It’s five long years since our beloved daughter died suddenly. Yet somehow we have lived on, through further bereavements and our own respective cancers. And it is good to be alive – we still have a son, after all, and the world has so many places to visit and to marvel at its beauty. And yet I find myself frequently in despair as I read the news and feel powerless to do anything.
My friend, who is the Director General of the United Nations in Geneva, says that, despite the opposite impression, there are in fact fewer wars being waged now than at any other time. I guess he should know! But somehow I find it hard to find this a comfort when there are so mnay awful things happening all around us.
Let’s take Syria and the refugee crisis. Somehow the west has allowed this to escalate by continuing the mistakes of past interventions in for example Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. And now we have the showdown everyone has been trying to avoid – between Russia and the west, with local Shia and Sunni factions making incomprehensible bedfellows. The long and short of it is that this total devastation rained on Syria is causing such mayhem that the people have no option but to flee, and Europe, after initial encouragement for Merkel, is now shutting the stable door long after the horse has bolted.
Meanwhile the French are bulldozing the Jungle camp in Calais where there is a large number of unaccompanied children, who have families in Britain, but Britain refuses to take them. They will simply vanish to traffickers and prostitution. Now the EU has come up with what Amnesty and other human rights organisations say is an illegal scheme to return a ‘migrant’ to Turkey, to join the 3m Syrians already there, for every refugee they give asylum to. And guess what? Turkey gets $6bn and fast-track entry to the EU for sorting out EU’s ‘little’ problem. Oh – and they have just shut down the country’s largest newspaper for being too critical of the government.
What happened to the UN charter for refugees which every country has signed up to? Most EU countries are not even processing the refugees, just hoping they will become someone else’s problem. As member states they won’t even adhere to the policy of sharing the refugees on a pro rata basis which was agreed.
I am proud to say that one of Louise’s friends set up Calais Action, the first grassroots movement in UK which has mushroomed into a national organisation to help refugees not only in Calais but in Lesbos and the Greek islands. She would have been there, at the front line, and so would I if I was in London.
Then there’s Brexit: the behaviour of our European ‘brethren’ leaves me in little doubt that European unity is a joke. Why did we rush to let in so many countries which have such different values and wretched economies – their people are the true economic migrants! And now they are turning on people – mostly far better qualified – who threaten their access to jobs and wealth in the richer EU countries. However, I always think, to quote that old toad Lyndon B Johnson ‘it’s probably better to have him [the enemy] inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in’. In other words it’s better to be in Europe trying to improve the status quo, rather than cutting ourselves off, and some of our largest export markets to boot.
Talking of jokes – what’s up with the US? It seems likely that Trump is going to be the official candidate of the Republican Party! Yikes! Cynic that I am, it’s not impossible that he might win the Presidency. I suppose in South Africa you have a President who occupies a similar space these days, but it’s not good news for the rest of the world if its largest economy and most powerful country is run by a bigot with no international experience. Hillary’s lies have done her no favours, and I think Bernie is the best bet, but probably not a winning one.
China is poised to become the largest economy and on a recent trip to Laos, I saw its tentacles creeping over that lovely country, from huge infrastructure projects – five new hydro dams at the expense of several villages and wildlife, a new railway from China to Singapore, new roads, shopping malls, hotels etc – to the insidious takeover of agricultural land with enormous banana plantations, fields of food to feed their hungry billions, all doused in lethal chemicals. It is the same in many parts of Africa – Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Rwanda – the list is endless. At the same time the new regime is clamping down on human rights ruthlessly.
What can we do? As with all these other issues, there is little that we can do. The current obsession is with all these petitions that pop up endlessly on social media. I am sure it makes you feel better to sign one, but really what does it achieve? In England the wretched government is imposing a contract on Junior Doctors which results in them continuing to be paid less than tube drivers and working twice as long! The numerous petitions and public opinion have no effect because the silly old Brits gave Cameron such an overwhelming mandate, and elected a Labour leader that will never, ever be PM. Oh dear.
All over the world, people must be asking the same question: what can we do? These issues are only the tip of the iceberg of the inequitable world we live in – I haven’t even touched on the rights of women in countries such as India, where rape and wife-burnings abound; the destruction of the rainforest for palm-oil plantations which I see everywhere in SE Asia; the famine in Zimbabwe which goes largely unreported while Mugabe eats cake like Marie Antoinette.
I’m afraid I don’t know the answer. But at least I feel passionate about such issues and try to raise awareness to the followers on my various blogs that life outside our front doors is far from good for most of the world. One thing I do, and you can do, is give money to charities who are trying to make a difference.