If you’re reading this, I can almost guarantee you are at the very pinnacle of living.
Chances are slim that you were raised on the filthy, bare concrete floors of a financially bereft orphanage, did not arrive as an ‘illegal’ on a boat about as seaworthy as a rusty colander and have never fallen asleep to a lullaby of gunfire and shelling, unsure whether you’d see another dawn. But even when we recognise and give thanks for the blessings bestowed upon us, we still become acutely complacent of everything that fills our daily lives and the things we have been fortunate enough to avoid.
I went to San Diego about ten years ago. I was there on business and had left behind my nearly one-year-old son. Walking through the streets, I definitely didn’t feel in any danger or as if I was witnessing a third world, post-apocalyptic or war-torn city. In fact, almost everything about San Diego reeked of the shrink-wrapped, consumerist sterility to which we Westerners have grown accustomed.
But one sight broke my heart. The northern outskirts of San Diego are on a steep slope overlooking parts of the city. Its not a particularly pretty view, but the vantage point definitely gives you a new perspective of the sprawling metropolis. As I made my way one morning from my hillside hotel down into the CBD, I saw it: a play park. A fairly well-appointed play park at that, with swings and jungle jims and slippery dips, a basketball hoop and, from what I could see, a level of cleanliness that any good parent would be happy for their child to frolick in. The thing that made me physically cry and yearn to be back with my little boy was that this play park, happy, safe and well-attended though it was, was located on the roof of an eight-storey apartment block, surrounded by four-metre high chain link fencing in the midst of this fume-laden urban armageddon.
San Diego’s actually a pretty nice city – clean, airy, with ocean frontage and, generally speaking, a pretty chirpy and effervescent population. We’re not talking a bad day in Bogota here.
Several years later I was visiting my brother in London and had a similar experience, but this time my son, Noah, now four, was with me. We had stayed with family in the countryside and had a wonderful holiday. Three days in London was the last leg of our trip before returning to our paradise-home of Byron. We got off the coach that had transported us to foggy Olde London Town and made our way to Victoria Street Station – the hub of London’s transportation network, above and below ground – to board the tube for my bro’s house. We stood, Noah’s tiny hand, and all his trust and faith, in mine, at the gaping maw that would lead us down into the subway. Four weeks of luggage surrounded us as, it seemed, the entire population of London chose that very moment to crowd this particular station. Fear racked my heart and mind. It wasn’t for myself – I had journeyed alone, navigated the tube network many a time and felt assured in my GPS gland’s ability to not get me lost. But the fragile being next to me, whose wide, blue eyes looked up to me for protection and reassurance, whose naive mind struggled for security, having known only blue skies, open beaches and sub-tropical forests, was a metaphorical Ming vase in Pamplona for which I was solely responsible.
We took a cab.
In many ways, there is no difference between we Australians, we Byronians, and the average Londoner or San Diegan. Our standards of living are microns apart on the sliding scale of global wellbeing. But still we can view these people as drastically less fortunate than ourselves. Stop reading, just for a moment, and think about just five ways your life trumps that of the average Cockney or Seppo – it should take all of about a second.
Okay, you back?
We have: exquisite blue ocean, smogless skies, abundant greenery, low crime, great healthcare, clear water, low pollution, awe-inspiring fauna, easy access to almost anything we could wish for, low unemployment, infinite opportunity… the list goes on and on and on – and this is only in comparison with other First-Worlders.
Our wonderful, organic farmers’ markets, our inspirational artisans, our open-minded, free-thinking, compassionate, aware and conscientious citizens and access to any dietary requirement or preference we may have…Hollywood couldn’t make this shit up! We are truly living the dream, and when we look at the grand scheme of things, how can we possibly be so conceited as to complain about potholes, fluoridated water, tourism, garbage or even, as absolutely horrific as it is, the imposing threat of Coal Seam Gas mining? That’s not to say we should allow these things – we should oppose them to the bitter end – but it merely highlights that we have absolutely no right whatsoever to complain.
Whatever your situation, you are blessed. You may have just been sacked or dumped, you may hate your housemate or boss, you may have a broken limb or snuffly nose, but seriously, you live a life that every other human being on this entire planet would give their spleen for. When you leave this computer, open your eyes, see as if for the first time every single thing around you and realise what an insanely fortunate life you lead. Not like, “oh yeah, I’m lucky to live here, have this job, this house, this boyfriend” and so on but that, from the deepest, most genetic level, fate, evolution and a million and one other intangible energies have influenced your life to bring you to this point.
We live in the top point-one of point-one of point-one percent. Give thanks every day, fight for our paradise and for the rest of the world, don’t drop litter, slander, leave the tap running or drive when you could walk. Donate – to anything, reduce, reuse, recycle, go vegan – even just for one month a year, respect everything and everyone in your life, love unconditionally, awaken, but above all, never, ever become complacent, for we are the blessed…
My son & I…
– This article first appeared on Common Ground Australia on Nov 1, 2013
Opening Image: jameswhitlowdelano.photoshelter.com