Continental Breakfast

Over the past week I have shared food with people from all over the world. All of us were attending the International Permaculture Convergence in England. Breakfast company, for example, went as follows:

Day 1: Hong Kong
Day 2: India
Day 3: Australia and Germany
Day 4: South Africa
Day 5: England, Australia, Germany
Day 6; South Africa, Hong Kong

At other meals I ate with folks from Malawi, Zimbabwe, New England, California, Pennsylvania, Ireland, Holland, New Zealand, The United Arab Emirates… and I’m sure many other places that I just can’t bring to mind. Away from the dining table I’ve talked to people from so many other places. I’ve heard ordinary people’s voices, not filtered through the media. I’ve talked to someone who described their experience as a soldier in the East German army in Berlin when the wall came down; I’ve heard what residents of Hong Kong think about China; I’ve discussed apartheid with someone who lived through it in South Africa; I heard the news that Tony Abbott had been ousted from a real-live Australian rather than via the BBC… it has been an interesting week.

Almost everything we know about the wider world is filtered through the media and it is, therefore, an eye-opener to hear about events, lives, politics and anything else from a real person with direct experience. It is simultaneously much gentler (no garish media imagery, just a real voice) and much more shocking….

“What happened to you when the wall came down?”

“They just sent us home… but they took our guns off us first.”

I have never before had the opportunity to interact, face-to-face, with so many people from so many countries. If you ever get the chance to attend such an event, I recommend that you seize it with both hands. I think it’s going to take quite some time to mull over everything I have heard and seen.

There was no shortage of people to talk to

There was no shortage of people to talk to

Oh, and I also met up with many old friends and sold lots of hats…. all round an amazing week. Now please excuse me while I go and lie down for a bit…

The value of a life

I really don't want to end up somewhere like this!

About 150,000 people died yesterday

Many people died yesterday… in every country there were deaths. Some people died of old age, some as a result of an accident or an illness, some tragically and some peacefully. In total, about 150,000 people died in the world yesterday. Of course the media cannot report all of those deaths, and we are more likely to hear of the deaths of individuals from our own country than those from overseas, but yesterday really highlighted to me how the current cult of celebrity has skewed the lives that we, apparently, value… or at least that the media values.

Last night we watched the news at 10pm on the BBC. The main story was the death of Peaches Geldof – daughter of Bob Geldof and Paula Yates. Clearly a tragic death – she was only 25 and had two young children. Probably her greatest claim to fame was her famous parents, although she had (probably as a result of having famous parents) been a model, TV presenter and written for various newspapers and magazines. The BBC web site currently features a link to a piece about the death of Peaches Geldof on its front page.

Much later in the same news bulletin last night the deaths of two British women in Tenerife were briefly reported: Uma Ramalingam and Barathi Ravikumar drowned trying to save two children who had been swept into the sea. Mrs Ramalingam was a consultant obstetrician and Dr Ravikumar was a GP. The children were rescued but both women drowned. I had to search for a story about these two women on the BBC web site today.

In addition, yesterday the Rev. Frans van der Lugt, a Dutch Jesuit priest who ‘became a symbol of suffering and compassion in the war-ravaged Old City district of Homs, Syria’ was shot dead. According to The New York Times ‘After Syrian government forces isolated and laid siege to the rebel-held Old City for more than a year, a truce in January allowed the evacuation of 1,500 people, both civilians and fighters. But Father Frans, as he was known, insisted on remaining in the monastery where he had lived for decades, offering refuge to Muslim and Christian families alike and sharing their deprivation and trauma.’ This story did not even merit mention on the BBC TV news last night… and today I only found a report on the BBC web site because I searched for the priest’s name.

And what of all those who died yesterday as a result of the conflict in Syria? At least that’s a situation we hear a little about here in the UK on the news. Other conflicts and those who lose their lives as a result get almost no coverage. The web site Wars in the World currently lists the warring hotspots in Africa as: Central African Republic (civil war), Democratic Republic of Congo (war against rebel groups), Egypt (popular uprising against Government), Mali (war against Tuareg and Islamist militants), Nigeria (war against Islamist militants), Somalia (war against Islamist militants), Sudan (war against rebel groups) and South Sudan (civil war). And that’s just one continent. There are people dying in all of those countries (and many more) and we barely hear of the conflicts, let alone the deaths.

Now, I don’t want to play down the death of any one individual, but I am appalled that our cult of celebrity gives such prominence to the passing of one young woman and pays so little attention to massacres of innocents. Perhaps our newspapers and TV stations need to remember the value of all lives and give some prominence to those who had so little chance to speak up for themselves even when they were alive.

I’d like to think that we would value every life and that the passing of each person is mourned, just as I’d like to think that each person should be valued and cherished when they are alive… whoever they are, wherever they come from and whether or not the media deems them to be ‘important’.


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