David Brooks on the Masters of Sleaze

David Brooks writes scathing critique this morning of Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed, among other leading stellar neoconservatives.

While
hoisting the flag for family values and other virtues Brooks says they get rich
by ripping off Indian tribes, lobbying for dictators who engage in cannibalism,
and profiting from their access to the seats of
power.

The sleazo-cons, as Brooks
calls them, also include Michael Scanlon, Tom DeLay’s former spokesman, Ed
Buckham, DeLay’s former chief of staff, and Grover Norquist, who is called the
“architect of the Bush tax policies” in the April issue of href="http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=magazine.article&issue=soj0504&article=050411">Sojourners.

Norquist tells Sojourners, “We are
trying to change the tones in state capitols–and turn them toward bitter
nastiness and
partisanship.”

Connected to Focus on
the Family and the USA Family Network, these operators seem to know no bounds in
their quest for profits under the banner of traditional values. Brooks minces
no words in his critique.

Do They Know What They’re Doing?

The public spectacle of the Terri Schiavo case is deeply painful to me. Anyone who has faced the gut-wrenching decision to intervene with extraordinary measures as a loved one faced the end of life, or to allow natural processes to take their course without such intervention, knows that there are no easy, comfortable answers. It’s the greatest moral dilemma we will ever face in this life.

So,
as I write I’m not insensitive to the powerful emotional issues that are
involved in this case. In fact, I’m moved to write because this great human
dilemma is so personal to all of us. This case is fundamental to our
understanding of life and to our responsibility for each other. It sends a
shudder down my spine when I think of the public spectacle that has
developed.

This a vast gray area in
which, before God and with each other, we struggle with our hopes and fears, our
memories and our dreams, our faith and our doubt, our guilt and our brokenness.

It is deeply personal and
profoundly spiritual territory. It involves a dialogue between our spiritual
selves and the Creator of Life. We work with knowledge that is imperfect and
provisional, as is all human knowledge. And we are impelled to make decisions
that have ultimate consequences that cannot later be reversed or changed. This
is also unfamiliar territory.

We
seek the solace of the Psalms (I will lift up my eyes to the hills–Psalm 121)
and the wisdom of Paul (Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces
character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us–Romans
5). We hear the comforting words of Luke the physician (Do not worry about your
life…consider the lilies, they neither toil nor spin, yet Solomon in all his
glory was not clothed like one of these–Luke 12) and we are plunged into a
conversation with God that cannot be contained by language because it goes
beyond mere words and somehow involves us at the core of our being. It is in
this conversation that we understand the enduring wisdom and intensely relevant
value of holy scripture.

We know
that the Psalmist has experienced the pain we are going through. We hear Paul
expressing our own inarticulate groans before God (We know that the whole
creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation,
but we ourselves–Romans 8). We understand the utter limits of our frailty
when we hear Job cry out to God in frustration (I can’t stand my life. I’m
putting it on the table, all the bitterness of my life–I’m holding back
nothing–Job 10).

When we are
confronted with the limits of our own humanity, we are as close to God as we
will ever be, and the scriptures reveal to us how others before us have come
before God facing the same limits and struggle to understand life’s purpose
before God. In our exposed state God comes to us and holds us in a loving
embrace, telling us that despite the pain, the loss and the sense of isolation,
we are not abandoned, even in times like this (Can a mother forget the infant at
her breast, walk away from the baby she bore? But even mothers forget, I’d
never forget you–never. Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my
hands–Isaiah 49).

But for us it is
uncharted space and as we enter it we engage our hopes and fears, we remember
life with our loved one at its fullest and most meaningful, and we recall our
unrealized and now-broken dreams. We experience guilt at things done and left
undone, and we struggle with what is right, faithful and true, knowing that even
with the best medical information available, our knowledge is incomplete and
provisional.

Yet, we also sense
that life is more than physical processes and involuntary reflexes. We know that
the physical body of our loved one is just that, the container that once was
animated by spirit and personality that is no more; that, in fact, the spirit
may be seeking release to transition to a plane that we in our limits cannot
know.

The core of Christian teaching
is about the spirit. We speak of the spirit of a person; of the soul, the
afterlife, heaven and the Holy Spirit. We can’t define these, but generations
have sought to understand how life on this side is connected to life on the
other side. Yet, when confronted with the imminence of this transition, we
understandably shrink from it and revert to that which we know, the physical,
even if the physical body before us does not contain the energy, creativity,
personality and intellect that represents the fullness of God’s gift of life
that it once contained.

