Living in Tough Places
As human beings we spend our days searching for a place of safety. In today’s world with transport and communication being so easy, it sometimes feels as if the world is at our feet. It’s not of course because we put up barriers to travel and migration which can make it pretty difficult to get around these days – just try to get a visa to visit Britain for example.
In my own life I can recall speaking to students at a Danish University and saying that I advocated free movement of people across the world. I was surprised by the reaction in that most liberal of countries, they were horrified. Then I spent a semester at that holy of holies, MIT in Boston, teaching a class of 268 of the most intelligent, confident and what seemed to me, wealthy, young people on managing a transition. What horrified me there was that those young people had no desire or intention of doing anything with their lives but making money.
What a change from when men and women of real capacity and intelligence left their lives of comfort and plenty to move deliberately to the toughest places on earth following a higher calling. Many were Christians and they left their mark indelibly on the countries and societies they served, many losing their lives in the process. Was this a senseless calling, a waste of their time and lives?
I can remember Professor Lawrence Levy and his wife. Both very capable and outstanding doctors of medicine – Lawrence in the field of neuro surgery. Both came here from their homeland to teach doctors at the University of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in Harare and they lived out their lives here. Working for virtually nothing, living in a home that was nothing to write home about, driving a small battered car, this marvellous man gave his time to the poor and disadvantaged and can recall him holding the hand of a young guerrilla from the ANC in South Africa who had been shot in Botswana and was paralysed from his neck down.
He comforted the young man who really had nothing to live for, spent hours in surgery trying to put his broken body back together. He later died but not alone and without the best care the secular world could supply, only because that man gave his life for those who were worse off than himself. Is that spirit in the world around us completely dead? If it is we are all poorer for it.
In our desperate search for safety and security we will move across the world to make a life for ourselves in countries that we think offer a better future for ourselves and our children. But this comes with a cost. I was stunned last week to read a statement by a conservative politician in the United States saying that this was the time to attract people of capacity from countries in crisis like Zimbabwe.
I have always argued that migration on a selective basis means that we in the developing world are constantly seeing our best go to those countries of privilege who enjoy a very high standard of living, like moths to a light. On Thursday a Zimbabwean who grew up in Harare and went to a local Government school was in the NSSA team sending a space ship to Mars. When I went to New York during the time when I was in the MDC and fighting here for democracy, I met 15 Zimbabweans in a Boardroom – all them at the very top of the New York banking and finance industry.
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