Jude Collins

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Groaning at what's on television

There are times when I can’t watch what appears on TV. I groan and look out the window or at the floor or at the ceiling – anywhere but the screen.  And there are times when I think our society – the Western World – is doomed. Like the Roman Empire, it’ll crumble and dissolve in its own excesses.  These two come together – unlookable-at TV and a sense of global foreboding -  when they show shots of babies from starving Africa.

Remember Feed The  World? Our children were small at the time and at the school’s Christmas pageant thing, the youngsters sang “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and it would have cracked a heart of steel. Pop stars in those days were clambering over each other to get in on the good deed, it really seemed as if we had turned a corner. We really were going to feed the world.

When was that – over twenty-five years ago? And now we’re told that anything up to half a million people in Somalia are suffering from terrible malnutrition. That’s a polite word for not enough food. And they show these babies with their enormous heads and enormous eyes and enormous bloody flies crawling all over them, and you just know those babies are going to be dead inside a day or two.

It’s been going on, this latest crisis, for I don’t know how long – a week, two weeks, a month? You ‘d think it’d have dominated our screens, bashed our brains, bruised our hearts. But it hasn’t. Instead we’ve seen MPs in a lather of moral outrage because an old media mogul with an obscene amount of money had people in his employ hacking  phones. You had the Prime Minister of Britain getting very righteous in the House of Commons about how he wouldn’t have hired Andy Coulson if he’d blahblahblahgblah.  He’s just back from Africa – South Africa – but not a word about the people there dying in their tens of thousands. Not a fucking word about it.

And no, it’s not  Nature’s fault. No matter how many cracked earth shots they show, we all know in our well-fed guts that those people are poor and starving and dying because we in the West, to varying degrees, are rich and well-fed and alive.  We really do deserve any catastrophic fate that will eventually befall us and/or our children and/or their children, because we know what’s happening and yet we elect people who literally don’t give a damn, get outraged about eavesdropping and bribery but don’t even feel mass hunger and death is worth mentioning. Oh no, sorry. The British something or other says other countries have failed to help, unlike Britain. Dear God.

At this moment Rupert Murdoch is a desperate man. So good news, Rupert. Want to restore your popularity?  According to Forbes Magazine, in March of this year you were worth $7.6 billion.  I have a plan. Bring that down to an even $5 billion – you won’t feel the difference, I promise you – and use the $2.6 billion to save most of those lives in Africa. If you do, your good deed will surely outweigh your sins and the hungry people of Africa will revere you for ever. And unlike the rest of us, you’ll have put your money where their starving mouths are.  

It won’t solve the problem –  this crisis aside, almost 16,000 children in the world die from hunger every day -  but it would give those of us in the West  time to look at ourselves and see if being so insanely, throwing-up selfish is a good way to run the world.


  1. Let me preface this comment by saying that I do not like David Cameron or share his politics, that I am left wing, and that I agree with most of what you're saying here.

    I think you've misrepresented Cameron in this piece in two ways. First, he would like nothing more than for the hacking scandal to disappear, slip down the agenda, and be replaced by an event in which he is not personally implicated. The News International furore brings accusations of illegal collusions and cover-ups to Downing Street and he really wants that to stop. He is only commenting on it at all because he wants to maintain a degree of control over the debate. The fact that he fielded questions on this rather than discussing the Horn of Africa famine was due to the restrictions of Parliamentary scheduling, not the PM's own preferences.

    Second, one of Cameron's political priorities (beyond getting re-elected) is international development. You and I may not like him but that doesn't mean it isn't true. Cameron has personally insisted that the international aid budget be increased year on year during this government's term - despite the fact that a majority of the voters and the press do not want that to happen. He's not doing that because he doesn't want to go back on a promise - he has done that plenty of times on other issues - he's doing it because he believes it is right.

    That aside, I totally agree with you on Murdoch's aversion to philanthropy, and on the post-Live Aid let-down.

  2. Thanks for comments, Tom. I thought at first you'd put your thoughts under the wrong blog heading but I see you've done a bit of synergising.

    I take your point that Cameron doesn't want to discuss the hacking scandal, principally because there are too many pics of him pecking/being pecked by Rebekah, and that he's desperate to regain the initiative from Ed Milliband. But my point is that he'd come from a famine-ravished continent and frankly, for him or anyone to plead he couldn't speak of it 'due to the restrictions of Parliamentary scheduling' wobbles somewhere between the laughable and the obscene. Hundreds of thousands are dying and I can't mention it because of 'restrictions of Parliamentary scheduling'? Come ON... I agree that international development is one of Cameron's political priorities, or he says it is. In that case he should have put his priority where his mouth was when he came back from Africa. I'll take your word for it he's been behind an increase in Britain's international aid budget increase: at 0.56% of GDP, Britain is ahead of most Western countries, and the Tories are saying they'll push on to 0.7% by 2013. As it happens, 0.7% was pledged by Western countries decades ago. Again, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. It's like someone leaping over a 1-foot-high hurdle and feeling superior to others who haven't. I suggest, since Britain is a former colonial power in Africa and so one of those who historically have left Africa a mess, having sucked out as much resources as possible before departure, she (Britain) has a particular moral debt to pay there. And while 0.56 or 0.7 is better than nothing, a comparison with the defence (note the 1984-type title) budget tells you everything about Britain's real commitment. Suggestion: this year, give the defence budget to Africa and have a Red-Nose Day for the defence/attack forces. Finally - how do you know Cameron is pushing for a bigger (i.e., less tiny) international aid budget because he thinks it's right? It might be that. It might equally be that he has hopes of appearing as the PM of an aid superpower, with Bill Gates and such in pics with him, rather than Rebekah.

    I say all this about Britain, keeping in mind that Ireland has never come near the promised 0.7% and recently has announced a 24% CUT on projected figures for moving to 0.7%. Yes, Tom, pots and kettles, pots and kettles. But it still doesn't mean that Cameron should have opened his lovely lips and said SOMETHING earlier this week.

    From now on, of course, I will preface my blog with the slogan 'As read by Tiny Birds'... Thanks again for your thoughts - go raibh cead maith agat.

  3. PS In the second-last par, that should of course read 'that Cameron shouldn't have opened his lovely lips'. Doh.