Thursday, December 1, 2011

The "Global" Financial Crisis - yeah, right

Waiting for something?
I watch less and less of the BBC World Middle East Edition these days because I am getting a bit bored with the Global Financial Crisis, this imminent Eurozone catastrophe that’s about to affect the standard of living of so many Europeans, so many Italians, Spanish , Portugese and the Irish.  I watched a man being interviewed about how it was going to affect his business, and how he might have to lay off staff.. In the background of his bookshelf lined living room an open Laptop could be seen on an elegant looking desk, and he walked past a huge Flatscreen TV  to look out the window and lament the outlook for living standards in Portugal. I looked out my window and saw a bare footed woman in a filthy green dress bent double under the weight of firewood she was carrying home and turned off the television. I suppose it must just be the lack of a global perspective that makes people fear having only one car, or fewer holidays abroad, or even having to use public transport, or even having to be sustained by government handouts. And I don’t doubt people do find it hard to adjust to having to step back from a lifestyle they had enjoyed or were expecting to continue. And yes perhaps their standard of living will drop, but to what level? – to something well above real poverty I am sure. I cant see that millions of westerners are suddenly only going to have one pair of trousers, no shoes, no running hot and cold water, chronic malnourishment and no radio or TV, oven, fridge or internet access.

From here its so blindingly obvious that the entire “west” is living way beyond its means, way beyond a level at which all basic needs are reasonably met, way beyond a point that in the face of reality in the third world could reasonably be justified, that the feared “Austerity Measures” could perhaps  more accurately be described as a “reality check” . It seems – no it IS  - wrong, surely, that on this now tiny planet there are people wealthy enough to employ a fulltime crew in uniform to look after their mega-yacht worth tens of millions of dollars, while millions and millions of their fellow human beings try to survive on $2 a day.  In the west there is an “Obesity Epidemic” for gods sake, and people pay extra to buy jeans that are pre-ripped and pre-aged, trying to act poor when in fact they have so much money they barely know what to do with it. If they are trying to identify with the poor of the world, let me tell them that people round here wouldn’t even dream they could have something as nice as your precious pre-faded and pre-ripped jeans. Come here and I’ll show you what ripped and faded jeans are REALLY like!

Well patched shorts, commonly seen
People have written to me and said after reading about Motta they feel bad about the way they live, and yet I know these are decent ordinary people living average lives in the west. I don’t believe any of us need to feel bad about where we happen to have b een born,  I am not writing this blog to make people feel bad, and I don’t want to sound like an old Testament Prophet calling down fire on the west.. The truth is the west is my home and I think its absolutely wonderful.  Well, mostly.

The truth is that without the “west” and the fabulous advances made by science I would have nothing to offer these people, no special knowledge, no medical training, no way of even getting here, no antibiotics, analgesics, anticonvulsants, surgical instruments or anaesthetics, there would be no vehicles to get them to Bahar Dar, no blood transfusions or fluid resuscitation, no ultrasounds or  even forceps to deliver their stuck babies. Life would be “nasty, brutish and short” ( I forget whose words they are ) 

Todays Lesson :Living on $2 a Day 101 :Cant afford a new plastic bowl? Stitch the  wrecked one together!

The reality of our lives in the west is that we are privileged and remarkably rich, even without a mega-yacht. The Media however encourages us to  be preoccupied with what we want but don’t have, to keep the wheels of advertising and commerce turning, constantly comparing our lot with those freaks of celebrity and movie stardom  whose gross lifestyles are shared by almost no-one  on the planet. Instead I think we ought to be preoccupied with how much we already have, and celebrate all that’s wonderful about the “west”, not just all the amazing advances given us by science, and our comfortable life styles but also the “ideas” that have flourished in the west, ideas of freedom of thought and religion, of equality and the rights of women, the democratic institutions, the right to an education and to work – so much that’s extraordinary and too often taken for granted. But if you are going to have to put up with “austerity measures” remember that for most of the people in the world, life under even the harshest of the Eurozone “Austerity measures” would be a wondrous blessing by comparison with the deprivation and poverty of their present lives. I think we ought to rejoice in the good fortune of having been born in the developed world, make the most of the opportunities we have been handed, take nothing for granted and where possible at some stage in some way, whether big or small, give something back. Psychologists believe that this is the most likely pathway to true happiness and contentment.


  1. david, I hope you dont mind I have posted this essay linl on my facebook page and asked eveeryone to read it...please...

  2. Thats fine Gary. Funny, but that post seems to have struck a chord, had more feedback about it than any other! That stitched up bowl tells a story doesnt it?