It takes
courage, respect and utter humility to confront our human limits and act
responsibly in this situation precisely because we are painfully aware of our
own fallibility and limited knowledge. It is this humility, however, that can
help us through an incredibly difficult passage. If we enter into this
terrifying decision respectfully, sensitively, honestly and prayerfully, we can
learn, grow and develop our capacities as a child of God. We can even become
stronger in faith.

Therefore, the
machinations to keep Terri Shcaivo’s body in a persistent vegetative state are
not merely painful to me, I cringe when I see politicians seeking to justify
their involvement in this
situation.

I will go so far as to
say this is shameful, harmful, dangerous and, quite possibly,
sinful.

It is shameful because the
politicians have turned an intensely personal, sacred, private decision about
life and death into a public spectacle. Crowds of strangers who know nothing of
the intricate intimacies of Ms. Schaivo’s medical condition stand curbside at a
hospice chanting “Keep Terri alive” as if this were a highschool pep
rally.

Do these people understand
how supremely arrogant it is to inject themselves into this deeply private
decision? Do they grasp how the circus atmosphere they create violates the very
sacredness of human dignity they purport to uphold? Don’t they get it that
standing on a street corner holding signs and chanting slogans cheapens and
denigrates a decision of such import that it should be considered quietly,
privately and prayerfully?

It’s
harmful because the public case built by right wing politicians from Senator
Bill Frist to Representative Tom DeLay inaccurately states the circumstances.
Surely they know that replacing the feeding tube in Ms. Schiavo is only
preserving her body in a persistent vegetative state, it is not preserving life
as we know life–sentient, expressive and meaningful. They add nothing to our
understanding of meaningful quality of life when they define it in simplistic,
self-serving, politicized sound
bites.

It’s also dangerous for the
precedent it sets; that Congress has the right to intervene in our lives in the
most private decision that we are ever called to make. Who wants Sen. Frist or
Rep. DeLay looking over their shoulder and calling the shots when we must
consider how to care for a critically ill wife or husband, father or mother, son
or daughter? Do we really want government involved in this private family
matter?

I don’t. I want my family,
my physician and my pastor in dialogue with me. I don’t want the county social
worker, the Senator or the Congressperson within a country
mile.

Why is it sinful? Because it
risks idolatry. It idolizes the physical body as an ultimate expression of
life. As creatures of God we are infused with spiritual and physical
properties. When these are in balance our lives are as full and whole as we can
ever be in a physical universe. When they are out of balance we become
distorted and we lose perspective. We risk honoring one above the other.

The scriptures remind us that when
we give ultimate honor to the physical, even if it represents our highest
spiritual aspirations, we risk idolatry. At some point in a tragedy such as
this, we know that we must allow our loved one to move on, even if doing so is
crushingly painful to us.

When we
know that we cannot reasonably expect them to return to a life of quality and
that to prolong a physical process is to prolong suffering, isn’t it time to
say, “enough?’ This is the critical point, and it can’t be decided by strangers
on the curbside or politicians far removed from the
bedside.

The absoluteness of the
political dialogue about Ms. Schiavo in her current condition is, at the very
least, debatable. To take this sacred decision and make it a political issue is
to arrogate the political process to idolatrous result.

I started this essay by saying this
pains me. I end by saying it scares me. These politicians scare me. I can’t
tell if they don’t know the limits of their own knowledge, or if they do know
and they don’t care. Either way, this is dangerous territory we’ve entered.
Making absolute claims for knowledge that is, at best, finite and provisional is
frightening. I don’t know if they are taking political advantage of the tragic
circumstances of a young woman in a persistent vegetative state, as some have
claimed, but if they are, it is beyond conscience and surely justice and
compassion will prevail.

I’d feel
better if I thought they know what they’re doing. I’d feel even more so, if I
saw even a glimmer of humility.

Bill Moyers on Doomsday

Bill Moyers has become even more straightforward in his critique of the religious right and the appropriation of religion by politicos to advance their agenda.

href="http://www.nybooks.com/articles/17852">In this essay he
sounds a warning that the appropriation of theology by idealogues puts us in a
position that makes it impossible for effective solutions to intractable
problems to emerge. He says the delusional has come in from the fringe to
influence those at the seat of
power.

Welcome to doomsday, he
writes. He doesn’t claim fundamentalists run the government, but he does note
that they represent a significant constituency who have been coopted (my word
not Moyers) and who have likewise coopted politics. The result is a frightful
combination of right wing politics and fundamentalist theology that results in
“political religion.”

