I sometimes wish that I was Frank Sinatra and could sing “Regrets? I have a few . . . “ But, the truth of the matter is that at this age, and looking back through the prism of memories and the experience of time, I have quite a few regrets! However, as my favorite television character, Judge Judy, says: Shoulda, woulda, coulda! And, as I always say: There is no Undo button in life, because once something is said, or done, you cannot Rewind that damn tape! Nevertheless, we can always – Always – correct our self going forward and no matter what age we are. That, where I am concerned, is our path to having an Active Conscience that allows us to put our head on that pillow at night and sleep peacefully.
Thinking of all this made me wonder about the children of the world; and about our Conscience regarding them, so I checked out the estimated number of children worldwide. As per a 2019 census there were 1.2 billion between the ages of 15 to 24, most of them in the developing world. In 2010 and in the United States there were around 74 million under the age of 18. According to the FBI, there are 460,000 of these children who go missing yearly and who end up on the streets to be preyed upon by predators of every sort. Recently, we have all heard of the girls kidnapped from their school in Nigeria on a Friday and released on a Tuesday. It was not the first time that children were kidnapped in that country where half the entire population of 206 million is under the age of 18, and where there are members of the Boko Haram extremist group, as well as many other offshoots and gangs demanding ransom! These are just small examples of what’s out there!
For instance, and according to the United Nations there are about 300,000 child soldiers – 12 to 18 years of age, 120,000 of them girls – in various parts of the world who are recruited and trained to kill. How does that affect them? What will they do, or be, in the future? Nothing positive, I presume. We, in the United States, doggedly recruit 17 year olds in order to enlist them in our military, when they don’t even have the right to vote until they are 18. They, too, are trained to kill! There are also many other children who are kidnapped on a daily basis and all across the world; sold by their parents; working in dangerous mines; scaling sardines, shelling shrimp and other fish; being trafficked for sex; placed as slaves and maids in people’s abusive homes; working in agriculture as well as other areas. Recently there was a big scandal involving Danish men who adopted children from other countries – presumably with good intentions – and ended up using them as their own slaves and sex toys. The Danish are not the only nationals indulging in this atrocious behavior!
And lest we forget other crimes against children: there were numerous babies and kids who were mainly in Catholic orphanages and who were sold, or killed; thousands of children who were molested by clergy, again, mainly in the Catholic Church; boys who were raped by their Boy Scout leaders; boarding schools and scandals involving ongoing sexual and other abuse (the latest I heard of is in Mississippi); Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain being criminally responsible for removing indigenous children from their communities not that long ago in order to re-educate and civilize them. Add to all that girls who were sexually abused by their sports coaches; incest; child brides and the sorry list goes on and on and on! Frightful!
Moreover, our past, present and ongoing wars and militarism, occupations, sanctions and aggression have orphaned so many children, caused others to be destitute, uprooted millions from their communities and rendered them homeless, and caused others yet to be seriously maimed and traumatized probably for the rest of their sad lives. Yes, Saudi Arabia has created a humongous humanitarian crisis in Yemen, but it is not the only nation that has caused severe trauma and a humanitarian catastrophe. Wars in the Middle East and elsewhere have created similar crisis.
You might be wondering by now where I’m going with all this, and what exactly am I trying to say, since you probably know of these incidents? It is that Conscience is a rare commodity when it comes to politics, because it is totally disregarded in our pursuit of Resources and Power. Wars, Sanctions, Aggression, Violence and Weapons of all sorts and kinds Do Not have one Iota of a Conscience, and Arming the World has become a lucrative income-generating commodity for many nations. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, sales of Weapons are in the Billions of Dollars worldwide! It is horrifying! The foremost nations selling weapons in order of dollars generated are: US, Russia, France, Germany, Spain, South Korea, China, United Kingdom, Israel and Italy. To my horror, I learned that Peaceful Sweden is also somewhere on that list! Moreover, any old bloke today can purchase a firearm, and there are millions of those blokes and gangsters hoarding weapons, selling them, shooting at innocent people, or someone they are upset with! Some cops have been saying that they are worried about going into certain neighborhoods because the criminals are better armed than them! No wonder that the police worldwide look like menacing Darth Vader these days! Does that even make sense for how civilized societies are able to function?
Recently there was an explosion in Equatorial Guinea, Africa, due to improperly stored explosives. That blast killed over 100 people and injured over 600. In August of 2020 a huge explosion in Beirut, Lebanon – again due to improperly stored explosives – killed over 200 people, injured 6500, and rendered 300,000 homeless, plus devastating the Beirut Port area. Other places have had blasts of that sort too. And, yet, the rich nations of the world, continue selling these lethal materials! We, humans, are Greedy, Arrogant Idiots!
The great Noam Chomsky said that we are as close to midnight on our Nuclear Doomsday Clock as we have ever been! That is, we can blow up this Planet hundreds of times over with these Weapons of Mass Destruction! And we’re Not getting rid of them! Also, a BBC report stated this past week that in a recent study it was surmised that the fallout from French Nuclear Tests conducted over a period of 30 years in the Pacific Ocean, and aside from causing extreme environmental damage, have caused an estimated 110,000 innocent, harmless people in French Polynesia to develop cancer. The fallout from numerous Nuclear Tests that other nations have undergone must be unfathomable!
And we are still Arming the World with every kind of lethal weaponry that we can manufacture and sell and in that process make huge profits! Where is Responsible Leadership? Nowhere that I am seeing! All that Twittering has reduced our hypocritical politicians to infantile, immature schoolyard bullies continuing to demonize each other and reinforcing our age-old enmities and rivalries with other nations rather than seeking ways for rapprochement and peaceful coexistence. And, if I hear any of them fake hypocritical bleeding hearts saying: the Children! The Babies! while putting a weapon in the hands of every punk, gangster, radical, terrorist, etc. I will go Insane! Unless we take serious steps towards ending the Arming of the World none of us can hope for Peace, Justice, Equality, or Any Other Values, because Everything is Interconnected and our efforts to clean up the Environment will be futile if we continue to blow each other up! There is no Undo button once a war begins. We cannot Undo the damage done to the children, or anyone else. We cannot Rewind that damn tape! We need to arm the world with Peace so that the children of the world can thrive without misery. We need to prepare for future Pandemics lest we lose another year out of our children’s lives. Conscience? Not if we persevere with this sinful Greed and our pathetic age-old Enmities!
Note: After I finished my piece another abduction by armed thugs from a girls’ boarding school occurred in Nigeria! Preposterous!