What In The World
political travels in Africa, Asia and the Americas
When I was a kid I loved fairytales. I had pictures in my mind of good winning out over evil and happy endings being the real story of life. Of course as age took over it became one of the tragedies of life that happy endings were the exception rather than the rule for many. As I became a parent myself I took out these fairytales to pass on to my offspring. My adult eyes viewed them very differently. How could wolves be so cruel? what about them poor three little pigs? Red riding hood was terrified?
And this is what Peadar has encapsulated in this brilliant book. We are brought on a journey through picturesque continents, exotic lands we have all seen beauty in – Mongolia, Angola, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Argentina, Mauritius and many more. What In the World is primarily a documentary series in which Peadar King narrates conditions in specific countries. This is a book dealing with some tales from the documentary series. Each series deals with a continent and explores society in a straightforward manner that details the gap between rich and poor. Peadar tells the story of the poor.
Not just that we hear about racism in the US. Former US president Jimmy Carter’s wife Rosa Lynn tells us that “racism pervades the criminal justice system in our country” whilst discussing the death penalty in her country. One in every thirty three people come under some type of supervision by an adult correctional facility. It is amazing how many time the US and its government gets mentioned throughout the book. In Peru, where the war on drugs has extended to the Andes. Extreme poverty has driven up to two million people to grow cocoa on whatever land they have. This ‘business’ generates approx $300 BILLION per year (yes the figures are startling) and less than 1% stays in the area it is produced. The WAR on drugs sees land being totally eradicated but the people who farm this land still live in abject poverty.
When reading all the real life reflections (I refuse to call them stories as there is some perception of fiction in that word) there is a common theme. People are ignored in the pursuit of profit and power. We hear of Patagonia were Benneton paid $50 million for 900,000 hectares. Land on which people were living and suddenly found themselves evicted on with miles and miles of barbed wire fencing surrounding it much like the great wall of China or what the Isrealis are doing in Palestine. Mapuchean people who live on the land are being displaced and elbowed out by people coming into the country buying the land from corrupt governments. How about Mongolia, 30% of public land has been leased to Foreign mining companies.
We hear of the dangers of documentary making. In Kenya whilst reporting on the Turkana and Pokot tribes Peadar and his team came under direct confrontation with AK-47 yielding local soldier. Water supply in the region is determined by the needs of the production of electricity (for profit) rather than by the faremers who live on the land. A dam has been built for the purpose of a Hydro Electricity plant controversially built (imagine that) with no apparent thoughts about the consequences of displacing people from the land it was built on.
People tend to take second place. it is hard to put into words the poverty that people face in Africa and elsewhere. Every 5 seconds a child dies of hunger, 23,000 children EVERY DAY. Close your eyes and imagine that. This poverty is not just in the third world however. 14% of the population of the u.s. live below the official poverty threshold. Whilst this threshold is way above the standard for many in the third world it is still startling.
Death and loss seem to be somehow acceptable for many in society today . In Mauritius, the people of Chagos Island were forcibly moved from their homes to allow a military base to be built in the Indian Ocean. Built by whom? US and Britain. Somehow the 2,000 inhabitants of the island were cleared or left.
The tragedy of Cambodia where over 2 million of its people were killed by the Pol Pot regime. Approx 30% of the population, wiped out.
The tragedy of LAOS is brought home to us. A neutral county in the Vietnam War it’s problem was that it bordered Vietnam (and therefore people flowed there) and between 1964 and 1973 the US dropped 78 MILLION bombs there. One every 8 minutes, for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That brings a new meaning to 24x7x365. Even worse not all the bombs exploded at the time and some are STILL there like booby traps for unsuspecting innocent people. The impact this has on people today is startling. Imagine going to work, or school or wherever every day and not being sure if the route you take is laden with unexploded devices ready to decimate you or your family?
India is not cast aside, It is the worlds largest democracy (1 billion people live here). In Hyderabad child labour is rampant in the cotton fields. Children are bonded slaves in certain instances. It also has its place in the contradictory list of the rich and poor where the combined wealth of the richest 100 people is $300billion, whilst also being home to one third of the worlds poor
Water is also a big issue. There are falling water levels and it is being privateesd throughout the world. We are told that 12 million people in Mali are at risk with the fall of water levels in the niger River.
This is contradicted in too few countries. Bolivia being one. IN 2000 the World bank refused to extend loans to the country unless it privatised some public services including water (Sound familiar to Irish people?). This happened and protest flowed on to the streets. In Cochamba 2 protestors were blinded by gunfire and another killed. The protests were successful and water is still under public ownership to this day. This has lead to further mobilisations in Bolivia and when Morales took democratic power in 2005 his first act was to reduce Ministers pay, and indeed his won, by 57%. Morales mantra is that capitalism has failed and we want “No more masters, only partners”. James Connolly is quoted here too “Capitalism has failed and failed badly”.
As described by Peadar “When confronted by human tragedy, the temptation is to both stare and look away. We slow down at car crashes while we briskly walk past homeless drunkards stretched out on the pavements of our streets….. The stark reality is that inequality is on the increase”.
I urge you to check this out, read it absorb it and PLEASE try and do something about all this inequality. We are inhibited by Sectraianism throughout the planet. We can admire our differences and as Flux used to sing “There’s enough for all of our need but not for all of our greed”