Unreported World offers consistently good documentaries on social justice
One the most consistently good TV shows with a social justice theme is Channel 4’s Unreported World (Friday nights).
Last Friday they focused on a Catholic primary school in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, a city which is the murder capital of the world, thus the programme’s rather dramatic title, ‘The Kids of Murder High’. Drug-related gang wars are a blight on the population, and young people find it so hard to get an education. Many state schools have closed down due to strikes or teachers being terrified for their lives.
Hector, the dynamic principal of the school in question, believed passionately in the value of education and seemed to have conveyed this effectively to his young students. With support from Catholic churches in the US, his school survives when others have failed and he regards this as a “miracle of God”.
One young girl is planning to study business administration. She prays to God every morning for the gift of a new day and we see her giving an inspiring talk about vocation to her peers. She hopes to go to high school, but the only available one is in territory controlled by a rival gang and, we learned, gang boundaries cannot be safely crossed.
Hector’s next plan is to set up a new high school in his own area to get over this problem. One boy, like so many Honduran children, had tried to escape to the USA but was returned, and another boy was thrilled to hear that Hector had secured funding for him to attend school for another year, a future that was under threat after his mother had lost her job. You can catch up on this excellent documentary, enthusiastically and empathically presented by Ade Adepitan, at 4od.com.
On Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1), Wednesday of last week, Gerry Adams TD declared water to be a human right and I’m not going to disagree, but isn’t life also a human right? I find it hard to square his position with Sinn Féin’s support for violence over the years, though at least they seem to have left that behind, which is welcome. However, even more so I can’t square it with Sinn Féin’s support for last year’s Abortion Bill (with the honourable exception of Peadar Toibin TD).
And there was another anomaly. That same morning, the news bulletins were also reporting the suggestion that it may become illegal in England for pregnant women to drink alcohol – so, it’s legal to take a baby’s life in the womb, but not legal potentially to damage its health? I doubt if it will ever come to this, as it’s hardly practicable.
Later in the day, Dr Peter Boylan took a sensible approach to this on Newstalk’s Lunchtime show when he spoke of the potential harm: “Excessive alcohol consumption can harm the unborn baby.” However, he thought the approach to this should be an educational one. In the accompanying vox pop all but one of the contributors spoke about the ‘baby’ in the womb, and the whole item reminded me yet again of how, when such health issues are discussed, it is the ‘baby’ or ‘child’ that gets mentioned, but when abortion is discussed, it’s always the ‘fetus’ or ‘embryo’.
It’s the oldest trick in the book, much beloved of racists, terrorists and imperialists – use language that dehumanises the other, making it easier for people to kill.
Finally, you’d need some humour after all that, and last Friday I got plenty of laughs watching The Simpsons. In this ten-jokes-a-minute episode, Homer went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land at the behest of Flanders who just about thinks he is worth saving. After annoying Flanders by showing disrespect at all the holy sites, Homer gets dehydrated in the desert and believes he’s the messiah come to unite all the major religions into a composite – the Chrismujews!
As always, the show walks the borderline of respect and there are some sharp digs at Christians, Jews (or at least Israelis) and, to a lesser extent, Muslims. Some will take offence – for example, over the high jinks at the Wailing Wall and the church of the Holy Sepulchre, but it’s hard to take offence when you’re laughing so much.
Mostly, it’s the foibles of believers that get the satirical jab, but there were a few slurs more directly at belief that left a sour taste.