te poverty and preserve our planet but we don’t want to. The first recorded words of Jesus in John’s gospel are, ‘what do you want?’ (1:38) The disciples seem to have been astonished by this question. Perhaps they had never been asked such a thing before. What do we want? What do I want?
Wise people tell us to ‘get in touch with your desires,’ by which they mean listen to what is deepest within you and, once you have named it, move towards it steadily. This advice proposes no easy answer. At first I might answer I want a profession, a house, a car, an intimate relationship and a host of other things. I want certain things for my life – individual personal things. I leave community and global needs to politicians. I leave the poor and the ozone layer to them.
But it is rare for a politician to move ahead of his constituents. It is the mark of great leadership and it is not often we see the likes of them. A leader’s instinct bids him or her be sure to move only at the pace of those who elected them. They know we are dangerously near a point of no return in global warming and they would like to do something about it, but the individuals who chose them will not tolerate any diminishment of their standard of living. So nothing happens. What they know is right and would really like to do becomes smothered in phrases about ‘politics being the art of the possible.’
I still believe that our Zimbabwe government would genuinely like to eradicate poverty and improve the lives of people. But at the end of the day this desire is smothered under a stronger gut desire to simply stay in power and ‘enjoy its fruits.’ That is what they really want. If the common good could be served at the same time, that would be fine. But if it can’t, well, that is just too bad. Since there were all the resources in the 1980s for our government to improve the life of the people, and since they did so then, it must have been possible. Those resources have not been taken away by anyone from outside so why the decline into destitution now?
The answer is that we do not want to eliminate poverty just as we do not want to save our planet. We have more burning issues.
6 July 2006
'There is no great desire to save the planet, just as there is no huge desire to bring about justice and eliminate poverty.' This matter of fact observation by José González Faus, in a booklet called The Kyoto Horizon, starkly describes our dilemma. We have all the means to hand to elimina