Moyers writes
of the hateful characterization of Islam by some Christian fundamentalists and
connects the fervent belief in the rapture and end times religious prophecy to
the difficulty of fashioning policy to protect and preserve the environment. If
wars and catastrophes are the marks of the end times, why attempt to stave off
the destruction of the land, pollution of the waters, soiling of the
air?

These are pretty fearsome words
to hear from a respected and experienced journalist whose career is as solid and
reputable as any in our time.

Moyers
is an optimist. But he writes wryly of a stock broker who claimed optimism
about the market but looked less than optimistic. When asked why, he replied,
“Because I don’t know if my optimism is
justified.”

These are not times that
lead us to optimism, but they do call us to responsibility. When the delusional
is annexed by the ideological, as Moyers claims, and begins to influence the
seats of power, we need more than optimism, we need committed action to reclaim
the best of religious teaching about real issues in God’s creation. Otherwise,
optimist or not, doomsday will be at hand.

Beyond War, Beyond Bullets

Marc Lacey provides a look at the reality behind the fighting that plagues Africa in the New York Times Week in Review this morning.


For every
violent
death
in the
war zone,
62 people
have died
from
non-violent
causes

Writing
about Congo, Lacey points out that for every violent death in the war zone, 62
people have died from disease, exposure and hunger. It’s startling. And the
basic premise, that more people die from nonviolent causes than from direct
violent, is true in every other conflict on the
continent.

One of the greatest
killers on the continent, malaria, is easily preventable. However, when
villages are destroyed and people are forced to flee, they are plunged into
chaos that makes it impossible to live even a semblance of normal
life.

It’s not just the physical
destruction of homes and infrastructure. It’s the destruction of families and
of neighborly relationships that offer support and nurture under more normal
circumstances, that result from forced displacement. This toll from fighting is
much broader than the immediate cost of human lives in violent battles; it’s the
long-term destruction of families and community
life.

Fleeing for their lives, whole
villages are torn apart. Children become separated from parents, the weak and
frail can’t keep up with those who are more mobile and are left to fend for
themselves. People often flee in panic, rushing to get away, not knowing for
sure where they are headed, or where they will end
up.

Malaria, an easily preventable
disease, is one of the greatest killers. But delivery of medications to people
who are scattered and dislocated is impossible. Women die in childbirth without
any kind of medical care. Wounds go untended and become life-threatening.
Shock and grief impair immune systems, weakening them and providing an open door
to infections and communicable
diseases.

Lacey says the numbers who
die in these conditions are almost too high to contemplate. In Congo, he
writes, 3.8 million people have died since 1998 from “rebel insurgencies, tribal
rivalries, competition for resources and just plain butchery without a
cause.”

The International Rescue
Committee estimates two million have perished in southern Sudan over a period of
years, 200,000 in the past two
years.

This appalling reality points
to the need to ensure that the U.S. budget is, in fact, a moral statement and
includes adequate amounts for humanitarian assistance. It also points to the
need for people of goodwill to keep pressure on governments to engage in
dialogue for peace. It points to the need to continue to tell this story of
human suffering. It’s frustrating to me that these deaths occur daily and they
are barely noticed by most of the mainstream media–with notable exceptions such
as Lacey’s article in the Times and the continuing coverage of Africa by the
BBC.

Alternative media sources must
continue to attempt to inform people of goodwill who have a global conscience in
order to enable them to act. This kind of storytelling isn’t just to inform,
it’s the foundation for action.

And
that’s the final point. I think people will contribute to non-governmental
organizations that are working heroically to ease this suffering and fill in the
gaps as best they can. But we need the storytelling to continue to keep these
needs in our consciousness.

And, in
addition, we must support long-term assistance that brings stability to these
fragile places where poverty is a daily reality, and the underlying reason that
ragtag militias can so easily de-stabilize a region and wreak such destruction.
We can make a difference if we are determined and persistent in addressing these
situations. 20,000 deaths a day are more than enough reason to keep telling this
story.

Sliding into Oblivion–or are we already there?

David Brooks makes an especially important point in his column today in the New York Times when he writes of two waves crashing down upon the U.S. in the next few years.

The
two are the increasing costs of programs that support the well-being of the
people (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) and the increasing polarization
in the political process. These two are leading to explosive points that will
result in fundamental change, according to
Brooks.

