This week’s Weekly Writing Challenge: Living History asked us to show how current events are not only news, but affect us personally. This made me think about how world events really do not affect me at all. Of course what I hear on the news moves me. There are mornings when the news on the radio makes me want to cry. But my life is not changed because of what is going on around me. I am not in war zone and have never experienced a natural disaster. Even the European economic crisis seems to have passed me by with no major effect on my life. It is as if I live in a bubble.
Being shielded from world events means I am privileged. It means I am lucky. I am not dependent on a harvest that may or may not come. I am not at the mercy of war lords or rebel militias. I am not poor enough to suffer when the government cuts cost in an attempt at austerity.
I was not always that privileged. When I was a child my family was poor. We did not have that much money to begin with, and my mother was not one to save what we had for a rainy day. So when the rainy days came, we had to make do. One common morning meal was chapatis. I am not quite sure from where my parents got the idea to make Indian bread in 80’s Helsinki, where foreigner’s were rare, but it solved the problem of putting breakfast on the table when all we had was flour and water, and no money for yeast. Me and my sister thought of this as a treat, having no idea about the real reason behind the choice of breakfast. Another time my parents dug up the most disparate odds and ends from the fridge and served it to us for dinner, presenting it to us as the national food of Albania, a rare and exotic dish.
But while I was poor, I was not in the street. I never feared to die. I did not go hungry and I did not have to work through my childhood. Instead I went to school in one of the best education systems in the world. Yes, I do remember the great recession of the 90’s. The free notebooks we were given in school were no longer bright white, but made out of recycled paper. The quality of the free pencils was not as good as before. We no longer got new schoolbooks but re-used the schoolbooks left by those in the year above. But education was always completely free. Books and materials were supplied by the school, in addition to a free warm lunch every day.
Education is on my mind this week since Monday, when I went to the Plan International Screening of Girl Rising, a beautiful film about female education. If I am lucky to have been born in Finland, I am even luckier to be be a woman and born in Finland. I am not saying that women’s position in Finland, or the rest of Europe for that matter, is perfect. We still make less money than men, and violence against women is not only a problem in some fundamentalist Muslim countries (as we try to convince ourselves) but is common in the Western World as well. But being a woman in Europe means that I will not be denied an education or be married off at 13, simply because I am a woman. I am not a possession or a financial burden to a family who would have preferred a son. I am not the beloved daughter who cannot go to school because, having only enough money to educate one child, my parents chose to give the opportunity to my younger brother. Being married is not my only option for a meaningful life.
My prosperity is not all my doing. In fact it is barely down to me at all. In another time or another place I might not have had all the opportunities I have today. I might not be watching other peoples’ lives torn apart from the safety of my couch, but living that nightmare myself. But as it is, wars, earthquakes, poverty, famine, violence, pandemics, tsunamis, hurricanes and dictatorships rage outside the walls of this bubble, from where I watch in horror, before I turn off the TV, and sit down to contentedly drink my tea.
I am lucky.