Education is key in responding to media portrayals of Middle East conflict

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As daily news reports show destroyed communities and shattered lives, the Australian Psychological Society (APS) says that people are likely to feel very distressed at the escalating conflict in the Middle East.

APS President Amanda Gordon advises while it is easy to feel an overwhelming sense of helplessness at the situation, it is vital not to give in to despair and think that nothing can be done.

“Educating ourselves about the conflict is important,” says Gordon. “If we give in to simple explanations of what is happening it is easy to fall into the trap of seeing the conflict in a black and white way, in terms of one side being ‘right’ and the other ‘wrong’. This is not a helpful response.”

Gordon suggests becoming informed about the many issues surrounding the conflict, and considering the difficult questions about how the conflict arose. “It is crucial to remember that we cannot understand war or any other national or global crises by passively watching television and accepting the version of events given. We recommend that people approach the mass media coverage of the Middle East violence with caution, limit their viewing of television coverage and seek alternative views.”

APS Interest Group, Psychologists for Peace (PFP), also encourage people to find ways of channeling their distress at the violence into peace-building projects.

Dr Susie Burke, PFP National Convenor says, “Talking with friends is often a good way for developing ideas for constructive activities. Together, people can start to find ways of doing things that contribute to a more peaceful world.”

Some ideas for activities that people might undertake include:

  • Writing to world leaders urging them to give more attention to preventive, peace-building measures.
  • Attending peace rallies in solidarity with all victims of violence;
  • Learning peaceful ways to resolve personal conflicts;
  • Requesting that conflict resolution skills are taught in schools; and
  • Protesting against the sale of violent toys and video games.

Others might decide to put their energies into being better neighbours, or helping out a friend in need.

Dr Burke says, ‘It doesn’t really matter what the project is – the important thing is that people see that they can make a difference to suffering somewhere in the world.”

The APS Tip sheet, Communicating about violence, peace and social justice has many helpful suggestions for talking about these issues.

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For more information contact:

Elaine Grant
Australian Psychological Society
Ph: 03 8662 3301