Amidst the self-serving declarations of a bumper Christmas from multinational retailers, recounted with breathless excitement by TV and radio broadcasters, it’s worth reminding ourselves that poverty and violence continues to blight our world.
Courtesy of the war on terror, the superpowers, operating from air-conditioned offices in the western world, can now deliver death and destruction on unsuspecting hamlets in the most obscure parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the effective distribution of anti-polio vaccine to children in those same beleaguered countries, among the remaining handful where the polio virus remains endemic, is, apparently, beyond these global behemoths.
We are right to wonder what could be achieved if the metaphorical big guns of the world’s richest countries were to be turned on the scourge of poverty. But wasn’t it Martin Luther King who observed that superpowers couldn’t “launch a good skirmish against poverty, much less a full-scale war”.
It’s in that context that we should view the facile media prioritisation this Christmas of ringing cash registers over the sobbing of the poor.
And grinding, soul-crushing poverty isn’t confined to the most obscure reaches of Asia or Sub-Saharan Africa. There is plenty of poverty on our own doorstep. And if it doesn’t carry the same life-and-death urgency, it’s somehow all the more shameful because it is occurring among plenty.
Certainly, the lead story in this paper last week about one thousand families chasing 70 new homes in the St James’ area is evidence that 2,000-plus years after Our Lord was born in a stable and, perhaps more pertinently, 40 and more years after the start of the civil rights movement, the right to a home has still not been secured.
We invite readers, therefore, to come together and make a pact for 2012: the creation of a society where the inherent dignity of all our people is reflected in our educational institutions, in our political system, in our hospitals, in our places of work, in the prisons, in housing provision and in the care of the elderly and vulnerable.
Now that would be a bargain worth reporting on.
Bliain úr faoi mhaise dár léitheoirí uilig.