Thursday, November 18, 2004

A band aid on a sucking chest wound

A short segment on Tuesday’s CBC news about the return of Band Aid (this time for the people of Sudan) articulated the grey swirl of thought that’s been bumping around in my head for years: we can’t treat the third world like a stray dog that we feed when we see it wallowing in the rain. One of the leaders of the Pan African movement hit the nail on the head when he said “How can we be a partner in globalization when we produce what we do not consume and consume what we do not produce? The Western world slaps us in the face with one hand and then offers us a handkerchief to wipe our tears with the other.” (I’ve tried to find a link to the exact quote, but of course I can’t find it).

I think what Band Aid is doing is great, in fact I get teary-eyed whenever I think about it. But the fact of the matter is that we (the Western nations) exploit third world countries for labor and resources, turn a blind eye to their poverty, are sporadic at best in our peace keeping efforts, and truly do our best to avoid thinking about their sorry state of affairs.

It’s wonderful that there are private organizations that are trying to help African nations help themselves, but these efforts should be coming from our governments, and the corporations that utilize their resources. Moreover, the governments of these countries should be held accountable by the UN for their barbaric treatment of their citizens. What gets global attention and what doesn’t appears to be at the mercy of the media and whether or not the nation is question is part of the Western world’s global strategy. For every Rwanda or Congo atrocity that we hear about, 10 more go unreported. And any aide or peacekeeping efforts are sporadic at best, mostly due to how hamstringed the UN is in its policies.

What do we do? Tough question. We’re so immune to their suffering now, that it’s hard to imagine anything we are capable of doing helping. But you have to agree that it’s fundamentally wrong that these human beings are starving, wallowing in poverty, and being subjected to brutal violence while we’re wondering how we’re going to be able to afford to upgrade to the 2005 Ford Freestyle. So I ask, what do we do?

And don’t tell me that it’s not our problem – because that’s how things stay the same or get worse. People change things, the nebulous “they” don’t.


At 1:56 PM, Blogger withknivesout said...

well put. i thought bush was going to do something after his state of the union mention of putting money towards improving AIDS treatment in Africa, but things always get in the way.

At 2:20 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

Very well said, and beautifully written.

At 7:46 PM, Blogger Steve said...

I agree with Jennie. Well done. The title drew me apt metaphor.

At 9:39 PM, Blogger Carmi said...

Until the so-called First World is willing to trade off some of its bloated standard of living so that the so-called Third World can improve its own, the paradigm that defines our time will barely change, and citizens of the have-not parts of the world will continue to starve and die.

Similarly, China's emergence on the world scene as an economic power and big-time consumer of resources could have a seismic impact on our future and, in a related manner, on your ability to comfortably slide into that lovely Ford Freestyle (don't, BTW...first-year Ford product....must....stay...away.)

We already saw a bit of it in recent months as oil prices were ratcheted up. Beyond the easy-to-blame Iraq thing was the naturally-increasing level of Chinese demand which led to tighter long-term supply. The spike wouldn't have been as pronounced if China simply stayed back in the dark ages where Amurrican Bush-ites would love to keep them forever.

You raised a profound issue in a thought-provoking, sensitive manner. As usual, it's been a slice.

At 10:12 AM, Blogger Rachel - Wicked Ink said...

I have no idea what the answers are, but I too liked the headline, and it made me think and feel at the same time. Well done.

To those making the decisions, I wish you wisdom and foresight and compassion.

At 3:09 PM, Blogger withknivesout said...

i doubt those making decisions are reading this blog...


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