2008 is a year that will be marked in my memory for a long time but I am not alone for across the world we all have our own personal stories of grief and hardship. However, empathy and love can makes losses and suffering easier to bear; it is healing.
But personal stories aside, last year was again fraught with terrorism such as with dreadful acts in Mumbai, numerous wars, famines such as the continuing crisis in Darfur and poverty. When I consider the fatalities caused by these events I know my own grief at family losses cannot match the death of even one innocent child in this world from poverty, starvation or conflict.
It is an awful world we live in if we allow such crimes to exist.
However, 2008 was also significant because many countries that have lived in relatively stable economic, political, and environmental climates began to feel the effects of the escalating global economic crisis. Food and fuel prices rose dramatically hitting families where it hurts most; in their pockets. The housing market, inflated by ludicrous loan schemes, started to collapse causing negative equity and repossessions and financial institutions built upon air and not substance began to crumble. Financial chaos ensued and ultimately the crisis developed into a meltdown of gigantic proportions. These repercussions will be felt for years and 2009 will not be a year for the faint hearted.
While the recession has been biting hard in the US and elsewhere for sometime, in the UK the impact is just starting to have a full effect. In the last few weeks some of our major retailers have gone into receivership, including MFI and Woolworths. The closure of Woolworths alone will lead to the loss of approximately 27,000 jobs. I already know some friends and relatives made redundant but the situation will undoubtedly worsen in the next few months when business contracts end and people begin to search for work in earnest. In a couple of weeks my husband's employers are closing down 50 vacancies at their head office and making another 100 employees redundant; scaling the HQ workforce down from 950 to 800. I'm optimistic my husband will make it through the first wave of cuts. After that? Who knows? No one is indispensable.
As usual over the last few weeks I've been considering my New Year Resolutions and it was with interest that I read Mark Stoneman's list. One particular resolution jumped out at me;
"I resolve to see material possessions for what they are: just stuff."
And you know I think Mark is spot on. It really would be a good idea if all around the world we stopped worrying about the size of our house, the speed of our car or even the latest technological gadget. We need to get back to basics; food, warmth and shelter for everyone. Of course, this sounds impossibly naive and as a history graduate I know that war, terrorism, poverty and famine are often the result of many complex issues which have no obvious or easy solutions.
However, that doesn't stop me from being the eternal optimist and believing that somehow there must be a way for us to progress individually and collectively for the greater good of mankind. Because you know what? I'd feel a hell of a lot happier knowing some child hadn't died of starvation in the time its taken me to write this post.
Maybe with all this current strife in this world our politicians, financiers and businessmen... those who lead the way... will review their actions and learn to make decisions based on both sound moral and financial resolutions before we fall into further ruin from which there might be no redemption. There must surely be a way that we can move forward as individuals within the framework of a caring but prosperous society. I hope so, I really do.
With the election of Obama there is an air of expectation, a desire for change amongst the masses and moreover there is now the opportunity for change. We need to embrace this moment. We need to get back to basics. We need to remember that food, shelter and warmth is a fundamental human right.
It's time to get back to the Bare Necessities and then maybe like Baloo and Mowgli we'd all be a lot happier.
This post was inspired by Mark Stoneman and Mr Geoffrey.