Thursday 29 September 2016

Save the lions, yes, but starving children are more important

Published 03/08/2015 | 02:30

'We all have priorities'
'We all have priorities'

His kid is sitting in the front seat. The little boy is maybe eight or nine.The child is smoking 20 a day, passively.

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Only it's not passive. The studies all show that kids suffer terribly from the aggressive effects of smoke on their bodies. The expression 'passive smoking' should be deemed as unfit for purpose and banned as being a misrepresentation.

Passive sounds almost as if there's no real sense of actually doing anything wrong. Yet we are all passive killers in one way or another,

The hunter dentist who shot the friendly lion is now a hate figure.

"Open wide, please" we all say, and swallow the dentist. It was a horrible thing to do.

But the dentist has suffered for his killing of the lion. His practice is in ruins and he is being tracked down by extremists. There are protesters watching his house and the dentist is under police protection.

Yet on the same day the lion was killed, hundreds of kids died in Africa from starvation. Please note that I'm not saying the dentist did a good thing or that his actions should go unpunished.

We all have priorities. It might be that you decide to Arts as you first choice in college and now 20 years on you are a teacher. Our priorities define us and define our future.

The hypocrisy is right up there at the top of the scale. The internet is hopping mad over the killing of the friendly lion. The news was all about the lion but there was a hardly a word about the killing of starving human beings by the passive killers.

Passive shouldn't be our top priority but it is and that's what most of us do - or should I say don't do. Passive smoking kills and so do passive people.

So be honest. Do you switch channels when the TV shows images of starving children in Africa and did you stay with the lion story and say maybe that the dentist should be treated by his own drill?

Were you mad as hell when kids live in hell? Did you find the sight of the lion skin repulsive and did we put our hands to our eyes?

And when the little boy or girl with the distended belly appears on screen, do we switch channels immediately? I do and as I disappear the starving child I always resolve that some day I will do something - but we forget.

It's nearly like the warnings on the back of the cigarette packets now. The evidence of death is so commonplace that there is no shock any more.

There was a time, though, when we were so proud to be Irish. Bob Geldof led the way with Band Aid and we gave more per capita than any other country in the world. That was us at our best. Can we do it all over again? This time we must make the love last forever.

It's not that long since our Famine. My Nana told me stories that her mother had told her. Stories like the one about the mother who got as far as the door of the workhouse in the middle of the night and she died there with her baby, trying in vain to find a drop of milk in her breast.

When we give, we feel good. The giving is a double gift. We were world champions and while I haven't the up-to-date figures, I'm pretty sure the Irish are still among the best when it comes to volunteering to go abroad to help the babes who are dying at their mother's breast.

I have seldom heard such a commotion over a big cat, although there is an investigation over the death of an ordinary small cat here in Kerry.

The cat was found on the side of the road with a yellow paint stripe across his back. The investigation is ongoing but one of the possible causes is that the small cat was rolled over by one of those machines used for daubing lines on the road. The story spread and the killing of the small cat attracted far more publicity than the three road deaths in the same week or the thousands of hunger deaths.

I'm not saying we should abandon all sense of outrage at cruelty to animals. Far from it. The man who is cruel to an animal will pick on human beings before very long. What I am saying is we must be honest with ourselves and admit we have lost our desire to solve the big problems first.

We march against Irish Water and people are entitled to protest. It may even be a good thing but how many of us march with the nearly one billion people who have to walk miles for water?

And it's the women who do all the carrying. Unicef figures show only 10pc of men carry water. Our women can move us to take notice of all the suffering we passively ignore.

Yes, we are passive killers.

To those of you who are about to turn the page right now, please do not give up reading just yet. I promise to mention the dead lion before the end of the piece.

I still think we are a very caring nation and we have it in us to lead the world, so others might live better lives or just simply stay alive. But right now we take more notice of dead cats than dead babies.

Cecil was the dead lion's name. Cecil the celebrity cat.

While you were reading down through this piece, several people will have died from starvation or disease in the homelands of the poor.

But if you were to scan every line in every paper in every country, I doubt very much if you would find the name of a single person who died from hunger on the day Cecil was shot.

Irish Independent

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