Life for me and my boy is good. There is tasty, nutritious food on the table, our quirky living accommodation is comfortable, clean, warm and dry and we have clothes to wear and shoes on our feet. We feel very blessed for there is cash in the pot to socialise, travel and try new things. Louis has a good education and enjoys an idyllic childhood in a safe and beautiful part of the world. As a white, middle class, intelligent male the global odds are stacked in his favour. He should be alright.
Yet across the Atlantic it is certainly not okay for other eleven year olds. Until yesterday I didn't know that there are little boys of the same age who've been tried in the US as adults and sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in jail. Children who are denied the opportunity to learn, mess around and have a snuggle from their favourite grown up when it's needed. Maybe the lack of a favourite and trusted grown up is what got them into this mess in the first place. Most of them are poor and black. What's more 1 in 3 black boys who are born in the 21st century, in what is widely regarded as the most advanced society in the world, will spend time incarcerated during their lifetime.
Yesterday's Desert Island Discs stopped me in my tracks and blew me away. Bryan Stevenson is another one of those pesky human rights lawyers who, like Clive Stafford-Smith, are intent on shaking up a woefully flawed US justice system. He works with people on death row and those incarcerated children where things have gone horribly wrong right at the start of their lives. Please listen to the programme or take twenty to listen to his TED talk. Every considered word that he speaks is full of wisdom and compassion. And he is so right. We have to marry our visions of technology, design, entertainment and creativity, those things that are markers of an advanced society with visions of humanity, compassion and justice. We are nothing unless we do.
I was talking with friends about how much evil is about, ingrained at every level from individual to societal. We agreed that we protect ourselves by surrounding ourselves with good people who love us. By taking care of each other we cut ourselves off from the horrors that others in the world have to suffer. It's important for our sanity that we do this. We are reminded here though that we must contemplate the darker things that go on and act for humanity's sake. There is a need to be informed so that we may act.
So what can be done? Well, there's something to be said for speaking out, having meaningful employment, learning and teaching and using some of our time and money to better life for those where accident of birth means that they lack love and are disadvantaged from day one. My additional role as a parent is to pass this mindset on to my privileged son. He needs to know how horrible human beings can be to each other and the role he can play in righting wrongs. My hope is that he will use his brains, not to accumulate wealth for himself, but in service to others. As his teacher again pointed out at parent's evening last week, he has a kind heart so its not a tall order. My mission in life is to do my utmost so that this happens.