Thursday, February 15, 2007

Our Children

Shame on us, America, for showing up next-to-last--just before (once Great) Britain!--in the UNICEF report on children's well-being in developed countries. Twenty-one countries! And we show up #20. Almost as shameful is the paucity of media attention to the report, which was released yesterday. Here we compare unfavorably also to the UK: the BBC World News had the good grace to feature the shameful news near the top of its newcast. I saw not a mention on the network news that I watched, and I'm not sure, either, about Public Television, which I was watching only out of the corner of an eye whilst Ellie and I were preparing our Valentine's Day dinner (steak, baked potato, brussels sprouts and a nice bottle of California coastal Syrah: even this seems a bit obscene to me--to confess to sumptuous dining while children starve.)

Yes, starve. Here in the richest country in the history of the world. Well, perhaps they don't die of malnutrition in the tens of thousands, as they do in less fortunate countries, but thousands go to bed hungry. UNICEF's cateogries, according to this morning's Los Angeles Times (where was the report in the New York Times? I couldn't find it!) included "material well-being, health, education, relationships, behaviors and risks, and young people's own sense of happiness." The highest ranking for the United States was 12th, in the education category. 12th! So much for No Child Left Behind. The vast majority of our children, it would seem, are being left behind when compared to their peers in other developed countries.

So much for the best. The US was bottom of the list for health and safety, "mostly," the LA Times reports, "because of high rates of child mortality and accidental deaths." We ranked next-to-last in "family and peer relationships and risk-taking behavior", and 17th in the percentage of children who live in relative poverty. Our low standings, it seems, result from "less spending on social programs and 'dog-eat-dog' competition in jobs that [lead] to adults spending less time with their children and heightened alienation among peers."

So what, I wonder, is the response of the American people to such a disastrous report card? Do we know about it? Likely not, given the slim media coverage. Do we care? Are we sufficiently outraged to go running to our representatives in government to demand that they address these issues without delay? I fear not. I fear that our greed and narcissism is so deeply engrained at this point that we will simply throw up our hands and deny any personal responsibility.

Here's for me, though: I pledge to write, today, to both my senators and my congressman to bring my own sense of outrage to their attention; and to find some charitable organization concerned with food for children and make a donation proportionate to the cost of that Valentine's Day dinner for two.


On another front, a thought, this morning, after meditation, regarding that troublesome question of reincarnation: if we are reborn into another, different life form after our death to this human existence, who gets to decide what form that will be? Does the belief not imply the existence of a source of judgment? A god? In my next life, am I to be a rat, an elephant, a hyena--or a boddhisatva? Who makes that decision--if it's not left up to me?


lori said...

I am often struck with the American brand of hubris that believes that our way of living is the most advanced. Anyone who has lived in other developed countries (myself-Europe) knows for a fact that our society runs on greed and nothing more. Bottom line, profit margins...the sense of entitlement, all under the auspices of hubris mistaken for quality. Thank you for posting that, as I had not heard of the latest results for the UNICEF list had you not drawn attention to it here.

Oh and congrats on the transition to your new blog, I am quite happy to have read your latest posts!


Lillian said...

I have worked on Skid Row with homeless men since 1993. Today, men are no longer the exclusive inhabitants of this area. A few years ago, when housing became an "investment" rather than a "necessity" there was an instant appearance of children in the Skid Row area, sitting on the sidewalks with their parents, waiting in line at the missions for food and playing ball in the streets. One night, when leaving work, I witnessed a child hit by a car. I have worked with the poor for many years, however, to witness widespread homelessness is the worst phenomenon to happen in this country. Many of these families have parents who work, however can't afford housing on thier salaries. In order to survive the cost of living these days, both parents must work and make a very good income. America has become a third world country when it comes to medical care as well as housing, feeding and educating our low and low-middle income children.


carly said...


PK said...

Hi Peter, a friend of mine, who lives in NY, is from India, and we were just talking about this 'til 2am this morning. He has a good job, and so he not only sends money back to his elder Mother, but gives generously to programs in his homeland, and here, for the children. He asked me a question that I had no answer for. Why is it we, and this applies to both there and here, spend thousands of dollars on a wedding, when we could have a nice one for thousands less, and give what we were going to spend, to the children and homeless of the world? Some say why? Tell them to get a job... well, that's not the way. When you have your government taking everything away from you, and creating a caste system here in the states, as in India. The 'haves' are not willing to give up what they have to the 'have not's' simply out of fear that they may not have if they aren't careful. They want to be able to live in that billion dollar mansion on the hill, with all the amenities, no little 3 or 4 bedroom in the burbs for them. While downtown on some street there are 2 or 3 kids and a mother sitting in the park because they have nowhere else to go, waiting for the soup kitchen to open so hopefully they can get something to eat. It makes no sense to me. There are places you can go in India, but not that many. You bathe in the river, you wash your cloths there too if you are poor. You can go to the temples for food at times. Granted we aren't the only two countries that have this horrendous situation, but if everyone would just give $5 or $10 a month, and I mean everyone, we could feed people! Or give canned and boxed goods to the food banks, so those that are barely in thier homes can eat. It's not that hard to remember that we are all interconnected in this 'home' of ours. Sad that most don't... On reincarnation... I'm not so sure we are going to be anything else other than human when returning. Although being made up of all three of the elements, I believe we will remain as a human again. Our Karma will determine how long, or how short, our lesson for the new incarnation will be. Only my own opinion Peter:). And it should be The Great Spirit in the sky who chooses doncha think:D?... Thank you for a thought provoking post Peter, have a lovely day:).