While I’m here, I have to write 3 “letters” for the Quakers, who have very kindly given me this opportunity and who pay my wages. The first “letter” has been published. It’s about why HIV infection rates are increasing in South Africa while they are falling in other parts of Africa. You can read it online at http://www.quaker.org.uk/Templates/Internal.asp?NodeID=90457.
3 January, 2007
12 September, 2006
It’s my birthday today, and all people born on 12th September share one recent, common, guilty secret: huge relief that we weren’t born yesterday. Every year, the 11th comes round and we all feel that way: thank fuck tomorrow isn’t today. We feel guilty ‘cos our relief shines a red-selfish-egotistical-shallow-spotlight on our lack of humanity. But stuff it. The fact is, it’s kind of difficult to have a massive drinking session with all your friends when the wheels of American sentiment crank up to warp factor 10 and the West’s media rain their dark, exploitative 24-hour-bad-news about 9/11’s tragedies over the cringing date that is the 11th of September.
It is the day that we must hang our heads and tut-tut about the state of the world and how religion is the root of all evil. (Aside: ‘religion as the root of all evil’ – I love a sweet paradox.) 9/11 is a nice, easy thing to tut-tut-bemoan-doomgloom about, because it has happened, it’s over, and there wasn’t much we could do to stop it. It wasn’t our fault.
Well, it’s the 12th today, not the 11th, and today about 700 peope will die in South Africa from AIDS. (I’m going to be safe when I go there, ‘cos I really like garlic and I eat loads of it.) The worldwide figure is about 8000. But tonight I’m still going to party like it’s 1999 (which was a bloody good party, as I’m sure you’ll agree) because the self-conscious projection of personal loss and tragedy when nothing has actually happened to me is so bloody easy and so entirely unproductive, it’s offensive.
I wonder (actually, I rarely wonder, I’m much more of an espouser) whether we don’t get all tut-tut-bemoan-doomgloom about this constant tragedy because it’s not easy; it’s daunting; it can’t be expressed in soundbites; it’s not sentimental. It’s real and it’s largely preventable and we can do something about it. But we don’t. So that’ll be two guilty secrets I can drink to tonight: one that I share with my co-birthday-ers and one that I share with everyone else in the West.