Today is Christmas day. The day, in the Christian calendar, on which Christ was born – bringing salvation and hope to the world. A day for family, celebration of hope and goodwill to all.
Today, the world in which we live has no salvation and declining hope. More than half the human population lives in poverty, without even the basic necessities of life – enough food or clean water, shelter or healthcare. Yet the richer minority spend more for this day than the poorer majority earn in lifetimes.
Last year’s global holiday spend was about $38.2 billion principally from Europe ($15.77bn) and the US ($15.66bn). This year’s spend is expected to be , on average, 3.9% up on last year. This cannot be right. The financially wealthy nations of the world cannot surely be spending on the latest gadgets and gifts while the financially poor peoples starve and die of disease. Not today, the day of goodwill to all mankind.
Jesus Christ, whose birthday elicits much celebration and lavish spending came up at a time of great prosecution – he came as a saviour, the messiah. Not to one set of people, but for the whole world. Yet today, of the 191 nations recognised by the UN, there are 35 in some stage of armed conflict, many more in stages of internal strife brought about by the oppression of political minorities and the injustice of corporate interest. If ever there was a time for salvation, for a saviour, for a messiah; this would be it.
The world over, the natural infrastructure that forms the fragile balance of life on earth has been badly damaged and is continually eroded. The air, earth and water are being poisoned. Flora and fauna are both being pushed to the edge of extinction by greed and the desperation of poor people; the social bonds that bind people into communities are being destroyed. Maybe to some extent this is good – religion and other questionable forms of social control, which promoted a hypocritical sense of moral superiority, are removed. Now all we need is for a form of social adhesive based on the recognition of the earth and all its inhabitants as all members of the same ‘family’. Each with its part to play in the survival of the collective. With the regard and protection of all. This would be a good idea, but as of today, that is all it is – an idea.
Forget terrorism as the scourge of humanity. Poverty and disease caused by man is and will remain the main killer of more people than the bombs of political discontents. When the World Bank and the IMF ‘restructure’ candidate nations so that they spend more servicing debt than educating their youth or providing healthcare to their citizens, one must question who the real threats to humanity are.
So this Christmas the message is simple.
Do not just pay a passing glance, a fleeting thought to the homeless; the disenfranchised and the poor; the old and infirm; the hungry and dying in the developing worlds of Africa and Asia, Central and South America.
Do not ignore the devastation of the oceans and the earth’s very lifeblood, the rape of the land and the vegetation, the decimation of species in the name of profit. We all have to live on this planet and what we strive to be ignorant of today, will be painfully obvious to us and our generations to come.
If there is hope, it is that you can do something lasting about it. Educate yourself about what is going on and why. Then contribute what you can; in time, effort and money to make it better. That is the greatest present you can give the world.
This article was originally written 25 December 2003.