Tuesday, 13 January 2015

A guest entry

I've had so much feedback from this mornings post, all supportive, some so eloquently written. So much so that I've asked for permission to post this comment from a person who understands the conditions of this world so well. I just wish others got like he does. So here are the words of my most eloquent friend, enjoy:

Ideologically, I'm deeply rooted in the humanism that believes in the inherent goodness of individuals, in our innate desire to love and be loved, to do good by others, to live peacefully and well within family and community, to enjoy beauty, to strive for happiness, to treasure our children, and to make sacrifices to achieve these ends. I think all human societies share very similar aspirations.

But governments across the world have created a political system where resources are concentrated overwhelmingly in an ever smaller group of predominantly "western" nations, and ever smaller oligarchies within them. The suffering of others does not drive policy making. The United Nations is a byword for bureaucracy and the intransigence of various power blocs. So despite having the means, medicine and countless other resources, we collectively do so very, very little to alleviate poverty, disease, starvation, degradation and subsistence living which afflicts billions of people. UNICEF calculates that 22,000 children a day die directly because of poverty. 

We are casually callous, immune to suffering on a scale so immense it's easier to ignore than to address.  How pathetic are we when, every few years, a motley collection of rock stars come together to release a single aimed at getting us to "Feed the World".  We have resources enough to provide clean water and to create sustainable agriculture across the planet, but just lack the collective will because there's no short-term profit in it. But we'll open factories and processing plants in the third world to exploit cheap and child labour, creating misery abroad and unemployment at home. 

This wilful blindness to global suffering is mirrored in how  we tolerate more localised deprivation. How can the world's richest nation accept having no welfare system worth the name, plus huge inequalities in its health and education provision?  

At my most deeply cynical I can believe that the "War on Terror" is a US/UK invention to channel an uneasy populace's antagonism toward a perceived external threat, creating  fear which makes acceptable the government giving itself emergency powers. George Orwell could hardly have created better euphemisms than the "Department of Homeland Security" or the"Patriot Act". Bush senior coined the term "War on Terror" within hours of 9/11 - it's a brilliantly elastic phrase that can apply to activities in Bali, Beirut, Birmingham or Brisbane - as it doesn't name an enemy beyond anything that scares us. Such as weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist, Saddam’s supposed collusion in 9/11, and so on. 

The War on Terror has created the very thing it purports to oppose: imagine the terror of those held and tortured without trial in international detention centres and at Guantonomo; the terror of civilians in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Libya, the Gaza Strip and other places bombed to oblivion.

Yet somehow the War on Terror excludes what happens in the Ukraine, in China,  in Zimbabwe, in Indonesia, the Philippines, Nigeria, Gaza, various Gulf States, and a host of other places. Leaving aside the dynamics of what is actually happening in Syria, Jordan and Egypt.
But 12 dead cartoonists/satirists in France and we can get a couple of million on the streets. Including a bevy of world leaders. Three dead in a Sydney coffee shop fills the national cathedral and is portrayed as a profound national tragedy, a loss of innocence. But that innocence was lost the moment our soldiers’ boots first tramped across middle eastern sand.

Any deliberate death is tragic and irrevocable for the bereaved but, weighed in the scale, our collective grief is but a feather compared to the oppressive burden many peoples carry daily. We wave our feathers around to show our unbreakability of spirit; but then go home to live in comfort and security denied to most of the world.

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