Get A Life!
'The fast-food industry has wrecked my life,' he whined. 'I always thought it was good for you. I never thought there was anything wrong with it.' And just where have you been, I mumbled to the telly. And then I thought, ‘who am I to cast stones?’ as I gave a polite tug on my snug t-shirt.
Had he never heard a generation of warnings about killer diets in polystyrene containers? There might be all sorts of good reasons for objecting to the practices of fast food merchants, but protesting that their products are greasy, salty and sugary struck me as rather like complaining that your ice-cream is a bit on the chilly side. This was the blame culture gone crazy. ‘Take some responsibility as a human being,' I wanted to shout. 'Get a life!'
My self-righteous sniggering lasted only a few seconds. I had switched to the BBC to watch the current news. Across the screen were compelling images of the suffering people in Indonesia who are homeless and awaiting emergency help. The earthquake has left nearly six thousand dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. The next article was on the emergency needs in southern Africa - 16 million people - half of them children, facing starvation. Food, medical supplies, tools, everything is desperately needed to prevent this continuing humanitarian catastrophe.
And, of course, as the images of suffering and despair continued across the screen, my mind moved to the children in Eastern Europe. ‘My’ children, my own images; some caught on film, some so indelibly chiselled into my soul that they will remain with me until the day I die; The children I’ve tried to help, the children I didn’t have the resources to help; and especially the children it was too late to help.
These juxtaposed themes stunned me. There is a unique yet familiar contemporary obscenity; Half the world worries about their stomachs being too big to fit into this year's fashion; the other half worries about children's stomachs distended by starvation.
'Take some responsibility as a human being': my words were haunting me even before I'd had a chance to hurl them at the fast food addict. The children in Africa, Romania, Moldova, are not looking for people to blame. They are just frantically looking for a way to survive. Their horrors are similar yet different. But the fact is that they indeed suffer. And the much crueller fact is that all we have to do is reach for the remote and with a simple ‘click,’ the image no longer offends. We can go on to watch ‘Big Brother’ or ‘Rich Girls.’ Let’s face it, they’re much more entertaining, aren’t they?
Finding targets for blame might be easy, but indignation is never enough. Just as every portion of fat-soaked chips should raise questions about diet and exercise and basic health, so every picture of a hungry child should provoke hard thinking about our own use of global resources, about burdens of debt and terms of trade. And about how far we'll dig into our wallets.
If you’re a person of faith - be it the Bible, the Koran or the Talmud, there really is no escape- ‘We are our brother’s keeper, like it or not,’ all faiths make this clear.