Saturday, 13 June 2015

How the West is Still Winning.

I was in a garden centre the other day. Have I mentioned that I dislike garden centres? Thought so. My issue with them is that they’re no longer about facilitating the practice of gardening; they don’t just sell things like plants and seeds and canes and tools. They’ve jumped onto the retail mania bandwagon and become lifestyle centres. They’re all about stocking anything which might persuade people to spend excess cash on things to make their gardens, homes and bodies prettier, and in some cases their egos a little more inflated – or so people can be persuaded to believe if the merchandise is presented in a sufficiently alluring way. They even sell books, toys and expensive cosmetics. What have these to do with gardening, which at its source is about working with and celebrating the growth imperative inherent in nature?

‘So what?’ you might ask. ‘What’s wrong with having excess money and buying pretty things with it?’

Nothing in itself. It’s just that I keep on coming across reminders of all those untold millions who are desperately poor, who have nothing but a few items of clothing and whatever they can catch or scavenge for food. I’m reminded that such people are so much more susceptible to natural disasters, to disease, to abusive regimes and militant invaders, because they don’t have the means to protect themselves. I read about four children being found dead in a remote and poor part of China because their parents felt driven to abandon them. And then I see water features on sale in a garden centre at £400 each, and it disturbs me.

It isn’t only garden centres, of course. I feel the same way every time I walk through a shopping mall and see the outrageous prices being charged for small bottles of coloured water that smell nice. (I gather it was a small bottle of coloured water that killed the four children in China. Seems they had nothing else to drink.) I could go on, of course I could. I could mention the recent G7 summit at which leaders discussed ways of helping the world’s poor. No doubt some of us applauded while others complained that we shouldn’t be giving our money away to foreigners, both of us forgetting that G7 is a prime manifestation of the very system that breeds such massive inequality. And it’s probably worse now than it’s ever been.

So should I care? I have no idea. Should I be doing something about it? Like what? All I know is that it disturbs me, which is why I’ve been here before and will probably return at irregular intervals.

Bless you, Zoe. Bless you for doing more than I ever did to help the poor people. It’s one reason why you still ride high.

Please excuse the personal note. Things often come down to personal levels when matters disturb me.

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