Monday, October 01, 2007

Gimme Shelter! (1)

Today is Monday, 1 October 2007.

Today is World Habitat Day, designated by the United Nations to remind us that at least 1.6 billion human beings live without adequate shelter, disease- and contaminant-free water, or effective sanitation. That is 1 out of every 4 human beings.

This tragedy, of course, does not result from a lack of resources or imagination.

It results from the choices of the First World populations, and from the choices of the ruling elites in the developing and never-to-be-developed nations to endorse the choices of their First World brethren. The tragedy results from, for example, the choices that millions of Play Station contribute more to humanity than ensuring that no child dies of diarrhea caused by contaminated water supplies.

The tragedy results from the rejection of the ethical absolute that each must have the minimum necessary before anyone has the unnecessary.

Some will say, “Whining again”. But whining is a middle-aged Euro-American male complaining of the cost of a newly released golf club guaranteed to add ten yards to his game. Pointing out human suffering is not whining.

Some will take cover behind a saying attributed to Jesus: “The poor you will always have with you”. Others will claim that, “human nature” Being What It Is, drastic and murderous differentials in prosperity are The Natural Order of Things.

The inequities which have pervaded human society have resulted in an enormous social inertia which acts only to continually deepen the gap between haves and have-nots. The approach of nonviolent sustained incremental changes leading finally to a drastic reversal of selfish inhumanity for humane sharing has thus far not worked. The approach of violent compelling of people to be and do good has also thus far failed.

[Delightful: in the last sentence, my grammar check advises replacing “do good” with “do well”.]

“That mighty sculptor, Time”, may soon solve the problem for us: as resources dwindle and population becomes ever more unsustainable, nature may redress the balance by war, disease, and famine.

The quote in the final paragraph is the title of a book of essays by the great French writer Marguerite Yourcenar. I highly commend to the reader her novel, Memoirs of Hadrian.


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