Thursday, September 26, 2013

First world problems

I don't know if this is going to last, but travelling around rural South Africa and going into schools and communities has given me some perspective on things that loom a bit too large for so many people in our world. My pinot noir on the plane last night didn't come till I was halfway through my boeuf bourgignon, and it was too cold; and my seat on the long Joburg-Sydney leg would recline only a couple of inches. But that was nothing, having just seen the thin reed mats that poor people sleep on, on the ground, and having stood in the dormitory of a school bush camp hearing how the kids had to be shown how to use a bed, how to flush a toilet, how not to scald themselves in a shower. And how these same kids had to get up really early in the morning at home to carry water - a 25 litre jerry-can weighs 25kg, remember - before walking up to 15km to school. And then the same again at the end of the day.
The people tutting with irritation over the slightly messy organisation for boarding the Auckland flight should get over themselves. It's not "shocking", having to wait 10 minutes to get onto a plane. What's really shocking is children wearing their shoes undone because they're far too small, but it's a matter of pride not to go barefoot to school. It's shocking that there are so many child-headed households because the parents have died of Aids, and these kids can't go to school at all because they have to look after their younger siblings.

And everybody in New Zealand today, cast into gloom by the failure to win the America's Cup after such a long and emotionally-gruelling struggle, should remember that actually it's just a race for rich men's toys; and that even though Team NZ pushed themselves to the limit, it's all pretty trivial really when you consider facts like 95% unemployment, like an elephant being killed every 15 minutes, like rhino horns being hacked off with axes while the animals are still alive, left to bleed to death. So cheer up! In Africa, things are so much worse!*
*"The floggings will continue until morale improves."

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