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Sunday, 9 December 2012

Letters from the Netherlands: Half the Sky

Letters from the Netherlands: Half the Sky: I haven’t blogged for a while, because I’ve been thinking. Last time I wrote I was worried about a drip in the cellar, the Polish b...

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Half the Sky

I haven’t blogged for a while, because I’ve been thinking.

Last time I wrote I was worried about a drip in the cellar, the Polish builders (who we thought had abandoned us) came hurrying back to repair the drip, and while they were here repaired the small patch of condensation we noticed inside a light fitting. The cellar drip turned out to be nothing to worry about; however, the condensation was actually a hole in the pipes on the verge of turning into a flood.

I can’t stop thinking about how I was so consumed by the drip that I’d ignored the approaching flood. I think I may have spent most of my life worrying about the drip.

I want to see if I can change.

I also can’t stop thinking about a book I read called Half the Sky, a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation, by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting team, husband and wife Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I admit to being a sucker for a bit of sensationalism; reading the luridness of other lives makes me appreciate the good fortune in my own.  I sleep well tucked up in my own bed knowing there are people out there like Kristof and WuDunn fighting for the rights of the oppressed. Or I used to.

All my life I’ve felt an admiration for the humanitarian campaigners in the world, admiration and a vague sense of guilt, could I do more, should I? I’ve given to charity when it hasn’t inconvenienced me too much, I watched Children in Need and laughed at all the ‘selfless’ celebrities, on Christmas eve I given to street collectors if it was easy enough to reach my loose change, I had a regular direct debit supporting unprivileged children I knew nothing about. Surely that’s enough, right?

Half the Sky is not a dramatic book. Luridness and sensationalism are not used as gimmicks, and in an odd call for balance and realism the authors ask that people don’t dramatize the facts they read within the book. That said, it won’t alter the truth that if you read this book (and I hope you do) the stories will turn your knuckles white as you grip your Kindle or paperback.

I thought I was too selfish to care, really care, about the injustices that still take place all over the world.  But this book won’t leave me alone, I finished reading it over a month ago and everyday its stories invade my reality; this detail in particular won’t go away:

There are approximately 27 million slaves alive today – more than at any point in history – and 56 percent are women. (

It isn’t just the humanitarian issues in the book that consume my thoughts it’s the secrets too: the secret of happiness, and the secret of The British, a secret that I at least didn’t know of before, and one which made me proud to have been born on that small complicated island.

If I post this, it means I’m committed to changing, to stop worrying about the drips in my life and start to caring about the floods.

I don't know what that change is yet, or how I'm going to do it. But, I do know that when I look back on the second half of my life, I don't just want to be proud of being British, I want to be proud of being me.