Wednesday, December 01, 2004

I Wish I Knew

In my recent blog, Giving Thanks, I made some observations about the disparity between the rich and the poor nations, or to be more politically correct, between developed and developing nations.

timx of the It's Getting Warmer blog posted this comment: "OK. So what is the next step?!" Having read his thoughtful and informative blog, I know that this is a serious and not a flippant question.

Frankly, I don't know. I wish I knew.

Here's what I do know. I do know that November 26, the day after the American Thanksgiving, was the declared, by someone at least, Buy Nothing Day in North America* (here's the website). I also know that most people have never heard of BND, and I know that vast numbers of American's shopped in frenetic droves that day. I know in my gut that there's something radically wrong. I don't know what to do about it.

*Note: It is not my intention to pick on Americans; it's simply a current and handy example. We Canadians practise the same type of binge-consumerism on Boxing Day.

Of course, there's the old standard about requiring more education, but I don't know where that sentiment gets us. It is we adults who require a fundamental shift in values, and we don't go to school. There is already exposure; there are crusaders. For example: U2's Bono speaks loudly on this issue. He even spoke at the festivities when Paul Martin became Prime Minister of Canada. There was much smiling and nodding of heads in polite approbation, which will, no doubt, amount to nought.

There are levels of knowledge. On one level, we are dimly aware of global poverty. I even venture to say that many of us experience a small, inner, nagging guilt. However, we don't know in a deeply experiential way. We haven't been there. We see a program, are moved, shut off the tv, and lose track of the issue.

We do care. Oprah, for example, took her staff to South Africa last year; I'm sure that she spent millions of dollars buying toys for the children in a glorious effort to give them a good Christmas. And yet, she spends much of this season giving cars and pukingly, opulent weddings to people who are already, comparatively speaking at least, well-to-do. Somebody who already lives in wonderful house will get a free, stem to stern, decorating-makeover because she is simply so flummoxed about how to apply paint or wallpaper. Does this not drive anyone else crazy?

Recent experience teaches us that values can be changed. For example: twenty years ago, drunk driving was a significant issue. Continual pounding of the message on the nation's airwaves has substantially changed people's attitudes. Almost everyone is now aware that driving under the influence is intolerable, and all but a few take pains to comply.

Let's keep pounding away. And let's do what we can on an individual level. Lets all be a little more like daughter #2, who, for Christmas, asks for her gift that we make a donation to buy toys for native children. She who lives the un-materialistic life of a debt-ridden, college student; she, who has the least (in this family); she is the most generous and least acquisitive of the family — myself included.

Isn't that how the world is changed: one person at a time? Can't we all contribute to Oxfam, World Vision, or CARE this season (note: all are Canadian links)? Sometimes, we do not contribute at all because we can only contribute a very little. But what is little to us can be much to others. A small donation can provide food for a month. If million and millions of families all donated a little something right now, wouldn't that amount to much? If we did this several times a year, could not the impact be truly measurable?

This is one step that we can take. It's all that I can think to do. There must me more. I wish I knew.


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