What are we, fucking nuts?! We must be. One species on one planet. Some in seven star hotels (no, really), others camping for iPhones (you should be embarrassed), and, well, some starving to death. Some with so little, others with so fucking much… so, so, fucking much. That’s us, but we still complain and want and greed and crave and must-have. One palace is never enough. Oh, and poverty will kill 22,000 children under the age of five today. And tomorrow. Just like yesterday.
I don’t know how to put that number into perspective. I suppose if we imagined the difference between having one chocolate bar and having 22,000 chocolate bars then that might give us a sense of how significant of a number that is. I suppose we could find a sports stadium of comparable size and visually witness what 22,000 people looks like. I don’t know. I don’t think i’ve ever had 22,000 of some thing. Unless there’s, like, 22,000 Coco-Pops in the family box or something.
Anyway, the daily deaths of 22,000 children provides the context for everything else that follows here. If it ever seems some words ring a little bit harsh, a little bit confrontational, a little bit stab in the gut, just think about those 22,000 children. And, if it ever seems like we are taking ourselves a little bit too seriously… well, it’s because our situation is serious.
Those 22,000 children will die today for no good reason. They will die whilst we bitch about the slow waiter. They will die whilst we scrape half a plate into the bin. They will die whilst we fret for our holiday plans. They will die as we return our ‘this isn’t a gingerbread latte’. And, guess what, as nice and charitable as we think we are, they will die even as we give to the homeless man and weekend volunteer with a spastic.
They will die, and for all our avoidance and delusion, we are not even happy. If we were, then maybe in some cruel Darwinian logic then that would be okay-ish. You know, if all that suffering at least allowed millions of others, i.e. us, to be happy. But we’re not, and our complaining and our whining mocks those empty stomachs and wasted lives. We are miserable, they are miserable, and the only difference is that we are fat and clog hearted and they are, well, dead.
22,000 children will die today, just as they have been dying every other day, and we will let it happen. None of us want them to die, of course not, but very few of us seem willing to do anything about it. Certainly, very few of us seem willing to sacrifice our own indulgences to help them. ‘Oh, but, but, but…’ There’s always an excuse. It has been said that we must speak truth to power. Well, we must also speak truth to our selves.
Of course, you have the freedom to ignore this. You have the luxury of being immune to certain realities. You can even roll your eyes and mutter a ‘here we go again’. But those children will still be dying, those children will still not need to die, you will still be able to do something about it, and you will still not be doing anything about it.
Yet, we know all about the shock-horror when a neglected child is found in a home in the UK. It holds front pages for weeks and ripples out as grim legislative reminders for years. Discussed in parliament, heads on sticks, and we all mutter and hack our righteous slices… I mean, the horror, how could such a thing happen in this day and age etc. etc. And all that outrage would be right. Yet, 22,000 children under the age of five will die today because of poverty, and again tomorrow, and again for weeks and months and years to come until… well, what? What will it take?
It’s not real to us. The images seem tired, almost clichéd. The ‘Starving African Child’. The images are now emptied of emotion and void of their reality. It’s just another envelope asking for money. Those charities insist, and those images stare out at us – they want to look into our souls, they want to stir something in us, but we know we are being manipulated, so we dim the lights that bit more.
It’s all very sad, very serious, and much, much more dangerous with the lights on. We have to make it real again. We all remember when it beat in our hearts and charged up our minds, and we came together, and we were so determined, and we made such an effort. It was so momentous, so real… it was our true humanity. I don’t know why those surges came to so little, but next time around we have to make it count. Not one of those 22,000 children who will die today will have needed to die. It’s already on our shoulders, it’s already in our hearts, now it’s time we put it in our hands.