Archive for the ‘social justice’ Category

Small and simple acts

March 15, 2008

Whenever I’m walking in Christchurch or Wellington my rule is that if I can see a piece of litter and a rubbish bin at the same time I’ll pick up the former and put it in the latter. Sometimes I extend this if I can’t see a bin but am fairly sure there’ll be one soon.

When I was in Sydney last week I found this was much harder. There was so much litter it would have taken me twice as long to get anywhere. I ended up not picking up any as it just didn’t seem like I’d be making any sort of dent in it. Over a couple of days it faded into the background and I stopped noticing it at all.

Another thing that was different from the NZ cities I spend time in was the number of homeless people. Not just in the parks but lying down on footpaths, sitting in gutters, shaking and bereft while hundreds of people walked past them every few minutes.

While out for a run it struck me that the problem is the same. While there are probably a similar number of homeless people per capita in Christchurch and Sydney, in a densely populated city you just see more of them every day. Because they seem more numerous a type of ‘learned helplessness’ sets in among the people that could help. There are just so many homeless people, what difference could one act of kindness really make? So people go about their busy days, and before too long the people lying in the gutter just fade into the background.

People are not litter. They do not deserve to be cast aside, forgotten and alone. What can we do to pick up those whom others have dropped? What are the small things we could do everyday? What would the world be like if even one in every ten people picked up a few pieces of litter, and did something to help the less fortunate among us?


I want to live in a world where…

July 6, 2006

Thomas’ question about our vision for 2050 has got me thinking further than just the environmental/sustainability frame he posed it in.

In 2050 I will be 78. I fully intend to be alive, healthy and active.

I want to live in a world where going to war to solve our differences is considered as pointless and barbaric as making human sacrifices to the sun god to try to influence the weather.

I want to live in a world where using crippling debt to keep third world nations politically compliant to the whims of first world powers is seen as as unjust as indentured servitude and human slavery.

I want to live in a world where exploiting the earth’s resources unsustainably for reasons of commercial gain is perceived as foolish and shortsighted as introducing stoats to New Zealand to control rabbits.

I want to live in a world where deciding whether to consider the rights of indigenous peoples, homosexuals, disabled people, or any other minority group is as academic a question as whether to give women the vote.

I want to live in a world like this, and I intend to do what I can to help create it.