August 18, 2011
The news lately has been about as difficult for me to cope with as ever before. It feels selfish to be complaining about having to merely listen to what the world is going through but I don't mean it that way. It's not that I am writing about feeling sorry for myself, I'm writing about the helplessness I feel when we wake to news of rioting in England, the famine in East Africa, the debt crisis and the possibility (probability) of another recession. There is little I can do about these things and it is filling me with despair for our future, the world's future, the future we are shaping for our children and their children. I am and always have been a doer. I get things done. I organise things, fix things (or get my husband to fix them), but that I can't do anything significant to fix these problems that we wake to every morning... it is slowly ebbing away at that thing that drives us all, whether we see the glass half full or half empty... hope.
Even as a worrier, I have always felt the future was bright. After all, isn't the world a better place than it was 100 or even 50 years ago? I used to think so, but I'm not so sure, and I'm also not so sure it's not because I am getting older and seeing the world the way my parents would have viewed it when we were growing up, listening to them about the demise of morality and the state of the world. I'm beginning to sound a lot like them. But I think it probably is a better world and almost certainly no worse. The problems of our parents' and grandparents' generations have always existed - the demise of morality, the destruction of our planet, the bollockiness of politcs, the increasing divide between the wealthy and the poor, society that measures success by how much money you have, the accountability of individuals and communities to make the world a better place and the suffering of the deprived, uneducated and poor... I could go on. These problems have always existed and it's not that they are going away, it's that we aren't necessarily getting better at dealing with them.
We might be in a recession but it's no different to recessions we've had before. Maybe the difference is that our greed makes the lack of work, the cost of living and having to do without so much harder for us than it was for our parents - we've never had to do without. As for the state of morality... I take solace in the fact that each and every one of the people I know upholds the highest regard for doing the right thing and all I can do is teach my children what I believe to be right from wrong and lead by example. That's not to say I can (or should) protect them from everything. The riots in England have made us question whether it really is the right thing for our family to raise our boys in the UK, but for me, the answer is still yes, it is. The 'sick society' of the UK is no different to the sick society in any western country, the difference is that the UK's problem is way ahead than the rest of the world's. It's going to happen here, there, everywhere, this uprising of disenfranchised youth. As a parent it's up to me to make sure my kids understand why this reaction is plain wrong, and perhaps seeing it first hand will be a part of that education because God forbid my children should be ignorant of the problems of the world. Perhaps I am being naive, but I can't run away from the place I call home because life is harder there. That would be wrong. If anything, and just like anything else in my life, I want to be a part of fixing the problem.
And much as I wish I could, I know I can't fix these problems on my own, just like I know that my tiny monthly contribution to Unicef isn't going to fix the famine in East Africa, but it's something and not one of us should sit back and do nothing at all.
So, I won't stop listening to the news just yet, although I have considered it. I need to know what is happening in the world outside. I need to know that there is more than despair out there. Because, for all the stories that leave me desperate, it's all an education, one that I need in order to do the best I can raising my children, who, oblivious to the problems of the world get on with their lives, pottering about our house, playing with this and that and... life goes on. And for all the stories that leave me feeling helpless, there are the ones that leave me with hope, like these images of the Londoners that I know and remember, rallying together to do the right thing. Images of that hope and optimism and power of people. We might not need the news, but we definitely need that hope.