I’ve had the opportunity to visit many countries around the world, and witnessed all kinds of things first hand. It might sound facile, but it has made me profoundly realize what an absolute privilege it is to live in circumstances providing clean running water on tap..sanitation..health care..education..job opportunities.. Good food..a future etc..
It’s truly an awakening to fully understand what this actually means.
To understand that these kinds of facilities are not a given.
They are simply not available to countless millions of people across the globe.
Even here..(in America)…a nation of such high per capita wealth, you don’t have to look very far to find chronic poverty.
It’s everywhere actually…only a few steps away from your doorstep.
To begin to appreciate this could be called a kind of "out of the box" experience. Out of the comfort zone of your own life perspective.
And this consciousness shift can happen many times, at any point in our lives.
When you begin to realize that the human condition is filled with absurd contrasts and paradoxes.
That we have such a vast potentiality for power and vulnerability at the same time.
It could be, for example, that you have a friend or relative who’s been diagnosed with a life threatening disease..an accident happens out of the blue, resulting in serious injury.
Losses. Breakdowns unexpected changes of all kinds show up, just when you thought everything was going along smoothly.
It makes no difference how much money you have in the bank, how successful, beautiful or famous you are.
There are certain things that are out of your control.
Life puts you through some challenging stuff…it can be a humbling experience.
One in which you might even be forced to start questioning who you really are..and which qualities you choose to embody and express as a human being.
You start to realise the connectivity between all peoples of the world.
That no matter what race, colour, culture or creed, we are all fundamentally the same..with the same needs and requirements for a reasonable survival and a fulfilling life..
Once you’ve woken up to this fact..there’s no turning back. You discover what it means to be empathic and compassionate.
You want to become engaged..you want to do something positive…and you want to extend yourself..to help contribute to improving the lives of others..because you can actually make a difference.
Individually..or collectively…in so many different kinds of ways.
One of the most memorably affecting experiences I’ve had was the first time I visited south Africa to take part in the launching of nelson Mandela’s 46664 HIV/aids campaign several years ago.
I could never have imagined that I would have the opportunity to personally witness Madiba himself, standing in front of his former prison cell on Robbin Island (where he had been incarcerated for 18 of his 28 years in captivity) addressing a collection of the world’s press and various internationally renowned artists.
I was staggered by what he said, and by the fact that somehow his message had not been fully driven home to me before.
And the message was this…
That even though the battle against apartheid in South Africa had been won..there was now a very different kind of war raging, which is literally wiping out the lives of millions of men women and children.
A tide of death, caused by a preventable disease taking place in the 21st century.
A virtual genocide..on an unprecedented scale.
At the time he spoke, it had been estimated that 17 million Africans had died as a direct result of HIV/aids…more than both world wars put together.
As the full weight of these horrific figures dawned on me, I decided that I had to participate, and speak up whenever I could, to try to make people more aware of what is taking place…
In Africa, six out of ten infected by HIV are women. They are the victims of chronic and endemic poverty, with all the hardships that follow. Victims of ignorance, stigma, domestic violence, rape, sexual abuse and disempowerment at every level.
Without access to anti retroviral treatment, mothers eventually succumb to full blown aids and die, leaving millions of orphaned children behind them, who are often, in turn, infected with the virus and fated to continue the same vicious cycle of suffering and death.
In contrast to the media obsession with five minute fame, celebrity culture and reality television, there is a whole other different reality that is not being given a focus….
It is a preventable holocaust…
Let me give you some statistics
6,000 people die every day of aids related diseases..
That’s twice the amount of people who died so tragically in 9/11
26 million Africans have already died
More than 11 million children have been orphaned
In many parts of Africa one in three people are infected with HIV…life expectancy has sunk to as low as 35 years of age.
I find these appalling facts very hard to take in..especially as we are living in this so called modern age, with so many technologically groundbreaking developments.
Despite this it would seem that millions are forced to exist as if we were in medieaval times.
Unable to afford treatment, or to get access to it, many people are simply too poor to live.
The overwhelming question has to be..what can be done?
Can anything be done?
Well…one thing is for sure.
If you do nothing..nothing happens..it’s not rocket science.
The question is…what can you do? What can you do as one individual? As a group of two, or four, a hundred, or all the students in every college in every state of America or all the viewers of MTV..
I’ll tell you… you can do far more than you think is possible..but you have to have belief, dedication and commitment. Change happens in all kinds of ways…
Here’s a suggestion…
Take five minutes out of your hectic schedule, and ask yourself..how can I contribute? What interests me the most?
Then go to Google and search through the hundreds of websites for organisations that would benefit from your membership.
Massive injustice is solvable..what it needs is political will and a group of young people who decide that it’s their priority.
I believe that positive changes are achievable. Even if the challenge seems to be almost impossible.
So I urge you to become active…become informed. Invest yourself with a passion for social justice.
You absolutely can make a difference