What is intriguing in this,
to me, is that Brooks believes the two major parties are about to lose their
reasons for being. Neither is able to break through the policies they have
created to find new solutions to intractable problems, and neither is able to
break through the hardened positions that have formed in a polarized national
debate.

Brooks says Americans will
become disenchanted with hyperpartisan rule and a new anti-politician will
emerge to “crash through current alignments and bust heads.” I say this can’t
come soon enough.

I’m already
disenchanted, especially in the wake of the Terri Schiavo spectacle, the
retrogressive debate about creationism versus evolution, the tempest over the
Ten Commandments in public spaces and other issues that have become the
symbolic, emotionalized and politicized emblems of social morality. The voices
of moderation, if they exist, are seldom heard. In fact, they are
disenfranchised.

Those at the
extremes are given media access to advocate absolute positions that leave no
room for compromise, or dialogue, for that
matter.

I’m thinking there’s a whole
lot more to all of these issues than the simplistic bumper sticker sound bites
that the strongest advocates express.

And there is more than enough
hypocrisy to go around. The politicians who are are most vocal to keep Ms.
Schiavo on the feeding tube are the same ones who are attempting to slash the
budget for Medicaid and Medicare, both of which must be sustained if we are to
provide long-term care for disabled
persons.

Those who proclaim they
believe in the sanctity of life are the same who voted to subpoena a woman who
has been in a persistent vegetative state for the past ten years to appear
before Congress to testify. This demonstrates respect for human dignity and the
sanctity of life?

Where is the
outrage that 20,000 people starve to death every day in the developing world and
we have the resources and capacity to put an end to this suffering, but we do
next to nothing?

So I’m ready for
new leadership. I’m yearning for an end to the demagoguery. I’m praying for
dialogue about compassion and humility, justice and healing, about individual
responsibility and social responsibility. I’m praying for an end to superficial
sound bites and hypocrisy and the beginning of honest, courageous leadership
that tackles real problems, truly stands for the poor and oppressed and cares
about the environment, peace and
justice.

So, Mr. Brooks, I think
we’re already living with leadership oblivious to the great challenges we face
and that means we’re already in a state of oblivion. I hope you’re correct that
new leadership is incubating, and I hope it doesn’t take much longer to hatch.

Sudan: 10,000 a month

The United Nations reports it has underestimated the death toll in Darfur.

According
to href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/sudan/story/0,14658,1438471,00.html">this
report in the Guardian, the actual toll is 10,000 people a month dead
from starvation, compromised health and exposure. This number excludes those
killed in the fighting.

The href="http://www.tdg.ch/tghome/tgnews.detailcateg.YWZwLmNvbToyMDA1MDMxNzowNTAzMTcxNDEwMjIucm5rOHY4MmQ6MQ==.1.0.html">World
Food Program announced today that it does not have enough food the
meet the needs of the
displaced.

We’ve long known this
humanitarian disaster was among the world’s worst. It seemed hopeful that a
truce would result in better conditions for those in southern Sudan bearing the
brunt of the government’s attacks, but this has not been the case. A CARE
worker reports visiting one camp in the last three weeks where 200 per day
struggled in looking for food and
shelter.

Plenty of responsible
voices have called this genocide. I wonder when, or if, we will become outraged
and demand an end to this utterly appalling disaster. An international mission
to halt the attacks under the auspices of the UN is long
overdue.

href="http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/emergency/sudan.stm">UMCOR , href="http://www.unrefugees.org/usaforunhcr/dynamic.cfm?ID=205&code=P002">UNHCR
and href="http://www.churchworldservice.org/news/Sudan/index.html">Church World
Service are among many agencies providing humanitarian
relief.

Terror’s Legacy–Hope

One of the most enjoyable things about travel outside the United States is the opportunity it presents to talk with people and hear their views about almost everything.

It’s
endlessly fascinating and, ultimately, very hopeful. I try to talk with
everyday folks, people who are not working in an official capacity with church,
government or other institutions.


Kortee is a young man who operates a
money exchange on the streets of Monrovia, the capitol city of Liberia in West
Africa. These exchange booths are legal, so Kortee is not part of an
underground financial system, as is the case in many other parts of the
world.

As we talked, Kortee asked me
to sit with him on a wooden bench situated along a busy street under a large
umbrella. He exchanges U.S. dollars, which are used along with Liberian
dollars, as legal currency. He also sells time on a cell phone, lottery tickets
and small bottles of gasoline.

He
spoke of the joy Liberians are experiencing with the coming of peace. They can
travel throughout the country without being shaken down, or without acquiring
travel permits, as was the case under rebel
control.

