Regular visitors to this site will have noted that not many posts have been made this month. There is an explanation: I've been ill for almost two weeks and have been unable to focus on writing. I've not yet fully recovered, but I'm optimistic that normal service will be resumed quite soon. Thank you all for your patience. The following post will probably be expanded once I'm feeling better.
I was born in a small market town in the north of England in August 1946. I was smart enough to be able to attend the local grammar school and thence to go to university—a mundane background that has allowed me to do more or less what I have wanted to do throughout my life. In other words, I’ve been more fortunate than the average. But what if I’d been born in another part of the world, into a different family?
I could have been born in southern Appalachia (Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama or Mississippi), in which case I may still be addressing African-Americans as ‘Boy’. I probably believe that science is a cult and that the theory of evolution is a conspiracy to subvert the word of God. I may even think that Barack Obama is a Muslim. Worse still, I might be looking forward to voting for Sarah Palin in the 2012 presidential election.
I could have been born in China. Although I would now be enjoying some degree of economic prosperity, I would probably be parroting government slogans such as “The Chinese People Love Tibet” without understanding their significance or questioning whether the Chinese presence in Tibet has any legitimacy.
I could have been born a Muslim in British India. My family may have decided to remain in India after independence, in which case communal violence between Muslims and Hindus would be a constant threat. If my family had moved instead to the newly created Pakistan, suicide bombings would now be an even greater threat.
I could have been born in the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin and at the age of twenty months seen almost my entire family massacred by Irgun and Lehi (aka Stern Gang) Jewish terrorists. I could now be rejoicing because my grandson has just blown himself up, taking with him several Israeli civilians.
I could have been born in the Belgian Congo. I’d probably be dead now.