Tuesday, November 22, 2005

In Excess

Last night as the movie credits were rolling I overheard the woman in front of us explaining the movie to her friend. She was describing the caste system that "used to" exist in India pre-Ghandi and the horrors and nonsense of it. That got me thinking...
We can look at a pulsing country like India and see clearly the cruelty of being born into the wrong family, into the wrong village, simply into the wrong house and how little sense that makes for dooming a person to a life of poverty and deprivation and ultimately, untimely death. We look at the Brahmin caste and the absolute insanity of their thinking that they have a right to treat the lowest caste however they see fit -- including having sex with girls as young as 7 or 8 years old, thinking these girls are blessed to have been with a Brahmin. How could they think it okay to live in elaborate houses and drive the best cars and eat the best foods while the lower castes' babies are dying and disease is rampant and people are starving? And all because they were born into that birthright? This doesn't make any sense to us.
Yet this is what exists today, on a grander scale yet. We, the priviledged classes born into countries that have too much -- countries suffering from excess -- we born with the birthright to waste turn our eyes from those who have nothing. We try to believe that they are different. Yet we all know someone who has adopted a child from any one of those countries and we have seen them grow up with the same emotions that we have. We see them mothering their children with the same love we have. And intuitively we DO know that we are all the same. That we are all one species.
But we don't want to look at it that way. We want to believe in our birthright to waste. We suffer from the symptoms of excess -- obesity, loneliness, pollution, decimation of natural resources -- but we want to believe that it has to be okay to live like this because we deserve it.
Deserve what? and when does it begin?
I look at my own children with their room burgeoning with too many toys and feel a little sick at the thought of them getting MORE because it's Christmas and that's their right -- to have more more more. Why? Why do we burden our children with too much stuff? We put our babies in their own beds with bars on the sides to keep them safe and eventually contained (and thus away from us having our peaceful sleep) yet is anyone really having that peaceful sleep? Aren't we all complaining because our children aren't sleeping through the night -- they want to be in our beds, hearing our heartbeats, nestled against our furry bodies. We are too busy to carry them on our backs like they do in underdeveloped countries. We have to get back to WORK so we can afford all our excesses! So we put them into childcare where they begin to shrivel (not always), into daycares and preschools where the caregiver is overburdened, the children are out of control and hurtful, and then we wonder when as teenagers they turn their back on us and walk away when we're talking to them. We've been pushing them away from us since they were born and then we're surprised when they finally walk away???
I'm not saying that we should ALL live in poverty on this planet. I'm just asking what our world would look like if we all truly did ALL we could to help each other. This has been a big year for devastation in the world and we've all opened our wallets to help. What does doing all I can look like for me? Is it the equivalent to what I spend on a nice dinner out with my husband? The equivalent to what I spend on gifts for my child in a year? We all say "we can't afford it" to many things. And then we do afford it if we really want it. What would it be like if we couldn't afford to live in excess because we were helping others on our planet have something? What if we stopped complaining about what we don't have and started sharing what we do?
We wonder about revolutions and terrorists and crime. But what would it be like to sit in squalor with absolutely nothing -- and absolutely NO hope of that changing -- and watching our neighbours wallow in relative wealth, throwing more food away than they ate, filling up a big pit behind our home with all the stuff that they don't feel like fixing or keeping anymore. Would we be content with that kind of imbalance? Or would we rise up and demand that we deserve to be treated with more respect and dignity than that just because we exist?
This whole issue makes my stomach churn. Mostly because I can hear people in my own family telling me that this all doesn't make sense. Yet how can it not? HOW can it possibly make sense to live the way we do and turn the channel on the T.V. when we don't want to see how terrible other people live?
How can it make sense to continue to give our children more food than they can eat, more toys than they can love, but less love than they need, less touch than they need, less listening than they crave and think all is right with the world.

1 comment:

Pearl said...

I hear ya. Christmas makes me feel ambivalent too about the excess. I feel family do press each other away and yet don't cut the ties and be done with it. It's an awkward middle space. Either intimacy or nothing woulf be easier.