A succession of rebel
groups fought the central government, which eventually fell under the weight of
corruption and lack of popular support. The country is being administered today
under UN mandate. National elections are scheduled for October,
2005.

Kortee also spoke of the
terror that was inflicted on innocent people, often for no reason but to
intimidate and terrorize in order to maintain control. He tells of people
having bags placed over their heads, bound and thrown into a swimming pool in an
apartment complex across the street from his stand. Left to struggle to free
themselves, some survived, some
didn’t.

He tells of a pastor who
rode a bicycle into the area unaware the rebels had announced no one could pass
by the front of the building. The bicycle was thrust over the pastor’s body as
a “necklace” and he was forced to crawl on hands and knees with a gun at his
head until his knees bled. Battered and beaten, he was eventually
freed.

This terror lies just below
the surface of conversation in Liberia. It is a menacing, insidious part of the
collective memory that is always lurking under the joy of new found freedom and
peace. Will it return? Can the past be
overcome?

Terror’s legacy is
destabilizing and demoralizing fear. If you can’t count on some degree of order
in your daily affairs, how can you plan anything? If a simple walk to the
market puts you at risk of beating, robbery or worse, how can you carry out even
the most basic tasks of daily
survival?

Liberians, as many other
peoples who have endured this kind of wrenching terror, know the veneer of
civility is thin and easily stripped away. It covers a potential for barbarism
that can turn civil society into a nightmare more quickly and easily than one
can imagine. But they don’t imagine it, they’ve lived through
it.

So it is refreshing to hear
Kortee’s hopes. He hopes to attend the University of Liberia, get a degree in
economics and gain entry to a university in the United States for a master’s
degree. He lays out this plan with an enthusiasm that is quite remarkable,
following his accounts of the nightmare he has just been
through.

To emphasize the
seriousness of his plans, he assures me that he will “fast and pray” to make
this dream happen.

He is reflective
and thoughtful. When I ask him about the upcoming elections, he says with
candor. “I don’t know enough about this to speak of it. I will need to study
to the election before I talk with you about it,” he says with earnestness. An
informed voter. What a concept.


Kortee and others like him are not hard
to locate here and in other countries of Africa. Young people who hold fast to
dreams of a better life for themselves and their people stand in sharp contrast
to those young children who have been pressed into armed service by rebel
leaders who have stolen their childhood and left them broken and
traumatized.

It is remarkable to
hear Kortee speak of these young rebels. He expresses a degree of understanding
that is surprising. They are poor children, abducted from their families and
turned into killers by adults, he says. Victims themselves, they become
efficient and effective
victimizers.

This is another legacy
of terror–children brutalized and
dehumanized.

And yet, sitting here
in the heat of the day, knowing the fragility of freedom, Kortee dares to voice
his hope for his own future and for the future of an embattled people. He and
other young people like him are the hope of Africa. Given the opportunity, they
will secure an education, work to build a safe, civil society and create a
better world than they have
inherited.

There are young people on
every street in every city and village in every part of the world who dare to
hope. We have a responsibility to partner with them to create the conditions
that allow them to make their dreams reality.


This requires more than individual
gifts and scholarships, which we should support. It requires support for health
clinics, food production, education, clean water, sanitation facilities,
electrical power and economic empowerment opportunities. We must support
non-governmental organizations that are making these happen and we must support
enlightened foreign policy by governments around the world, policies that equip
hopeful young people to become contributing
citizens.

I can think of no better
way to combat terror than to nurture the dreams of the hopeful young people who
know the realities of the world in which they live and who dare to hope that
beyond this present reality is a better
future.

Let this be our legacy from
terror–a world of opportunity and hope.

Ending Extreme Poverty Is Possible


In last week’s cover story in Time , Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, head of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, lays out an achievable plan for ending extreme poverty by 2025.

Extreme poverty is living on less than $1 a day, which means living with less income than is necessary to survive. It means chronic hunger, no health care, no safe drinking water, no sanitary waste disposal, no shoes, inadequate shelter, time-worn clothing.

1.1 billion people live like this, one-sixth of the world’s population. They are subject to the ravages of AIDS, drought, war and famine.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A mere 15 cents from every one hundred dollars of national U.S. income could make a substantial dent in this appalling daily reality.

Sachs makes a case for change that is both achievable and rational. He refutes the myth that foreign aid doesn’t work, and that corrupt political leaders are the cause of on-going poverty in the Third World. (He notes, for example, that Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangledesh have prospered while experiencing widespread corruption.)

