Taking stock

28 December 2017 | Opinion

John Lennon sings: “Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can, No need for greed or hunger, A brotherhood of man, Imagine all the people sharing all the world.”

It is a dream of course, one the chorus of 'Imagine' recognised.

“You may say I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one, I hope someday you'll join us, And the world will be as one.”

For the lucky ones, Christmas is a time to retreat from the rat race and join a close circle friends and family.

Yet, for the vast global majority, it's just another day of suffering and desperation, of hunger and need.

Peter Schjeldahl writes that the duty of artists is to “comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.”

Perhaps the role of our festive season should be less about capitalist cravings and more about afflicting upon ourselves a genuine, uncomfortable and close look at someone who has less than us, at the boundless inequality.

We pretend the problem of poverty is a complex one to solve. Countless studies and meetings and money are thrown at the problem.

Rather, it appears that humanity's inherent greed, and uncanny ability to shut out the pain of others while luxuriating in and endless need to satisfy our hunger for status and power, is what cements the status quo of vast injustice and inequality.

The close bonds of love and trust that bind family and friends are not sufficient to create a 'brotherhood of man', as Lennon imagined.

As a civilisation, as neighbours, and colleagues, as leaders and all the variants of human relationships, we continue to thoughtlessly and casually inflict pain on each other.

By shutting out the other through blissful forgetfulness, we thrust a mirror at our lack of will to overcome these issues.

Often, we simply freeze in the face of the enormity of the problems.

We feast on Christmas day, while our slums house thousands.

Where surplus of food, possessions, and money are unimaginable.

In-house plumbing, electricity, cars or Woolworths accounts are as unimaginable as Lennon's lyrics.

Inside our brick homes, our tables are piled high with food, booze and gifts.

We are merry.

Our laughter drifts across the electrified walls, stinging those outside who stand on a sidewalk, desperate for so many things, we take for granted.

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