Haiti. Where the livin' is dreadful, and the dying is easy. Each one of us is powerless in a situation like this. The devastation of the Boxing Day Tsunami, a few years ago... the tens of thousands who died in China in their earthquake a year or so later. Now this. Our government has pledged the usual initial million bucks, and will undoubtedly send more as the situation becomes clearer. We're a tiny nation, at the bottom of the world: there's not much we can actually do, but every little bit helps.
My concern is this: the corruption and venality that have been the driving forces behind governance in Haiti for the past century or so have led directly to the appalling death toll there. There is no reason or excuse for Haiti being one of the poorest countries in the world, and for the average wage to be around NZ$1.25 a day. The place has been ruled by cruel gang-lords, criminals, and magic-peddlers since the early 20th century... and that lack of civil rights and civil rule has led directly to the situation they find themselves in now. We, or course, are only slightly less culpable: we've all stood by and done nothing - mainly because we'd get nothing out of interfering in this so-called "independant" nation's activities.
But what about the UN? We've signed up to various UN statutes and treaties. Are they toothless? The Rights of the Individual, the Rights of Children, bla blah blah... We all acknowledge that no child should live in conditions like those of Haiti, Ethiopia, Chad, Mogadishu, and so on... but what do we do about it? I'm not suggesting that we should send in heavily armed men and women to impose civil rights on people. But we can actually insist that the UN grow some social teeth. We should arm it with sufficient funds and enable it to go out to these places and provide all the childfren with an education, and with good healthcare. Educated people become wealthy people, and wealthy people are able to build the infra-structure that will minimise the effectes of these appalling natural disasters. Wealthy and healthy people also breed less - and lowering the fertility rates of the planet's population can't be a bad thing.
We watched "Good Night and Good Luck" last night. Did my blood-pressure no end of harm. It's the story of one of TV's pioneering investigative journalists, Edward R Morrow. The theme of the movie revolves around the conflict between the interests of corporate America and the media needs of the audience. Morrow believed that there's a significant number of people who actually want to be informed... while the bean-counters maintain that all people are capable of understanding or wanting is light entertainment. Morrow was right (his programme was instrumental is bringing down the fascistis Mccarthy), but Morrow lost. And, in the process, we've all lost. I bang on about the pettiness of commercial radio and television, and how it fails everyone in the world who has an IQ that's higher than their hat size... and I know that it's all futile. Fox TV arose on the slimey back of infotainment, and rapidly overtook CNN as America's most-watched news programme. And even CNN is a blasted heath when it comes to actually investigating anything. Al Jazeera (The Terrorist's Network, according to Fox) has some very thoughtful programming, and the good old BBC also employs real journalists and occasionally allows them to have their say. Australia's ABC, our Radio New Zealand... these are government funded media outlets that have the freedom to ask the dangerous questions, and to present programmes that don't pander to the lowest denominator. Radio and Television used to be be run by people who believed they had a social obligation. They're now run by people who discovered they could extract a 33% per annum profit out of the businesses by dumbing them down. Shareholders and sponsors' interests are the priority, rather than the audience's needs. And yet here in New Zealand it's Radio New Zealand that wins all rating wars: the public actually want to be informed, and to have their questions answered. The broadcasting business is blind to social needs. It's a blindness that may bite them in their corporate arses.
Listening to: Dianne Reeves, "When You Know". DR was used in the movie mentioned above. She's a modern-day Sarah Vaughan: go find this album and liten. She's beyond brilliant.
Reading: Frank Beddor, "The Looking-Glass Wars". In which it is revealed that Charles Dodgson, a.k.a Lewis Carroll, dumbed-down Alice's story to make it more acceptable. The real story, about Alyss, civil war, insurrection, and blood is now being told. I love the conceit.
Word of the Day: Boonslang. It's a type of snake. I was reminded of the word by the "Listener" crossword. It's just fun.
You’ll be picking up our poor broken boys and taking them to safety, and stitching them up all right.”
Arthur was still doubtful “You’re absolutely certain of that, Mister – sorry, Sergeant Andrews? My Grampa Smith says that the Army’s full of lies and deception.”
“The very thought!” Sergeant Andrews was horrified by the calumny. He could almost taste Molly Kendrick’s quim, and he wasn’t going to let that prize go easily. His eyes narrowed, two ice-blue chips. “I can understand what you’re saying, Arthur. I know that it’s hard for folk of your persuasion. Conchies, I mean. If it were up to me, I’d pin a bloody medal on the chest of every conscientious objector in the country. Why, if every one was of a like mind, then there’d be no war, right? But they ain’t, and there is. What’s a man to do?” He sat, and looked down at the paper. Come on, he thought, just sign the fucking thing! He looked back up at Arthur Tomlinson’s honest face, and repeated “What’s a man to do?” and then answered himself. “Why – only his duty. Just his duty, that’s all. And if he sees his duty to go and help with the hurt and sick, why then – the Army understands, and will do everything it can to satisfy your conscience.”
Arthur hesitated, and the Sergeant thought “Ha! Got you!” and his prick started swelling with the thought of his reward.
“Perhaps I should talk it over a bit more with Grampa Smith and Miss Jayne,” Arthur said. The Sergeant’s dick deflated. He thought quickly.
“You already know what they’ll say, Arthur. You’re a grown man now. You’ve seen, what? 27 summers? And you need the help of others to help you make up your own mind? Why, Arthur, Arthur: if you needed to discuss everything with other folk, you’d never get ‘owt done.”
“Yes, but this is more than..”
“No it’s not,” the Sergeant insisted. “You’d already made up your mind when you stepped into this office, young Arthur. And think, man: if you go, if you sign on the dotted here, then you’ll find yourself in the same regiment as your comrades from this town of your’n. The lives you help as you skivvy about with your stretcher and gauze bandages will be of your brothers, from right here in Northridge, and from Southridge.”
Arthur stood, and turned toward the door. He gripped the brass doorknob, and stood a moment, head bowed. I either sign up now, or go to prison when the conscription comes. And I can’t do that, he thought. I can’t go to prison. And if I’m in a position to do some good, like the Lady of the Lamp, Miss Nightingale, did –
He turned back, picked up the steel-nibbed pen, dipped it into the ink-pot, and scratched his signature quickly, once, twice, thrice. God have mercy on me, he thought, as the Sergeant got a raging hard-on.
“Well done, boy. Well done,” Sergeant Andrews said. “Well done. Your country’ll thank you for this, you mark my words. You’ll march with heroes, and glory shall be your just reward.”
Arthur Tomlinson, blacksmith, had entered the room a mere half-hour ago. Arthur Tomlinson, soldier, left it, head hanging low.