He makes the point that complex geographic and structural economic factors play as important, if not a more important role, than corruption.

Those regions left farthest behind face special hardships and obstacles: a climate favorable to mosquito production resulting in malaria, drought prone lands unfavorable to irrigation, isolated mountain or landlocked regions and lack of natural resources such as oil, coal or natural gas.

Sachs is both realistic and determined. “The situation is grim, but salvageable,’ he writes.

He believes that multiple factors contribute to poverty and multiple approaches, designed in partnership with local people, can put an end to the most extreme poverty. The structural adjustments imposed by the World Bank have not worked in the most deprived nations. They have led to riots and social disorder and put the Bank in position to act as the collection agency for the wealthy donor nations to recover interest on loans made to indebted poor nations.

More than
20,000
people
perished
yesterday
of extreme
poverty.
–Dr. Jeffrey Sachs

Instead, building schools, clinics, roads, electrical grids, ports and providing nutrients for the soil, clean water and sanitation facilities holds more realistic promise. These are the most basic necessities for human dignity, and for an economy to work, Sachs says.

This is also a key to global security, much more effective than allocating billions for military interventions that are creating new terrorists daily.

In fact, the daily toll should weigh heavy on our consciences. Twenty thousand people die every day from conditions of extreme poverty. They lack drugs to fight off preventable diseases. They lack treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria. They have impaired immune systems for lack of proper nutrients to sustain life. They live exposed to the elements, vulnerable to natural disasters that claim a disproportionate number of the poorest of the world.

Sachs is a refreshing, hopeful voice. We need to hear him. Moreover, we need to be even more aggressive in advocating for the “clinical economics” he is advocating. I hope people will pick up this edition of Time, read the cover story and get engaged. There is no reason to allow these life-threatening conditions to continue.

Embarrassing and Stingy


It’s embarrassing.

The United States gives less than two-tenths of 1% of national income to international development aid. That puts us behind Britain, France, Spain, Ireland, Belgium and Finland.

A government that has known no limit to budget deficits now can’t see its way to raise development aid to a mere seven-tenths of one percent of national income to match other industrialized nations.

How could
wealthy people
so aware
of such
suffering
and capable
of acting
simply turn
away and
busy themselves
with other
things?
–Prime Minister
Tony Blair

A National Security Council bureaucrat tells the New York Times, “the US has no intentions of committing itself to a specific timetable to reach the seven-tenths timetable.”

It’s embarrassing and stingy.

Worse, it’s immoral, and at least one world leader has said so.

Speaking at a news conference in London yesterday Prime Minister Tony Blair said he fears his own conscience.

Knowing that 8 million people die each year because they are too poor to survive, Prime Minister Blair asked how we would answer the question that future generations will ask, “How could wealthy people so aware of such suffering simply turn away and busy themselves with other things?”

How, indeed. With all the talk about traditional values, where is the discussion of the the most basic value of all, “Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself?”

African Tsunami


In an article in New African, Stuart Price questions why Africa, facing an on-going tragedy of proportions that dwarf the Asian tsunami, does not marshall the same sympathetic response from the public.

It’s a dilemma that deserves an answer because millions of lives are being lost each year to easily preventable diseases and from compromised health resulting from malnutrition and hunger.

Here’s a short list:

Every 30 seconds a child dies of malaria in Africa, over a million a year.

Everyday, HIV/Aids kills 6,000 people and another 8,200 become infected with the virus.

Six million
children
under 5
die from
malnutrition
each year.

Millions of people live on less that US$1 a day and millions more survive on less than US$2 a day.

Globally, some 6 million children die every year from malnutrition before their fifth birthday. Approximately every 3.6 seconds, someone somewhere in the world dies of starvation.

Declining soil fertility, land degradation and Aids have led to a 23% fall in food production per capita in the past 25 years.

The children of a woman with five years of primary school education have a 40% higher survival rate than uneducated ones.

Every minute, a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth.

Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, author of the Millenium Development Goals (MDG) report has used the phrase “silent tsunami” to call attention to this ongoing tragedy. Dr. Sachs notes that 150,000 people die in Africa every month from malaria, an easily treatable disease.

The MDG states the time to end this suffering is now, and it challenges us to cut the world’s poverty rate in half by 2015. If this were done 500 million people would be lifted out of extreme poverty and more than 300 million would no longer suffer from hunger.

If it is not done, millions more will die from circumstances that we know how to prevent right now. Do we have the will to respond to the silent tsunami?

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