I don't often read the news; one can only hear about the latest antics of Robert Pattinson so many times before becoming cynical about the media. Boredom has a way of making even that sound enticing, so, after my twentieth game of online backgammon, I wandered over to google and typed in news.
Most of it was the usual rubbish, but two articles in particular stood out to me. Neither of them really met the "new" requirement of news, but were both news to me and certainly provided fodder for my malnourished brain. Both articles featured people living in third world environments - one was uplifting and inspiring, the other confounding and depressing.
I read the depressing story first, so I'll start there. Essentially it was a brief mention of people being eaten by packs of wild dogs - in Australia - and it not being deemed worthy of mention by mainstream media. Now, for anyone who is somehow unaware of this and still capable of reading, Australia is not actually a third world country. It is in fact a first world country, and as such, wild dogs really shouldn't be permitted to freelly roam parts of it and attack humans and eat them at will. And it doesn't happen in the coastal suburban, city areas. If, by some freak happenstance it did, it would be all over the news in an instant and the animals in question would be put down.
However, the incident in question happened in an Aboriginal township in the Northern Territory - and the problem is not merely one of wild dogs. Official people could go and kill the dogs this time - but it doesn't stop the problem from happening again. And it's why such a horrific incident doesn't get reported - not, I think, because the rest of Australia is racist and just doesn't care what happens to Aboriginal people - but because it is not out of the ordinary.
I do not consider myself to be a racist person in any way, shape or form. Physical appearance is not an attribute by which I judge people. I know that sounds like a preface to a racist comment, and to some people it might be, but I felt the need to establish that. I just don't understand how ANY society of people can just sit in squalor and allow themselves to be eaten. I think that the feeling of racism from white Australians is mostly born out of contempt. It is very difficult to respect people who simultaneously demand assistance from the government while doing nothing to help themselves, and resist "interference" from said government. There is a place in Townsville where emergency services - including fire and ambulances - simply won't go after night.
I think it's a very complex problem with no clear answers. I think it would be difficult, once born in such an environment, to rise above it. Feelings of resentment and entitlement are very easily taught to children, as are a dependence on drugs and alcohol. Yet I don't think it's right to simply remove children from that environment. I dislike knowing that this sort of thing happens in my own country - which is another reason I believe these stories don't make it to the news. It makes people uncomfortable to hear about. Out of sight, out of mind. I would rather not remain ignorant though, even knowing that there is nothing I can do to change this situation.
There is nothing I can do, but surely they can do it for themselves? Most villages, even primitive ones, when faced with a threat can gather resources to combat it. I believe this is the most damning thing in the eyes of other Australians. There seems to be a prevalent attitude of "suck it up" amongst the older generations of Aussies. If you want something done, stop whining about it and do it yourself. Anyone deemed incapable of such a feat is viewed with contempt. I'm not saying this attitude is right or wrong, but it's understandable and it does explain a lot.
The next article I read, while set in an actual third world country and is thus comparable, is the polar opposite. It is the story of an uneducated (at the time) Malawian boy who found some diagrams in a book he couldn't read explaining how to build a windmill. He then built a windmill out of spare parts he found, for his entire village. The boy (man now) is named William Kamkwamba and if you're interested at all, he wrote a book - The Boy who Harnessed the Wind.
I found his story remarkable - as Jon Stewart comments, he's like a real world MacGuyver. And such a direct contrast to the story and circumstance I was reading about earlier. This is a person worthy of respect and esteem - someone dealt a shitty hand in life and manages to rise above it. It reminds me that no one is culpable for their fate but themselves. That while humans are capable of shocking depths, they are equally capable of dazzling heights.
In short, this man's story has somewhat restored my faith in humanity.