Friday, May 28, 2004

Fighting all over the world

I caught most of a programme last night which sums up the best of what the BBC does. A calmly told story of 16 people around the planet, and what they were doing on 22nd March 2004.

The twist being that they were all involved with wars. Short term, long term, high profile and low profile - if you want details (and to see video clips, etc) go to the BBC's webpage here.

Watch it and weep.

I have managed to stay out of the frontline most of my life - but I fully understand why 'freedom fighters/terrorists' try to draw our attention to the plight of so many other people on the planet. I don't like their means, but I understand their motivations.

Here we all are, complaining about obesity, or traffic jams, or not being paid enough - unaware that we are top of the heap on this planet, living a life of (relative)luxury and (relative) security.

These people can't talk about 'early retirement' or 'unlocking wealth from their mortgage' or 'holidays' - they aren't worried that there is a shortfall in their pension plan. They are lucky to live one more day and get one more meal. I guess it was my realisation about, and identification with, that kind of life (far more common on this planet than middle-class office workers) which forced me to live as humbly as possible. I just felt really uncomfortable with any kind of privilege.

I know it doesn't help them much, to simply 'identify' with people living hand-to-mouth - but I have always felt like a landless serf; I lost (well, mislaid) my dad when I was 5 and my mum when I was 12; hated the religious education (indoctrination); hated the assumption of superiority (white, British); felt completely helpless when confronted by the weight of the opinions of the majority who surrounded me. Although I grew up in a home which my grandad had bought, by the time I was 19 I was homeless, and it has been rented rooms and borrowed sofas, tents and sleeping bags ever since.

It's hard to get a job without an address. It's hard to keep belongings when always on the move. And yet I have had it pretty easy. Look at me, 58 years old, fairly healthy (for my age), reasonably happy (all things considered), relatively secure (now that I work for society rather than myself), and with more happy memories than bad ones.

I shouldn't complain about anything, ever.


Anonymous said...

I know how unwary I am being writing my idle jottings in public. I do get feedback indirectly, but no-one seems to want to do it in public much, so I'll paste an example in here:

Well my problem with your empathy is this ....its easy to live like that and be "Free" if you have no one but yourself to shelter and feed , entertain and educate;.............................but most people living in those war torn areas have children of various ages to feed etc.every day,war or not, as do most women who either choose to be single parents or divorce for whatever reason elsewhere in the world and do all the providing( some Fathers do too)...Its very hard to "borrow a sofa" for a week or two with a couple of kids in tow .........Living hand to mouth ,rent to rent is what most women do (and some single fathers) even with a reasonable income , in order to feed their kids and put them through school.
I'm happy to hear about your kids and glad they are in your life now.........and they are doing well.......but while you were being a landless serf all these years , were you helping at all to support them in any way ?

Toby said...

And any reply would be defensive, of course, but the short version is I was empathising with the abandoned war children (see my comments about losing my parents) who will never get into a position of control/understanding over their own lives, including having children of their own - and not talking about swanning around in some spiritual superiority cloud, pretending to be some noble monk who has abandoned capitalism and privilege.
It's precisely because I never had those choices that I didn't really give anything up - what I did was not try to struggle to become one of 'them' belatedly, which is a slightly different thing. And no, I didn't contribute a lot to my kids, but it wasn't 'nothing' - and it was all I had to give (whenever I got to see them), and it's a long story....

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