- It costs just 25 cents a day to provide a child with the vitamins and nutrients to grow up healthy, but every hour of every day, 300 children die from malnutrition.
- One in seven people on earth goes to bed hungry each night while the top 40 highest-earning hedge fund managers made a combined $13.2 billion in a single year.
- Global military spending exceeds $1.7 trillion per year, 100 times more than annual cancer research spending.
- 1.4 billion people in developing countries live on $1.25 a day or less, while the global video game market is nearly $50 billion. Read more
You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power – he’s free again. ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Do some people matter more than others? In a tabloid culture, an inordinate premium is placed on anyone rich or popular, the antics of celebrities and millionaires receiving more attention than the mortal struggles of women and children.
In the U.S., the gap between fame and obscurity, wealth and poverty, power and powerlessness manifests itself most starkly in centers of influence like Washington, Los Angeles and New York, where jockeying for position is an obsession. Being invited to the right party, getting the right table at the right restaurant, having the right address, owning the right accoutrements, getting name-checked in the right publication or seen with the right person is of paramount importance.
America is based on the noble idea of equality, but principle and practice are two very different things and some people are more equal than others, with disproportionate privileges and prestige. This holds true across the planet.
Counterintuitively, the most important people in the world are those who have the least, those who are the most oppressed, those who are victims of the worst violence.
We are only as strong and powerful and important as the weakest link in the human chain. When a little girl is gang-raped, when a child wastes away from preventable hunger, when a man is silenced for his beliefs, when a woman dies needlessly in childbirth, when a little boy lives in agony from a preventable disease, we are all weakened, our worth diminished.
When the resources of the rich and famous are put to use to help those in need, it is because the highest moral calling is to give to others, to extend a hand to those who need one.
If character is built on compassion and generosity of spirit, the most important person in the world is the one who most needs our compassion, care and generosity, the person who enables us to improve ourselves by helping them, who gives us value because we value them.
With all the hobnobbing, backslapping, namedropping and idol-worshiping served to us by the media, with the dazzling displays of money and fame and power, let’s never forget who matters most in this world: it is the person to whom we give something of ourselves — and from whom we derive our moral power.
The blow-up du jour is Juan Williams’ termination by NPR for insensitive comments about Muslims:
NPR has terminated its contract with Juan Williams, one of its senior news analysts, after he made comments about Muslims on the Fox News Channel.
From my perspective, this is the most notable portion:
Mr. O’Reilly said, “The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.” Mr. Williams said he concurred with Mr. O’Reilly.
The biggest threat? Bigger than preventable hunger and disease that kills millions of women and children? Bigger than the scourge of sexual violence and domestic abuse that endangers our mothers, sisters and daughters? Bigger than the wholesale ravaging of our planet and global warming? Seriously?
This reveals a terribly warped set of priorities. I’m not surprised O’Reilly said it. I would have expected better of Juan Williams.
Oxfam’s Joel Bassuk writes:
In less than a week world leaders will meet in New York to review progress on the Millennium Development Goals, including the goal to halve world hunger by 2015 (MDG1). Governments are no closer to achieving this goal today then they were ten years ago. But the genuinely good news is that it is still possible to halve hunger in the next 5 years.
Oxfam’s new report, ‘Halving World Hunger: Still Possible,’ points to countries such as Vietnam and Brazil as evidence of what is possible. By supporting poor food producers and providing social safety nets for people who cannot produce or buy enough food, Vietnam and Brazil have dramatically cut hunger at home. For instance, Brazil has reduced malnutrition by 73 percent in the last six years.
If more governments – north and south – work together to deliver the right policies and the necessary investment the success stories of Brazil and Vietnam can be replicated across the globe.
World leaders meeting at the MDG Summit in New York must show they haven’t given up on the Millennium Development Goals. They must put their weight behind a global action plan that will bring all countries together to tackle hunger.
The intro to the Oxfam report states:
Unless an urgent rescue package is developed to accelerate fulfillment of all the MDGs, we are likely to witness the greatest collective failure in history.
In most discussions of right and wrong, sins of commission tend to get more attention than sins of omission, but not doing something that could save lives is still ethically reprehensible. If we can spare millions of children the ravages of hunger, poverty and disease and we don’t, then it is indeed an epic collective failure.