One born every minute…

I’m really beginning to think I live in a time-warp.  Watching the news, I couldn’t help thinking of events some 20 years ago. A corporate scandal involving a newspaper magnate whose surname also began with M, rioting in Northern Ireland and kwashiorkor babies.  Sometimes the more the world turns, the more it remains the same.

It’s heartbreakingly sad to see infants and children arrive at the refuge camps across the horn of Africa – only to die of malnutrition when they get there. It’s heartbreakingly sad to see not one or two children in this predicament, but five or six per family. These small creatures cannot speak for or defend themselves.  Their mothers are no better off.  Illiterate, poor, often victims of rape – for these oppressed women, family planning is not an option. The loss of one child is unbearable, the loss of two or three, when this could be avoided….

It’s a complex situation, and I don’t claim to have the answers.  Still, I can’t help wondering if our charitable contributions are merely adding to a culture of dependency in an environment where climate change and civil war have wreaked havoc.  If there is money to fund the warlords in Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, why isn’t there enough to provide irrigation schemes or green energy? 

Instead of food aid, would our money would be better served funding education and contraception programmes for the women and children in such peril?  Though laudable, the charity cartels (think Oxfam, Unicef and Save the Children) have sewn up crisis response in sub-saharan Africa.  There is money to be made from suffering.  And if you think I’m being harsh, just check out the profit and loss accounts of these organisations. They have turnover and assets worth millions! Charity doesn’t even begin to describe it.

 I’m undecided whether I will donate to the latest DEC appeal. Are we are simply trying to hold back the flood by putting our fingers in the dyke? Or can our donations truly make a difference? The Dalai Lama said, ‘compassion and love are essential if we are to save humanity’. From a human perspective, it feels like the right thing to do.

You can find out more about famine relief and DEC by clicking here:

C is for…Childhood

Well, I’m going to use a c-word… I was thinking of  writing about ‘cod’, ‘Caracas’ and ‘comedy’ – all aspects of my life I’d like to blog about, but tonight a programme on TV really had me thinking hard about what it means to be a child. So yes, this blog has been a challenge because it’s raised some issues for me!

I am child-free by choice, but that doesn’t mean I am not grateful for my childhood.  In the grand scheme of things, I probably had a fairly ‘normal’ upbringing – loving parents and siblings, good relationships with friends and extended family. Pets…there were a few. We had cats, guppies and a rabbit called ‘Pookie’…And of course, the benefit of a good education and a safe environment in which to live. Sadly, that is not the case for many children across the world who face poverty, neglect and abuse.

Poverty. According to UNICEF, 24,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.

Neglect.  It’s estimated that the number of children in the world  is roughly 2.2 billion. Of that number, almost 50 per cent (1 billlion) are living below the breadline. Worldwide, 2.2  million children die each year because they are not immunised, and 15 million children are orphaned due to HIV/Aids.  This is equivalent to the total number of children in countries such as the UK.

Abuse. Despite the fact that we live in a so-called civilised society (another c-word) children are still sexually exploited and damaged by the adults who bear a responsibility for nurturing them. Every year, 1.2 million children are trafficked into the sex trade. This cannot be right.  Like animals and elderly people, children very often do not have the resources or faculties to defend themselves. It cannot be right for children who are raped to think they are to blame. It cannot be right for children to be raped.

Every child and young person has rights, no matter who they are or where they live. As adults, it’s our responsibility to ensure that these rights are protected – whether we have children or not.

Star Trek…

I adore Science Fiction. So much so, I even studied it at Uni as part of my degree. Bug-eyed Monsters, The Green Lantern and Bladerunner all have a special place in my heart. Now before you get completely the wrong idea, I’m not quite ready to don lycra and attend conventions as a warrior queen from the planet Zorg. Still, it’s fair to say this intergalactic love affair started young.

When I was a kid, Betamax and VHS were vying for supremacy, but for those of us whose parents hadn’t quite got round to getting a video machine, there was always cine film.  I’m not quite sure whether Star Trek was the only thing you could hire during the cultural boycotts of the apartheid years, or if my dad was secretly modelling himself on Captain Kirk…, but one thing I do know.

My sisters and I always looked forward to Saturday, because this would mean a trip to our local corner shop, for crisps and a cooldrink, a weekend treat.  Then….’un-bear-able’ excitement as my dad picked up the hire projector and ‘shorts’, and turned our lounge into a cinema.  We would help to move the Tretchikoff picture off the wall, and arrange ourselves neatly in front of the sofa.  Anticipation mounted.  And as the projector began whirring, Gene Roddenberry would transport us to a world of space age heroics and alien encounters.

Like me, Star Trek made its debut 43 years ago.  Roddenberry wanted his series to show mankind what it might develop into, if only it would learn from the lessons of the past, most specifically by ending violence. Of course, this was lost on me at the time, but it makes sense now.  Star Trek was fairly progressive – many of the original episodes were allegories for the issues of the time in which it was made.

These cinematic adventures made a lasting impression.  As far as I was concerned Star Trek had it all – a racially diverse cast of strong alien and human characters, diabolical villains and groovy music.  And let’s not forget my ultimate favourite gadget – a transporter!  Gotta have me one of those. Just so you know… I’ll be first in line if they ever invent a safe way to beam me to another dimension.  Now, where did I put that light sabre…?