Sometimes we concentrate far too much on ourselves. While the US is preparing for Christmas 2008, much of the rest of the planet remains stagnated in the same miserable situations that they were in last year, and 10 years ago, and 20 years ago and more. There are so many people, billions in fact, right now, and at every second that you have been alive, that have never seen one single US dollar. There are hundreds of millions of people that have never lived inside anything more than a dirt-floored grass hut. There are hundreds of millions more that have never used an electrical appliance or tool - not to cook their food, if they have any; not to wash a dish, turn a screw, cut a board or even pump water.
Imagine the new and increased meaning of the objects and privileges in your life if you were to have to go without them for a week - a month - a year - a decade. Imagine having never stepped foot into a supermarket filled with thousands of food items, clothing items, tools, cleaners, fire starters, personal hygiene products, magazines - and beer. Ponder the suffering you would endure if you had no option save to crawl through the opening of your grass hut each morning into the arid, desolate plains where you would have to hunt for your food - if you wanted to eat today. In absence of victory in the hunt, you, and your family, would simply have to forage the dry region for editable plants again.
Of course, you would be thirsty too. Your body would be hot from the beating sunlight, the dry air and the nonexistence of air conditioning. As you forged forward into your day, early enough to beat the blunt of the heat, water would be a primary concern - far more important than food, or anything else except for the air you would breathe. Your hunting weapon would not be the 2-thousand dollar high-powered, scoped-out sniper-grade rifle that the American "hunters" use; it would most likely be some type of impaling weapon: a spear, knife or maybe just a whittled-sharp stick. Instead of sitting in a tree stand and taking your prey from 500 yards, you would have to get down and dirty with the animal that you wanted to call supper.
If you were fortunate enough to hunt, track, locate, sneak up on and kill an animal, then your real work would begin. In this kind of heat, you would have to immediately field dress the animal. Evisceration would need to be completed in the least possible time. Heat-spoiled blood ruins taste and causes bacteria to breed ruining the meat for human consumption. After the field dressing procedure, you would have to transport the kill back to your home in your arms, on your back or by dragging it if it were so sized. Of course, you would be filthy - stinking of heated blood. You would also not dare to waste any water cleaning yourself. Water is life and you can live dirty.
Bathing would come, as it does for so many millions, only in stagnated water pools - if they were not completely evaporated. Many find that thirst is more powerful than logic and drink from these pools of filth only to be infected with malaria and other life-threatening diseases. Making your way back home, happy to have been successful in your hunt, would also cause your heart to cave in as you witness all of the hungry families around you that have nothing - again. Driven by your own sense of survival, and the desire to provide for your family, you would have to harden yourself and not share. To help others would be to possibly kill your own. Of course, there would also be the possibility of attack from those hungrier than you.
Back at the hut, your family anxiously awaits. Cooking happens over a fire - which is used only for that purpose. Wood is also scarce and not to be wasted. The meal would be gamy and unseasoned - no fresh rosemary sprigs and minced garlic here. Accompanied by indigenous plants and only barely-potable water to drink in limited quantities, your meal which took all day to procure and prepare, would be for sustenance only - no flavorful, succulent enjoyment involved. And tomorrow comes all too soon.
So, perhaps this Christmas, as your family sit down to a 15-course feast followed by your choice of 4 desserts and plenteous beverage, you might say a word to them about the billions of people on this planet who have absolutely nothing except for their own will to live. As you all tear into the gifts under the tree, take just one second - at least - to imagine those who sweat in the heat, literally dying of thirst, with nothing to eat - and certainly no gifts.
Guilt is not the intention here - simply awareness and compassion.
Happy days to you all, grubstreeters - may each of you develop the awareness that will liberate you.
M Alan Roberts is a radical thinker. He has a gimlet eye for injustice, much as did Frederich Engels, a century and a half before. Still, Roberts finds a way to write effective SEO copy. This suggests both sides of his brain, his mind, work equally well.
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