Last week the amazing Eden Riley Edenland told her FB followers that she was about to appear on one of the morning shows to talk about her work with World Vision. I immediately tuned in. I have long been a supporter of World Vision and the work they do and it prompted me to write this post about my history with them and why we should give back.
I grew up in the outer suburbs of Brisbane in the 1970’s; daughter of an ex-shearer, come cab driver, come truck driver; and a hard working teacher mum – we always struggled to make ends meet. It taught me a most valuable lesson early in life though; to be sensible with money, not to be wasteful but also to be aware that others have less than me. It was constantly drummed into me that while we didn’t have a lot, we had much more than many children in the world. That line “eat all your food, they’re are children dying somewhere in the world from lack of food”, really stuck with me. When I met my husband, he had learnt similar insights. Son of a boilermaker, he had to watch his father become unemployed in his 50’s and deal with uncertainty and a sense of unworthiness. Together the two of us have never forgotten these early life lessons; a gratitude for what we have and a conviction to help the poorest in the world in what little way we could.
World Vision became the vehicle through which we could do just that. We felt this was an organisation with noble aims and practical approaches and we’ve been supporters for years. In fact my husband made a commitment, from his first pay packet in 1986, to sponsor a child, and he has stuck to that goal for the last 29 years. This is not some short-term passion born of middle class angst at the injustices seen on the news. On the contrary, this is a deep-seated yearning for justice born of an empathic realisation that the marginalised need a voice and a friend. This passion of ours has grown stronger over the years and we love what World Vision is doing to make our world a fairer place.
The world we live in is fundamentally flawed. Even a cursory glance at life on earth at the beginning of the 21st Century reveals the devastating and unsustainable effects of Modernity, driven by an insatiable economic system we invented called Capitalism and its twin offspring, the enfant terribles, Consumerism and Materialism.
As David Suzuki, my most loved sage said, “Our reality, in this moment of history would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic.” The staggering levels of poverty and wealth inequality that currently exist, I find incomprehensible, unjustifiable and offensive to my core. The recent Oxfam report that put the wealthiest 80 people on the planet as having the same capital as 3.5 billion leaves me lamenting the world my kids are inheriting. The West, awash with resources that it depletes at a whim, owes it economic dominance to centuries long exploitation of the indigenous populations of the world. Its level of exploitation continues unabated; the name changed from ‘colonisation and slavery’ to ‘globalisation’ but the reality of the consumptive lifestyle of the West being dependant on the continuing economic oppression of the poor is as real as it ever was.
Our enormous economy demands that we make production our way of life; that we convert the buying of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption. The growth of this market system we built actually requires and need things worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing rate. The immorality that underpins our world has a $40 billion weight loss industry in developed countries while malnutrition and disease plagues the developed countries as they seek the bare minimum daily calorie intake just to survive.
Making the poor, as well as nature, subservient to economic purposes allows the impact of the average Westerner on the environment to be approximately 250 times that of the average sub-Saharan African, or, any average child in the developed world to consume and pollute more over his or her lifetime than 40 children in developing countries do.
How did we let this come to be? Why do we continue to let this be? We’ve enshrined the market forces as a natural and necessary function of humanity yet it protects the profits of the Pharmaceutical Corporations and allows thousands of children to die every day of preventable disease. If they could get access to the medicines, they would live. I can’t let my mind embrace that fully because the anger would simply engulf my being. The fact that we let the Petro-Chemical Transnationals continue to pour fossils fuels into our increasingly fragile biosphere, compromising the next generation’s ability to even live, is criminal. It’s nonsensical at the least and mass murder at its worst. Resource depletion, deforestation, ecosystem collapse, plastic in our oceans: its enough to turn the sane insane. I’m tempted to give up like so many have and just pretend, in some global state of social amnesia, that it’ll be all right. The lure of escapism through the cult of celebrity; Kardashian’s breaking the Internet is ultimately puerile, base entertainment but far less taxing than fighting for a fairer world.
But I can’t give up and I won’t. We in the first world can make a difference. My husband and I aren’t wealthy. Far from it. But we can afford a few dollars a week and give back. And during those financially difficult times when we can’t afford even that there are other ways to help. Voluntary work for worthwhile charities comes to mind. I can’t stress enough the importance of giving back. We are not entitled to what we have – we are just damn lucky. We had a very lucky roll of the dice. For that we should be very grateful indeed. And for those who ask the question “but how do I know the money is going where it’s needed?” this graph explains it very clearly.
I’ll finish with one of my favourite quotes from Mahatma Gandhi who said “Live simply so that others may simply live!”.