Sunday, October 07, 2007


You've heard the saying, "Everything is relative". Well, I think some things are not relative. Especially the basic things like a roof over your head, clean water to drink, something nourishing to eat, primary medical care, and the opportunity for education to the high school level. Either you have them or you don't.

If you have this basic stuff, the quantity and quality of it really doesn't matter too much. You can have a life without excessive worry and you can enjoy the pleasures of family and friends. Being warm and dry, safe, well-fed, and aware of the world is all most people need in order to wake up without crying every day. And if you have all these things, the first item on your bonus list is having something useful to do.

If you don't have this basic stuff, life is a bitch. It is generally really uncomfortable, really painful, really difficult, and really unfulfilling. Life without the basics is often a competition to obtain them by whatever means, even if that means taking them from others who also have substandard lives, or taking great risks to get to places where those basics might be obtained. This kind of life is precarious at best.

We like to forget that billions of people live (to stretch the meaning of the word) without these basics, and that a few of them even live in the United States. Talk about "human rights" is empty unless these billions are front and center in our conversation and concern. Their problem, generally speaking, is that they were unfortunate enough to be born in the wrong place. They are not just screwed relative to us, they are just plain screwed. (And if the effects of global warming are anything like what is predicted, before long we will have many fewer of these unfortunates to worry about.)

I must admit that I've not done much, personally, to address this problem of humans having to live in sub-human conditions. That's changing - I'm adding my drop to the bucket of compassion. I have begun to understand the concept of things not being relative.

1 comment:

Ron Davison said...

My parents went through bankruptcy. They'd both done well, had good jobs and rental property, and then put it all into a business that alternatively prospered and limped along for a decade before going under. I remember dad saying, "People who say that money doesn't matter haven't tried to live without it."