The little girl she said to me
What are these things that I can see
Each night when I come home from school
When mama calls me in for tea
On every night a baby dies
And every night a mama cries
What makes those men do what they do
To make that person black and blue
South Africa has a population of 45 million. 11 million have AIDS. 40% of the working-age population, 8.5 million people, are unemployed. There is a very limited social-welfare system. Every winter, as now, the millions of people living in lean-too shacks suffer in ways that do not bear describing. Crime figures, just released, show that our murder-rate – already amongst the highest in the world – places us above war-zones like Iraq.
South Africa’s economy is the largest in Africa and we are the wealthiest and most successful nation on the continent.
Grandpa says they’re happy now
They sit with God in paradise
With angels wings and still somehow
It makes me feel
The world has changed quite considerably in the past 100 years. Oil, for instance. 100 years ago it was just mucky black stuff that came out the ground.
Economists describe trade as arising from the asymmetric distribution of resources. We wouldn’t really need to trade with people thousands of miles away but they happen to have stuff we need that we don’t have. 100 years ago that was less prevalent. But larger populations, the increasing sophistication of society and technological advancement has meant that minor asymmetries 100 years ago have become major asymmetries now.
Ones we’re prepared to go to war over. Ones we have no choice but to go to war over.
What was the largest and most destructive war in the last decade?
No, not Iraq. It was the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo fought between Namibia, Zimbabwe and Angola on the one side, and Uganda and Rwanda on the other. South Africa brokered a tacit peace. But not before almost 4 million people had been savagely murdered. Did you know about it? The war covered an area larger than Europe.
Tell me there’s a heaven
Tell me that it’s true
Tell me that there’s a reason
Why I’m seeing what I do
Tell me there’s a heaven
Where all those people go
Tell me that they’re happy now
Papa tell me that it’s so
Trade isn’t something that happens because major corporations wish to exploit the poor or destroy the environment. There is no such independent beast as a “corporation”. There are just different communities of people. Some good, some bad, some selfish, some astonishingly generous. Sometimes they can be all these things in a single day.
When a US citizen screams at a corporation for sending jobs off-shore so that foreigners can “steal” them then you’re accusing me of theft. You’re accusing every poor, disenfranchised, and unskilled foreigner of “taking” from you. Taking? The way you’re happy to “take” our minerals that make your motor-cars, that make your mobile phones? Isn’t it a trade? We trade you these goods for jobs?
How do the same people that sing along at a Live Earth concert, demanding universal action to safeguard our future, also refuse the very things that will safeguard that future for the people who need it most?
Tell me how rich Americans, Canadians and Europeans intend to save the world? Tell me who and what is going to create the wealth that will end the depredation, torture, brutality, poverty and neglect in Africa and Asia? Is it concerts? Is it charitable donations? Is it high-sounding poetry? Or is it going to be skills, know-how and jobs created by foreign entrepreneurs seeing the opportunity to invest where it is most needed?
Will you, in order to safeguard your own lifestyles, push all the suffering and hardship onto us? Do you think that, when we get angry and frustrated, we bother to recognise who voted what? Do you think that a people brutalised by cold and hunger care a jot about global warming? Or environmental destruction? Or human rights? Do you really believe that this suffering is caused by companies that manufacture tyres, and sports shoes, and washing machines?
Tell me how your protectionism, how your subsidies to your farmers to prevent ours from competing with you, how your supporting of our most corrupt of leaders through charity and concerts, is supposed to end suffering?
Tell me, are we really all one world?
So do I tell her that it’s true
That there’s a place for me and you
Where hungry children smile and say
We wouldn’t have no other way
That every painful crack of bone
Is a step along the way
That every wrong done is a game plan
To that great and joyful day
And I’m looking at the father and the son
And I’m looking at the mother and the daughter
And I’m watching them in tears in pain
And I’m watching them suffer
Don’t tell that little girl
Chris Rea, Tell me there’s a heaven