|Monica's Dad, Flickr|
Have you ever noticed? Sometimes the comments on a blog post are more interesting than the post itself.
This was the case last week: a couple hours after I published my list of « Good and Bad things that happen in life », fellow blogger Roy commented that the problems contained in that list were First World problems.
And he was right.
I have never NOT had enough food to feed my family (or enough milk to nurse, for that matter).
I HAVE - briefly - worried that my child would die, but that was more than 10 years ago, and thanks to an unlimited access to high quality medical care, she made it and went on to thrive.
I am, on a daily basis, aware of my luck (even though I'm also aware that some other people are luckier than me - such is life!)
I believe this awareness comes from hearing about - better yet, witnessing directly - how hard life can be for the majority of human beings.
As a child I lived in the Third World. I was not born there. My parents chose to go there to give a hand, through an international development agency. As most people who travel to help, we were soon humbled by the extent of the situation, and by the limits of our potential intervention. You cannot just go somewhere, impose a solution on people, and solve a problem for them - especially when part of the reason they're struggling originates from actions of your own culture (namely, colonialism).
Later in my childhood and teens, I read many books - and watched many movies and documentaries - about other struggling human groups; for instance, I became very familiar with the slums of Calcutta without ever visiting them.
(Two years ago, I did apply to be part of a Canadian delegation that would go to India to advocate for girl's and women's rights - a long interview process that involved writing numerous pages about my views and the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals. My interview went wonderfully but they chose someone with more experience. Next time, maybe!)
All those images (from my life in Africa to my readings and the documentaries I have watched) have had such an impact on me that I don't go one day without thinking about it. Not one day.
On the one hand this helps me feel grateful - other people's problems are so much bigger. I did nothing to earn most of what I have in terms of quality of life - I was just born in the right place at the right time.
On the other hand it leaves me with a guilty feeling: as much as I try to help - mostly at the local level in the past few years, through regular volunteering and donating to those in need, and through simplifying my own life for the sake of the environment - I know I am only making a tiny, tiny difference in the world.
This is all disturbing. But never as disturbing as being caught in the kind of difficult situation so many of my human fellows have to face.
This weekend I watched a documentary about work conditions in clothing manufactures (in countries such as Bangladesh and Cambodia); I would be very surprised if any one of us was willing to exchange their life with that of the workers who make the very clothes we wear every day (and which we complain are too expensive). Yet the solution to that globalization problem is far from simple.
The economics are not the only issue that poses a threat to a great number (the greatest proportion, actually) of humans - there are also wars and threats to human rights. About that, may I recommend you get yourself acquainted with the way Sudanese women are treated; and that's just one sad example.
In the meantime, we First World people have our own problems, which seem ridiculously shallow in comparison, but which still have consequences on our lives - think of all those struggling with severe depression to the point where they don't want to live anymore. Their suffering is genuine.
Well, this wasn't a joyous post, but I believe it to be a necessary one.