Sunday, March 18, 2007

Comic Relief – What Kind of World?

I watched Comic Relief on BBC television on the 16th March 2007. There were heart wrenching stories a plenty designed to entice money from our pockets. As usual the British public responded with typical generosity. In doing so the ordinary citizens of this country were exercising a duty of care that is the duty and the responsibility of governments; namely to look after the welfare of the sick and the poor.

Comic Relief highlighted brilliantly the inequalities and injustices that blight the world we live in. How is it that in the 21st century we tolerate these appalling slums with open sewers which run unchecked and unfiltered into the streams and rivers on which the inhabitants depend for cooking, washing and drinking? There are no words to describe such horror. What kind of governments do we have that would rather spend hundreds of millions on extravagant and monumental white elephants in the name of prestige, before they will supply clean water, hygiene, energy and education to millions who live in conditions so adverse it almost defies imagination?

What kind of world and what kind of people are we that we so easily assuage our consciences with a small pecuniary donation over a telephone line before erasing the images from our minds and returning to our vicarious passions for the latest celebrity gossip, mobile phones, reality television and designer clothes?

What kind of society thinks it’s alright for children to have to care for sick parents on their own, as long as we donate enough money to give them a day out each year? How unthinking, uncaring and insulting that is, to some of the most wonderful and compassionate beings on God’s Earth. It’s a shameful reflection on our priorities and our national psyche that we can believe for a single second that it is alright to burden theses children with such overwhelming responsibility and forlorn loneliness.

The burden of caring for sick and disabled relatives is extremely difficult, lonely and physically and financially crippling, even for adults. To leave these magnificent kids to fend more or less for themselves in such circumstances in a country as rich as the U.K., is quite simply morally reprehensible and unacceptable.

It’s time to act. It’s time to stop wasting millions and even billions on white elephant projects such as the failed Dome in this country, whose only purpose was to boost the political prestige of the nation and the political profile of a superficial image conscious government. There is an endless list of misspent public money, frittered away on unnecessary hair-brained schemes designed to “improve” that which needs no improvement.

The glut of new, totally unnecessary road markings and signs that is appearing along the length and breadth of Britain’s highways like an unsightly rash, is but one example. We have managed for decades without traffic lights and lane markings on roundabouts so why do we suddenly need them now? They do nothing for road safety or traffic flow except add confusion and distraction. Stop this madness. There are far more worthy causes that require attention.

Alleviating injustice and poverty and educating the illiterate will bring far greater social and economic returns than investing in white elephants or the non-productive Walter Mitty dreams of hair-brained bureaucrats, trying to justify their existence.

It is impossible to witness the misery and the unspeakable hardship in the slums of Nairobi or elsewhere and not feel deep in one’s soul that in a civilised world, such inequality is intolerable and unpardonable.

As individuals, we can all dip into our pockets as much and as often as we like but ultimately it is a drop in the ocean. As individuals we can do something. We can save some lives but we cannot solve the route problems of poverty or injustice, unless governments around the world dip much more deeply into their national treasuries and act in concert, to tackle the misery we witness in programs like Comic Relief.

They would find it a rewarding exercise. By boosting the productivity through education, of the billions who currently live below the so called poverty line, they would be enhancing skills and therefore potential global earning and buying power. More demand means expanding global economies. Everyone wins.

It’s time to outline and enact new strategies to combat the injustices that are responsible for so much misery around the World. Failure to act now will only lead us all to a darker place. This is the duty of governments not individuals. What we can do as individuals is hold our governments to account. This would be a much more effective way of tackling poverty wherever it is found.

There is only one way to bridge the gulf between the poorer and richer nations and that is through joint ventures in which all trading nations have a stake in the production, distribution and marketing of the goods we commonly produce and consume but this is for another day.

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