Guest post by Anna Lindsay, author of Eden Undone
I just found an email in my inbox, inviting me to submit a guest blog article. "How wonderful!" thought I, envisaging a timely opportunity to tell everyone about my novel’s forthcoming American release.
But… hunger and poverty.
What would you like me to say about it? It’s bad. Yep, check.
End of story? I’m guessing not.
Oh-so-easy flippancy points out that poverty and hunger are relative. And yes, that’s true, isn’t it? Check. Remember the classic tragicomic reaction by the out-of-touch French Queen Marie-Antoinette, when she heard that the poor of Paris had no money even to buy bread. "Well, let them eat cake then" …No bread? Oh well. Run out to the shops then, there’s a dear. What’s the problem?.. Or as the poet Steve Turner wrote in his poem "Poor":
I thought I was poor.
to stack the videos.
Then I realised,
there are people
in the world
who don’t even have shelves.
So yes, poverty and hunger are relative. How often do we say "Gosh, I’m starving!" when actually we mean that it’s been a whole hour, or two, or three, since our last snack? How often do we say we’re poor when we in our comfortable Western world nevertheless have a roof over our heads, shoes on our feet, food in a cupboard, or money for cigarettes?
But I don’t think that that’s the sort of level of hunger and poverty we’re talking about, is it? We’ve all seen the images. Now close your eyes and IMAGINE. Imagine. What does it actually feel like? What sounds and smells reach your ears? What do your bare bruised feet feel like, there on the rocky, dusty ground, your makeshift cardboard soles long since reduced to pasty crumbles? What does it feel like, when hunger has devoured your muscles and made bony joints so weak that even standing up feels like the most draining, impossible task? When you watch with impotent eyes your child starving, starving, starving yet somehow still trusting you, the precious parent, to do that which you can no longer do – protect…
Let’s start with the easy, shall we? Thirty years ago, I was told that humankind has 10 tonnes of conventional explosive for every man, woman, and child on earth, stashed away in the respective governments’ and organisations’ lockers. I don’t imagine that that proportion has lessened really – and that’s without counting nuclear and bio weapons etc… Merely conventional explosive. Well, pardon me, but frankly, I suspect that I could be convincingly reduced to smithereens with rather less than ten tonnes. Don’t you? So now that I’ve been thoroughly obliterated by "my" portion of "my" ten tonnes of conventional explosive (and not counting all that expensive bio-terror and nuclear stuff), what could we do with all that money that’s been saved by not requiring the remainder of those ten tonnes? And the ten tonnes reserved for my neighbour, whose smithereens have presumably been added to mine for efficiency?
Logic says… quite a bit. Reality says… another monthly bonus for someone’s bank account.
Well, what about the natural resources which the world has? Surely they’re enough? Enough to feed, water, and educate every woman, man, and child on the planet?
Yes, they are. So what’s the problem?
If you’re Christian like me, then you know that the Bible says that before the Fall, we lived in … perfection. Perfect love. Perfect Relationship. Perfect everything. With sin – that separation from Life Himself – came not just death, but selfishness and greed. What’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is mine… Look at our corrupt politicians and bankers and fatcats who line their pockets and those of their cronies with more and more, at the expense of the hoi polloi… Those who decry war with empty words, while rubbing their hands at the dollar signs it brings…
So what do we do? Another oh-so-easy answer is to pour our guilt-offerings into another begging bowl, pay off our nagging unease, ignore those fundamental causes which affect those in afflicted areas as much as they affect those in ours.
Will that help? Maybe. Hopefully.
But the problem with easy answers is that they’re generally only superficial. The root issues – that greed, that selfishness, that jealousy of whoever has more than we, that corruption, that sin – those remain. And while they do, our elastoplasts of platitudes and token gestures and liberal PC-itis may boost our egos or street credentials, but do little to alter the dynamics which led to those torn and blistered feet, those weakened frames, those dying eyes.
Change… surely starts with taking responsibility? For ourselves, for the next time we complain, the next time we feel jealous or ungrateful or greedy. For our politicians and bankers and fatcats, whose spin we swallow and whose policies we allow through inertia and apathy. And in those affected countries where hunger stalks, and poverty destroys, and money and resources which would help goes instead into the latest armaments and Gucci pockets of the few. Imagine – a worldwide uprising of responsibility, of integrity, of repentance, and compassion, and love which is strong enough to dare to rock the boat – to recognise evil, and fight it.
We are ALL responsible. Can we change anything? Perhaps, if sufficient of us, everywhere, choose to stand up and say "Enough!" loudly enough, not just here but in those countries where evil swaggers…
And in the meantime… please hand me that oh-so-easy answer and that metaphorical sticking-plaster. For while I cannot change the world by myself, I can be responsible for myself. And metaphorical elastoplasts might be superficial tokens. But… they’re better than nothing at all.
Books by Anna Lindsay