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Nº64 Men Are From Mars And So Is Everyone Else, Too – Of Death, Dearth, And Sweets
bibliomaniac
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Powell's Books Powell's Books

Watching the telly, me and my niece. She’s eating a chocolate bar. News comes on, up flashes an image of starving babies. Moment’s paralysis before my niece turns to me: “Do you want a bit of Mars?”

 I could appreciate her dilemma. She was only twelve at the time, but she was confronting a problem that dogs most of us in the overdeveloped world throughout our lives. How do you reconcile the fact that some people are starving to death when you are eating a sweet with enough calories in it to feed a small family for a day?

More to the point, what do you do when the two things are so rudely brought together? Pretend nothing is happening? Carry on regardless? Beat yourself up? Take that, you selfish swine! It certainly conjures an image, people up and down the country slapping themselves silly, but I’m not sure it’s a very useful way of carrying on.

Some people turn-off the telly or switch to another channel. As a matter of principle, I refuse to do that. If I'm not prepared to do anything much to reform the world, I think I ought at least have the decency to contemplate the consequences of my inaction, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.

This may seem like a perversely punitive approach to morality, kin to the wearing of hair shirts and the antics of medieval flagellants, but as anybody who has seen me with a fork in my hand will tell you, mortification of the flesh is not really my style. And yet, there is something else that also suggests a slightly puritanical tendency to self-castigation: my collection of killer facts.

You know the sort of thing. A child dies of hunger every three seconds. Ba-boum!

Whenever I hear one of these grim little statistics on the radio, I jot it down in the back of my notebook. I don’t know why. It’s not as if I want to memorize the bloody things. Yet they are too potent to ignore.

There’s more on the matter in my latest op-ed for AOL.

“As the World Economic Forum gathers at Davos to discuss “Shared Norms for the New Reality”, I find myself wondering how we keep coping with the shared norms of a very old reality. I don’t want to depress you or anything, but here we go . . . .”

Comments
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Wow. Deep.

First, congratulations for writing an op-ed for AOL. I will read it momentarily. Second, we do what we can do. Those ads are not intended to shame anyone (well, maybe some of them are). Regardless, you don't have to take on the world's share of problems, just what you can handle yourself. What I mean is don't feel guilty about eating chocolate. Ever. I'm certain that God would not approve of that! Happy New Year.

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I'm a bit more pessimistic

I'm a bit more pessimistic about human nature. I think shame and guilt are very necessary, not about nonsense concerning where you like to place your generative organs or stuff like that, but about injustice and inequality. Thanks for the comment.