Saturday 24 August 2019

We need to see beyond looking after ourselves


WHEN I was a novice, back in 1967, our novice master often quoted a Scottish saying, suggesting if people were to sweep outside their own hall-door, then all would be well and fine. At the time, it made a lot of sense. But these days, I'm not too sure. In fact, that Scottish saying might not even be all that Christian. For example, what happens with those not able to care for themselves?

I work in the press office of the aid agency Concern and through my job I've learned something of what life is like for the billion people around the world who don't have enough food to eat. I've learned, too, something of the heroism of so many people who live their lives on a daily basis against the odds.

Agencies like Concern do extraordinary work in helping the poorest of the poor around the world. Not just sticking plaster initiatives but putting in place long-term programmes that allow people both to claim their dignity, by being responsible for how their country develops and flourishes.

We all know there are serious problems in the Developing World. The current drought in the Horn of Africa is shocking and the response of the Irish public has been truly amazing.

And then last week I read three statistics that quite genuinely made me fall out of my standing. Every household in Ireland throws out €1,000 worth of food every year.

That's the equivalent of €20 a week. As Father Dougal would say, ' that's mad'. And so it is. It's also annoying and disgraceful.

Supermarkets throw out thousands of euro worth of food every week. So also do hotels. And health and safety rules forbid them to give the food away for free or at a reduced price.

The second statistic was 46.2 million. What does it represent? It's the number of United States citizens who exist below the poverty line. I'm no US basher. But when I saw that figure I simply could not believe it.

And then to complement those 46.2 US citizens, the government in Washington spends over €26 million every day on the wars it is currently fighting.

Is the world gone mad? In those ways, I think it is.


Last Tuesday morning, at 01.00 Irish time, officials in the State of Georgia applied a lethal injection to Troy Davis. There has been much controversy about the safety of his conviction for murdering a policeman.

Witnesses have retracted their statements. Some have claimed intimidation. And yet, this black American man - a poor man - was killed, in what many think is the world's most sophisticated country.

Justice or revenge? Will the Pro-Life lobby take to the streets about this ' lawful' killing? I'd love to think so, but I doubt it. Will they have gruesome pictures of the dead man in their newspapers and magazines? I doubt somehow or other.

We all know about the places in the world where life is a hell: children cannot go to school, few have enough to eat. We read about how cheap life is in the ghettoes; in cities where children are routinely rounded up and 'Disappeared' because of their appalling crime of poverty.

But when we hear about what passes for ' life' in the USA, ' the land of the free and home of the brave', then really, all I am able to do is scratch my head and admit that this world of ours sure is a strange place.

Sweep in front of our own doors? By all means. But this time, over 40 years on, let's not forget our neighbours.

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