Facing Poverty and Despair

What Can Be Done?

Photo by Claudia Gschwend

Before you shoot me in the chest, please read my whole statement and you are free to decide in the end (if you still want to shoot me). If you read Animal Farm, you might understand what I am talking about, with what’s coming. I should also say that I am not trying to create chaos by writing this. In the end, this should be an opportunity – for those who are willing – to engage in a healthy and civilised debate.

I recently self-identified as a humanist or (idealist?). Maybe I had always been one but naming it has had quite the effect on my perception of things. Yes, I have always been bothered by the fact that my bedroom is the size of someone else’s whole house or the fact that my house is cleaned by someone my age (Often younger than me. That honestly breaks my heart, everyday). It’s a hard thing to process especially since I was born into a system that sees no problem with it. Also the fact that I can only change this culture starting with my own house (not my parent’s).

The cringe grows quite consistently – if not exponentially – when I hear people talk about their mukozi as if it weren’t someone’s child. “Oh,” one would start on, “mine is very lazy these days, barely gets anything done.” The other would respond, “Mine has kids so that usually gives them motivation. You should get one that has kids. Where do you get yours?” I never make it further in the conversation because What the heck?

I honestly wonder if I am the only one who is not okay with this. I don’t think I am. The gap between the rich and the poor globally is not shrinking and maybe it is time to discuss. Is there truly nothing we could do? Is it truly left to fate and the world is evil and free will and that’s just how it is? Something about the way we dismiss other humans reminds me of George Orwell’s farm. Would it be our drive for money and success? Would it be a false hope that eternal rest awaits them after their suffering? What makes some humans feel like it is okay that other humans are being sold into forced labour but nothing can be done about it? What psychological reaction allows us to rest when children around the world haven’t eaten in weeks?

The search for anecdotes is what is driving me in this season. Some of us have chosen to believe in the plausibility of closing the discrepancy of the classes and alleviate the suffering of the masses. I was in an airport, not too long ago, bored after a great meal. It had been a pretty amazing trip celebrating the fact that I can be a tourist in another nation. I have the habit of finding the nearest bookstore in any airport. Darfur it was called – a slap across the face back to reality. How in the world are we quiet about these things? And also the despair of whether something could actually be done. It hit hard as the airport seemed like a luxury I was suddenly too ashamed of partaking in. Now the question is about the balance between living my life without the guilt but also having enough guilt to make an impact.

There was a girl I will not forget. She held her head in her hands, flies making a feast of the wounds on her dirty fingers. The hopelessness in her eyes gripped my heart because I have never been in a situation like that. Never have I ever experienced agony in the way she did. Yet, I am here, watching her as a distant incident with all the safety to shield me from her pain. I felt ashamed. And now the question is what can we do? What should be done? For those in Darfur but also those here at home, I cannot remain seated. And if you ever find yourself reading these words, that will be because I decided to get out there. I am in no way trying to be a hero but I am in all ways trying not to be a bystander in the suffering of this world. Now, for those who made it this far into the blog, let’s open up and discuss. What can be done?

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