Remember Mohamed Bouazizi? The 26-year-old Tunisian man who set himself on fire and triggered the Arab Spring? Or Aylan Kurdi? The lifeless toddler who was washed ashore in Turkey and made the world pay attention to the refugee disaster?
There’s a new name to remember: Pateh Sabally, a 22-year-old Gambian who has lived in Italy for the past two years.
He drowned yesterday in the most beautiful city in the world, Venice. He drowned while hundreds of people watched, some laughing at him and recording on video. Nobody jumped in to save him.
“This footage will make you sick. If there is any part of you that is human, it will make you sick to the stomach.”
When he was seconds from death, someone finally threw in three life rings. Close enough to ease their guilt, just not close enough for Pateh to reach them. So his head just stopped bobbing and he drowned.
This footage will make you sick. If there is any part of you that is human, it will make you sick to the stomach.
A 22-year-old man in his deepest hour of need, being left to die by a cackling mob of zombies. Some say he was suicidal. What they mean is he was black.
But don’t take any comfort in your whiteness. Black is today’s construct. It can always change. Tomorrow it might be your kind that is treated less human.
Take comfort in feeling sick, because it means you are still human.
You are human in a world where many people have lost their humanity and many more, like Pateh Sabally, have been robbed of their right to it.
“This world is sick. And if we do not react now, it will only get sicker.”
Imagine you were 22. Imagine you were drowning in broad daylight in Venice, surrounded by hundreds of people. Imagine nobody jumping in to save you. If he wasn’t suicidal before jumping into the water (as some have claimed), he surely wanted to die then. Why live when you know nobody cares enough to save you?
There is another person we must remember. We do not know his name but he was filming and laughing as Pateh Sabally drowned until it was too late and he realised what he had done.
We must hold onto that tiny bit of human being left inside him to realise, at the very least, that he should not be filming this.
That shred of humanity (or guilt) is our life ring. It might be too late. But we must do everything in our power to reach for it before we sink any further.
This world is sick. And if we do not react now, it will only get sicker.
Pateh Sabally’s death served a great purpose. For us to be sick at ourselves and come to this realisation before it is too late. Hopefully. Otherwise, he’ll just be forgotten. And we will be next.
“Imagine you were drowning in broad daylight in Venice, surrounded by hundreds of people. Imagine nobody jumping in to save you.”