Penury, Tears of the Wounded, Restorative Justice

‘Never a dull moment’ is certainly the way I feel with our present economic meltdown, cutbacks, job-losses, severe pruning of government funding and spending etc. To add to the drama to our economic woes and despair is the tragic BP oil drilling disaster. Not even the present World Cup football will soothe the effects of the long reach of these events and our predicament. And the fact that England is yet to convince any of us that they are serious as a team does not help. I suppose that some of these richly paid footballers can be generous enough to bail out the UK government! I can just imagine all the doomsday prophets feasting on such as further evidence that the world is coming to end – judgment time is here. So watch out – street corner preachers will soon multiply, especially since the unemployment rate will continue to rise.

Perhaps, these doomsday prophets may not be far from the truth about one thing: judgment time is certainly in our midst. But more as something we have brought on ourselves through our greedy and irresponsible actions – whether it is the economics, the environment or obesity (among so many other ills). It is common-sense that we will be unable to sustain the kind of economic growth driving our lives. I thought my days of experiencing the structural adjustment programme in the Caribbean was over. But it seems to be following me. This is certainly a wake-up of call to our idiotic and unsustainable lifestyles. Would we change our habits and re-orient the way we live and order our economic life? Are we able to wake up from the illusion of living way above our means/needs and that which the planet can sustain?

The events cited above underscore that is no longer something happening to developing country miles away: the events are unfolding right on our doorsteps. So far most of our talks are on cuts, blaming of the other, and how to stabilise and get out of this whirlpool or cesspool, only to return “back to business as usual”. Who is talking about a total re-orientation and changing of perspectives and if there are some doing so, who are listening? We are still locked into the language of prosperity and economic growth, rather than seeking to find alternatives to a system that has imploded and have us hanging over the precipice by the skin of our teeth.

It seems to me that the toughness of the choice before us is not merely about cuts and short term inconveniences. For the sake of future generations – it has to be a long term one; otherwise our band-aiding strategies would merely serve to further implode to make beggars of all of us. This is more than down-sizing. It is more about right-sizing.

The two events highlighted in this piece should open our eyes to the fact that the disasters we have contributed to in developing countries have now come home to haunt us. The monsters we have created are here make us feel the pain. For many it has already been present here. The deep paths that tears carved out on their faces tell the story: only we did not noticed as our lives were largely comfortable. This is now changing, and the prospect of penury is now becoming a homeland battle – not one fought in someone else’s garden. And this is where it is going to hurt. This will no longer be mere news items to watch on TV or as some virtual reality show in some distant place. The harsh realities are right here before us. It may be that we now need to turn to our impoverished neighbours for lessons on how to survive. Or it may just be that restorative justice has its own way of paying-back and equalising the imbalances we have created in our societies.

© copyright June 18th 2010
Michael Jagessar

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