Travel from the UK to a country like Nepal you’re likely to notice one or two differences. Here, they watch Indian Idol not The X Factor, they have less vegetable oil in their chocolate, and also their infrastructure, utilities, healthcare and education are about as screwed as you’re going to get this side of an apocalypse. Generations of corrupt government, a decade of civil war and insufficient foreign aid have left a beautiful, vibrant country on its knees and among the poorest 20 in the world.
There’s no health service, no sewage system, no rubbish disposal, a serious shortage of electricity and an unreliable supply of dirty water. Kevin Costner delivers the post. But here’s where it gets difficult for the blogger: it’s hard to write without turning to telethon cliché about the people having dignity, how even in desperate poverty the people have hope, how despite everything going against them they keep on trucking. But generalisations are generally unhelpful. We could say Americans are all rich and morbidly obese but they have their share of homeless anorexics. We could say the British are reserved but millions of them every year get their tits out on Big Brother.
Nepal has its share of well-to-dos. It has people living in decent houses and paying for a half-decent university education. It has people living in fairly crappy houses, working unskilled jobs but keeping things together. It has people in shacks, on the streets, barely living. Some people are pissed off, some are downtrodden, some are looking to escape to the West, some manage it, some are looking to stay and make things better. There’s some dignity knocking about but with it frustration, shame, anger, resignation, apathy, drive, ambition and everywhere a sense that this isn’t deserved, that things should be better. I appear to have lapsed into a generalisation there. The British have bad teeth. There’s never been a polite Frenchman.
The point I’m probably trying to make, if I understand myself correctly through this haze of jetlag and borderline diarrhoea, is that we’re Zeroes, damn it, and we’ll remember that within the boundaries of their basic crappiness developing countries house a range of lives and experiences on the same sort of scale as our own.
That decided, I’m off to poop for the next couple of hours.
Photo credit: The Zero