July 25, 2014

The best place on earth or how the richest 85 have more than 3.5 billion

Well. We know this stuff already... but now it's official. The richest 85 people in the world earn more than the bottom 3.5 billion. Is it really possible? That the income of less than one hundred can  somehow equal that of 3.5 billion?

The information is according to the UN in its most recent report on human development. Parts are encouraging though generally we seem to be slipping on the planetary scale. The CBC provides a useful and accessible summary.

Canada has improved on the UN's Human Development Index; we find ourselves back in the top ten again, after several years in the teens. Many of us remember being at the top of the pile during the 1990s. For the current year, the top nation is Norway, which isn't all that surprising given its continued stewardship of resources. What is surprising is that for some bizarre reason, the USA is ahead of Canada on this index. The writer and I have visited the Excited States twice this year, and that certainly wouldn't be our observation. The divide between the American rich and the nation's underclass is ever more obvious than it is in Canada, though we are doing our part in the race towards the bottom.

Perhaps the wonderful policies of Our Dear Leader in Ottawa and our less-than-dear leader in Victoria are finally working in concert; the rich get richer and the rest of us...

According to Stephen Harper and Christy Clark their enlightened economic policies put more money into our pockets, and as consumers we get to decide how to spend it, but that mainly benefits the rich. The rest of us are squeezed with cuts to the very services that used to lift up all of us, rich and poor alike.

The Government of BC used to promote the province as being "...the best place on Earth." For some reason that slogan has quietly disappeared, though it still pops up now and then. Having the highest rates of child poverty in Canada and seeing a doubling of homelessness in the past year alone might be reason enough to change the slogan.

Maybe we are winning the race after all. This is not good.

Photo of local street person by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

July 18, 2014

What is harder than dying in Gaza by a missile?

These are the days of miracle and wonder. Sons and daughters announce engagements. A grandchild is born. We celebrate each new day, life and all that it brings.

These are also days of unimaginable horror. Planes fall out the sky. School girls are kidnapped and never seen again. Villages are destroyed to be made anew for someone else. How do we begin to understand this seeming global madness, especially when we have so much to celebrate?

Into Israel rockets are fired by Hamas. The Israeli government responds with a massive campaign. In some cases, earlier in this war, the IDF gave advance notice to civilians; that their homes were about to be bombed. One should leave if given that kind of notice. Advance notice that is perhaps worth celebrating in a strange sort of way.

Mahmoud Jouda, a Palastinian in Gaza was interviewed by the Institute for Middle East Understanding and gave a much different perspective on a lifetime worth celebrating each and everyday. But for the advance notice...
I’ll tell you what is harder than dying in Gaza by an Israeli missile deluxe.
What is harder is that you get a phone call from the Israeli army telling you to evacuate your home because it will be bombed in ten minutes. 
Imagine; ten minutes; and your whole short history on the surface of Earth will be erased. Gifts you received, photos of your siblings and your children (dead or alive),
things that you love, your favorite chair, your books, that last poetry collection your read, a letter from your expatriate sister, reminders of the ones you loved, the smell of your bed, the jasmine tree that hangs off your western window, your daughter’s hair clip, your old clothes, your prayer rug, your wife’s gold, your savings;
imagine; all this passes in front of your eyes in ten minutes, all that pain passes while you are struck by surprise.
Then you take your identification papers (passport, birth certificate, etc.) which you have ready in an old metallic candy box,  and you leave your home to die a thousand times, or refuse to leave and die once.
These are the days of miracle and wonder. And don't cry baby, don't cry. And then again...

Lyrics from The Boy in the Bubble by Paul Simon (1986)
Photo by Jim Murray.
Copyright 2014.