I like this speech by David Shearer, given to the TEC conference yesterday:
A couple of experiences in my life taught me how important these issues are.
It began a few years ago when I was something of a hippy, travelling around the world like many Kiwis take the time to do.
A friend and I decided to follow the Nile River to its source in Uganda. I think we had this romantic notion of following in the footsteps of those great explorers.
I remember we were reading a couple of wonderful books by Alan Moorehead, who wrote about those who had passed through these same places 100 years earlier. They were called called ‘White Nile’ and the ‘Blue Nile’.
In South Sudan we hitched a ride on a Somali truck that seemed the only way to cross the wild terrain of the Turkana tribe. It was about a five day trip.
We were sitting in the back of the truck peeling a mango and throwing the skins over the side.
I heard noises below and looking down I saw children fighting over the skins – simply because they were hungry. It was a real shock. Here I was, a tourist, travelling through a land where people were so hungry they fought over mango skins.
Over the next few days we saw many people sitting or walking – who knows where – who were just skin and bones, their lives devastated by a drought and conflict in the area, many were close to dying.
For me it was one of those turning points – it hit me that perhaps I should be doing something more to make a difference in the world.
God, I haven’t thought about those Moorehead books for years. I also read them while bumming around North Africa – although I was never ambitious enough to try for Uganda. I was more of a Dahab, Siwa, Chechaouen kind of tourist. Like Shearer, my experience in the region had a profound impact on me, and like Shearer I resolved to change my life and make a difference in the world, but unlike him I went back to London to work in the financial sector instead. So we’re both heroes, in our own ways.
Anyway, I also endorse the General Gordon section of Eminent Victorians.