In the old nursery rhyme from the 1700s ‘…this little piggy had roast beef [but] this little piggy had none…’ which is pretty much the state of the world today.
As we know, poor sanitation kills a child under 5 every 100 seconds. So by the time you get towards the end of this post, a child, probably otherwise healthy, has faded away due to lack of clean water – in 2016. When these things make the news it is as heart-rending images of starving African babies on charity advertisements – in-between the ads for luxury cars (oh and someone is killed in or by a motor vehicle every 25 seconds). They are never portrayed as a damning indictment of global priorities, historical exploitation and the consumer disease of developed countries.
As a little exercise I scanned the front pages in the supermarket news stand and looked at the trending lists on the internet. I saw items about a rich woman’s dress, which celebs were shacking up together and who was appearing in which soap opera.
Yes – this is what the media feeds us – unadulterated trivia and misdirection - but isn’t it time we grew up and stopped chewing it?
Accepting that the current state of affairs is wrong is part way to accepting we have to do something and then we are into the really uncomfortable bit. We may have to alter how we live.
If children in poor countries – not Western darlings with their mobile phones, designer trainers and diabetes – are to have clean water, the earth’s resources have to be better shared. And what a headache that would be. We’d have to – for example – tackle tax havens (see blog 179) in a very direct and muscular way. We’d have to deal with national leaders who see their country’s resources as their personal pocket money fund.
But here’s the thing. If we stopped behaving like morons it wouldn’t just be better for poor people it would be better for everyone.
Inequality is one of the leading causes of social unrest as well as bloody miserable lives for those at the bottom of the pile.
I’m not saying don’t worry about, for example, terrorism. But, you know, compared to pollution, and traffic and bad food and addictions and depression and the diseases of excess and the sicknesses of poverty – it’s a long way from being our biggest threat – whatever the politicians tell us. And many bigger thinkers than me – Professor Noam Chomsky and the French economist Thomas Piketty believe inequality gives succour to the growth of this particular beast. Grand statements about fighting the ‘war on terror’ make politicians feel macho, it provides a smoke screen for the West’s bad behaviour and renders the populous powerless and passive.
Terrorism is like a destructive, invasive plant. Chopping at the branches, however powerful your chain saw, will do nothing. It needs to be dug out at the roots. And the roots of the current monstrosity are deep and tangled; tangled up with gross injustice and unfairness and lack of investment in infrastructure in the region and bent Western foreign policy. No point pretending these nutters sprang out of thin air.
As the elite (in the UK) suck up to Arab royalty and they buy our weapons and football teams and chunks of our capital cities, the oil revenue – (soon to start depleting) – has never been used to build schools, hospitals, rail / road networks etc. It is one of the most unequal regions on the planet and Western intervention helped to make it that way. Terrorism on this scale is a symptom of the whole edifice crumbling.
At the risk of embarrassing myself and possibly you, here is a sketch of a dream I recently had.
I was by the banks of a river or lake and a small creature emerged from the water – something like a young manatee or baby hippo; a happy amphibian thingy. It trotted along the bank a little way from me.
A while later the creature morphed into a petite warthog or boar or wild pig type animal. When I next saw the small thing it had a huge concrete building on its back. It could not move. There were well-dressed, well-fed people in the building oblivious of the little pig. I went to a window and knocked until a woman noticed me. I was trying to tell her about the hog. All I could discern in the dream was that she was upset or disbelieving of me or cross or all of the above. There the dream ended.
What was obvious was that the little pig’s legs wouldn’t hold out much longer. When it gave way, not only would it be crushed, the building would collapse and everything would be obliterated…
Make of that what you will.
Thanks for reading.
I’ve been asked about the cartoons. Click on my name in yellow/orange at the side top right or below this blog if you are using a mobile device. Then scroll down the posts. There are some there.