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Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Blog 137 “I hope the Russians love their children too.”

(Sting 1985)

Of course they do and that is the point of the song. And so too do Afghan, Inuit and Philippine parents love their children. But the notion of ‘otherness’ stalks humanity like a deadly virus; the idea that we can treat some human beings differently to how we would want to be treated is in the ascendency. It’s worth reminding ourselves that this was the mindset that justified both the Holocaust and African slavery.

The idea that parental love may differ across the world is an insidious fallacy that nevertheless worms its way into normalisation. We are encouraged to see ‘other’ at every turn – whether it’s demonising immigrants or the callous refusal to help ‘foreigners’ floating to their deaths in the med. Surely Union Carbide (of Dow Chemicals) could not have left untold thousands dead and suffering down generations in Bhopal, India - 1984 - if they did not assume those families were less important than their profits. Certainly less important than themselves.

Whether its tacit acceptance that millions are trapped in modern day slavery or the mistreatment closer to home of young people in asylum seeker detention centres, we surely would be less sanguine if we actually acknowledged that those suffering are human beings just like us.

All democratic governments and major religions espouse the idea that we are equal. But across the globe a human hierarchy of worth is sharply, shamefully evident.

Last Thursday I found myself in another school hall; the third senior school I’ve experienced with my three daughters. The current one is a city school here in Edinburgh and it is the most diverse in every way of any school I have had the opportunity to send a child to. Just one of the advantages of living in a vibrant city.

Looking down the list of names of those receiving awards there seemed to be  family names from every continent and looking out on the bright, beaming faces of the pupils there certainly were representatives of most countries I could think of. Around me parents, from so many cultures I couldn’t list them, babbled in proud anticipation. Black, white or brown – Scottish, Polish, African, English, Chinese or Spanish – we were all happy to sit there waiting for the 2 seconds when our child would be handed a little bit of paper to say they had done well in this or that subject. I realised it wasn’t multiculturalism on display it was simply humanity.

The wonderful thing about a school like this one is that its Babel reversed. Babel is, remember, a tale of a curse or sorts; an Old Testament story of folk cast into confusion with one another for something like arrogance. Doesn’t it stand to reason that to be different but genuinely together as human beings is a massive blessing?

And like every school I’ve been in on such an occasion – prior to the parade of slouching or bouncing or nervously giggling or striding youngsters being conveyor-belted onto the stage - there was the hum and buzz and a certain something in the air. It’s like soft electricity. It’s almost tangible. It’s fragile and powerful. It’s like a cocktail of slightly unstable ingredients that when mixed create a mesmeric magical effervescence. But last Thursday I realised what at least two of those elements were; the pulsating potential of youth and the surge of parental love. And no parent in that room felt differently about their child because their background or country of origin was different.

If, as science tells us, our dissimilarities to other species are so few (in genetic terms at least) then imagine how few differences there are in reality between one human and another. Often those differences come down to opportunities and the way we are treated – so isn’t it time to treat others the way we would wish to be treated ourselves?

More importantly – if rich countries would stop plundering and pissing in poor countries, the planet would not be awash with  vulnerable people risking life and limb to escape poverty, war, disease, anarchy, exploitation and disaster. We can’t have it both ways.


  1. and of course we are not even the only species to name our offspring individually. High time we were all human (except tories of course!) who appear to be exempt.

    1. If you just fed everyone pizza&cake the world would be full of luuurv

    2. Great post Amanda. And Oonah - I know your comment on Tories is amusing and tongue in cheek but isn't the point of the message that we share humanity with everyone - even Tories! - so the language we use is important. AL Kennedy did a brilliant Point of View a week or so ago about courtesy -
      - hope you don't mind me sharing this Amanda, as it seems to be in the same spirit as your blog post x

  2. Absolutely, Amanda! Sharing this post.