Foam or Famine

Whilst listening to the radio this morning the presenter pointed out that yesterday millions of us around the world were glued to several hours of live transmission of the Murdoch hearings on phone hacking . 

Today the most viewed video on You Tube was that of Murdoch's wife Wendi Deng, scrambling to the defence of her husband's attacker, Johnny Marbles when he attempted to throw a plate of shaving foam into Rupert Murdoch's face shouting "Greedy".

The presenter then went on to challenge us by posing the question how many of us would have watched for a similar duration, videos or programmes of the famine in the Horn of Africa ?

This is the type of question that faces us all the time these days : deluges of information overload us and it is hard to discern where our attention and priorities should lie .

For some of us of a certain age the famines in East Africa today are a re-run of many we have seen in our lives, so that we have become inured to the horror of the world's tragedies on the nightly news, the killing fields that have laid their memories in our heads can often lead to a cold indifference or simply compassion fatigue for any fresh ones.

Late night Radio and TV appeals and newspaper /internet appeals begging for our intercession seem perennial. 

 We are used to bearded saint-like Samaritans  and the weary and valiant emergency aid workers in the field, face to camera,  or walking eternally through unnamed cholera infested slums, photogenic doe-eyed children with empty bowls , set amidst cesspools of human waste trying to wrest from us a pittance of our Western wealth, the mere "price of a cup of coffee a day" to alleviate such abject human misery.

Many of us do give money and many don't  and the only reason that any of us will ever sit up and pay attention to other lives going on in parallel to our own is when we become aware that these lives are real and that we carry responsibility to help.

That is hard to accept because it is often so utterly and unbearably painful to acknowledge the primacy and importance of famine on the scale of 10 million people.

From the comfort of our own lives I realise that what we do is nothing more than full of sound and fury and foam, and what we fail to do signifies a callousness and indifference that chills me to the bone.

It also makes me think that many Africans might wish that Johnny Marbles plate of foam could be thrown in all our faces.
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