Thursday, July 8, 2010
Live Simply So That Others May Simply Live.
"Live simply so that others may simply live" is not a twitter-worthy platitude printed on an inspirational poster beneath a majestic animal doing what majestic animals do in front of a breathtaking (and majestic) landscape. It is a mandate, attributed to Gandhi, that is as relevant today as it was when it was uttered.
On the front-lines of the battle against human trafficking, NGO's, human rights organizations and civil governments continue to be hindered by budgetary shortfalls. People are continually exploited, abused, enslaved, and killed because those with the will and the expertise to fight for justice lack the resources to do just that. Economists tell us that it is not a zero sum game, that there are plenty of resources to go around. But hoping and wishing for financial equality and the realization of that desire, are a universe apart.
What is within our reach is living responsibly and sharing with those less fortunate. Ordering a small instead of a large coffee a day can double the income of the estimated 300 million people who live on less than a dollar a day. Drinking tap water instead of bottled water can save hundreds of dollars a year, money that could be used to dig clean water wells in villages where women and children are forced to walk hours a day on poorly lit roads to get water from polluted sources, all the while in danger of being kidnapped and trafficked or even killed. A two pack a day cigarette habit can mean two or three thousand dollars a year into the coffers of organizations like IJM and Not For Sale in their continuing fight against modern slavery. Down-sizing our houses and cars can save tens of thousands of dollars in utilities, fuel, mortgage payments, interest, insurance and upkeep. The liquidation of our surplus possessions can take what is gathering dust in our closets and attics and turn it into freedom for the 30 million people enslaved today.
St. Basil the Great said, "The bread which you hold back belongs to the hungry; the coat, which you guard in your locked storage-chests, belongs to the naked; the footwear moldering in your closet belongs to those without shoes". In a very real sense our excess can fill the vacuum of their lack, may even be the difference between life and death. This voluntary reduction and redistribution of resources is the most straightforward and potentially powerful way ordinary people can do extraordinary things.
We live in an age of politicking and activism where environmental concerns make the front pages as much or more than humanitarian ones. But these two things are interrelated in a very complex way. In the age of globalization we truly have become a global community where even the smallest actions have long reaching ripple reactions. When we are wasteful with resources there are more than just environmental repercussions. The resources we use cost money at every level of extraction, refinement, and consumption. Again, that money could be saved and sent to anti-slavery organizations. Reduction, recycling, and reusing are not just the tenets of a conservationist philosophy, they can be turned into very real weapons in the hands of those who war against evil men who enslave and exploit for profit.
But however we choose to reduce consumption, any amount is better than none. Just a few dollars a week can have a profound affect. And I think once you see what those few dollars can do you will become so emboldened, so enlivened, that "living simply" for such a beautiful cause will become your passion.