there had been people killed in Stockholm due to an terror attack.
I stopped still.
First with that feeling of dread filling my chest, and then recalling back to my very recent conversation with the Syrian refugee.
For a moment both events collided in my mind, on one hand i had just met a man from Syria whose goal was to inform Europeans of the situation on the ground in Syria through the documentary film format, and at the very same time there was another person in Stockholm who had just murdered four people in an effort to have his views brought to attention, off course there was no connection between the two events but it made me think about how attention is acquired in today’s day and age, both in the physical and non-physical spaces we as humans frequent.
When one wants attention for a cause that they feel deeply about, regardless of the cause, one may find themselves asking some unforeseen and unruly questions of themselves, (what could i do to get attention for my cause? what barriers exist for having my cause noticed?) and in doing so potentially draw some very extreme conclusions in order to get the attention they crave.
In a world with so many different groups and individuals all striving and competing for attention around their cause both online and off, has it become the norm for some to use extreme measures to get the attention they desire?