Thursday, 12 June 2008

Thoughts on suffering and other stuff.

I hear and read that over here, in the UK, as in many parts of the "developed world", people are suffering due to the rise in the price of crude oil.

Suffering? Who are they kidding?

Do we really know what the word suffering means?

To my mind, suffering is having an acute pain, physical or mental, distress.

Finding that a litre of fuel has risen another penny is annoying, inconvenient.

Watching a loved one die of a disease or starvation, that is suffering.

A vast majority of the UK population has no idea what it is like to live in Africa, Asia or South America, and I count myself amongst them.

I have witnessed poverty in South Africa and more recently in Kenya. For most, it is a way of life, with no hope of escape.

Most people in the UK own or have the use of a car. Most people in the UK live in a weatherproof, warm house with electricity and clean hot and cold water on tap, literally.

Most Kenyans and South Africans I know don't have either electricity or water. They don't have cars. They are fit because they walk!

I have lived in these conditions in Kenya, and surprisingly, I think I adapted quite well. I enjoyed my stay, but then, I was with people I like, people I would be happy to have as family.

This got me thinking that in the materialist world I live in, we (or at least, I) have lost touch with what is important. Cars, fully equipped houses, tap water, electricity, these are not important.

People are important. The people we live with are important. The people who surround us are important.

This does not mean that I will give up my car, electricity and clean drinking water. Not in the UK, ayway. It does not mean that, in Kenya, I do not aspire to owning a car, or living in a house with all the conveniences I am used to. But I think I would rather live in Kenya without all the trappings than in the UK with them.


Anonymous said...

While it is true that some sort of suffering is really sad, westerners often apply the wrong materialistic yardsticks to the lives of other people, and I feel it is what got a lot of people started on the whole pursuit of money and tangible things. Sometimes western standards of having a car, etc, really do not apply to all people on earth, however hard that may be, to believe.A lot of people are content with their lives, e.g the herdsman may be content with his animals,and fine hut that resists wind and rain better than the wooden buildings of europe and n. america, which to him work better than "modernization",and the atrocious consequences he sees of those.Or the hindu who lives in his holistic simple life somewhere in India and is happier than the westerner begging to give him a suit, a diesel car, and straight shoes. Of course hunger is wrong, but beyond that, sometimes what you find comfortable, isn't really what accounts to all people on the planet.Different yardsticks,and the ones used by world vision to twist your pity and get your donations a month- which go right into their pockets.

Anonymous said...

Oh and by the way, you SHOULD worry about the price of oil. By flashing you pictures "of others who're suffering more" is how you westerners are blinded into ignoring your own lifestyles or politicians who may not be listening to you and getting away with everything.
How ignorant you are.

Dad Mzungu said...

You are so right about different people with different values. I suppose I realised this when I stayed in Kenya, and I am grateful for having my eyes opened.
Of course I worry about the price of oil. It affects the price of everything else, including, an especially food, here, and everywhere else.
But, what I am saying is that seeing the price at the pumps going up 1p a litre, is not suffering.
I am not ignorant, but I do not know everything. I am still learning.

Kimya and Japul said...

Glad you are open to learning like that, but you know, your writing is very ignorant and racist, honestly. I think it is cos you are all raised to believe "you are gods" and your language begins to reflect that without you being aware of it. I can see how that can be, cos after living abroad for a decade and being told to "save the world/feed the world/ dollar a day" begin to believe that you indeed are a god deigned to save and rule "the lesser kind".
If we do not open up trade corridors or ease up on tariffs, we are playing silly little games of "dollar a day" and "loans" that do not lead anywhere - which I think is the point of the European union and the US. Thank God China and India are now evenly trading with Africa, and last year's trade was up 60 bil. US.(weak dollar, but hey). Before you know it, you'll have nowhere to go to assuage your god-complex. Your blog needs positive comments on africa as well, seeing how you whites are all addicted to negative stories from here so you can feel good.

kimya said...

And honestly, maybe if you worry about your immediate surroundings e.g gas prices, the world wil change faster and better that way, than jumping a queue with a " a black little mite" in kisii, kenya.
Hw about advocating for fair trade where you are, if you truly want change, rather that dwell in temporary feelings of god-like status while you wait to leave this world?
Fair trade is what will work,not queue jumpers and token gestures from "a mzungu who loves kenya" and others like you. How about advocating for that from where you are and pressing your EU to remove those punitive tariffs that they have on Africa?
Let's deal with the real issues here.
Also, by fighting for corrective gas prices there, aren't they going to affect the prices of food there, which in turn will affect world prices, since your countries are the biggest buyers(growing little crops yourselves) and this is very well the law of supply and demand? Stop pretending you cna save the world while hiding in Kenya and feeding your ego. Thanks.