In pursuit of justice

Cumbria, UK, Bampton | November 18th, 2011

I find the further north I go, the more compelling the landscape. The epic hills seem to put my own transient physicality into perspective, and I have a stronger sense of myself in comparison to the vastness of the world. The undulating fields rise above me, setting heights in their hearts. The earth here seems more alive, more full of vitality, than the infinitely flat fields which surround my home in Warwickshire.

The window seat in the train carriage proves brilliant for surveying these magnificent vistas. The hopscotching rivers, the evergreen firs (naked Christmas trees in my mind), the northern air itself – all is tantalisingly close.

I think perhaps the most wondrous thing is that the beauty of this verdant Eden is so accessible to me. I am here in Cumbria, over 200 miles from my home, in just under 3 hours. In the developed world the ease of travelling to distant or remote places is something we take for granted, which we know our infrastructure will facilitate.

When I was in Kenya this summer, this was far from the reality. A journey from Nairobi to Mandera of 800 miles took nearly two days. No wonder the people who make their lives in the most northern part of the country feel forgotten or marginalised.

So sitting here on this rainy Friday morning only 10 miles from Scotland I am thinking of Africa. And of the hardness of life there. And of how unjust it is that people who I met in Kenya – and many others around the world – are denied the same services and opportunities and rights that you and I expect, and think nothing of.

I am listening to Bob Dylan. One of his most famous songs is Blowin in the Wind, which, question after question, seeks answers to life’s injustices. He offers no solutions – just the wisdom that the answers are ‘blowing in the wind’.  I don’t think that’s true. I believe it is within our power to take small beautiful steps which effect profound change. Like the things Practical Action is doing. Talking to vulnerable people and finding out what will help improve their situations and then giving them the tools and skills and knowledge to make those changes themselves. Perhaps I’m more practical, hopeful or naive than Bob. Maybe I’m a fool. But I’ll continue believing that maybe, just maybe, we do have the ability to change things for the better. Otherwise we have to settle for a world where injustice dominates. I refuse to settle.

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