On Survival

So today, I’m taking a brief diversion from my T.S Eliot series, because I read a rather inspiring article in The Guardian which made me think carefully about the nature of survival, and the very different perceptions of it from culture to culture. The developed world, the world which has Starbucks coffee on every other street corner, deems survival as an almost decadent indulgence; “Oh, I simply couldn’t live without my four by four”, or “I’m just starving…”. The article however presented a rather more interesting perception of survival; it was all about the boys of war-torn Afghanistan, who quite literally, walked to Europe, crossing vast amounts of land, traversing mountains, and clinging to the chassis of assorted lorries.

These boys are certainly not undertaking the journey for any charitable purpose; they are running away, paying gargantuan sums of money to smugglers, to escape the Taliban, or endless poverty, or the constant bombing of their villages. Like every other human, they have the fight or flight response, and unfortunately, it’s hard to fight a cause that is illogical. In the same way as arguing with a three-year-old is pointless, it is pointless to attempt intellectual argument against fundamentalism. Neither of these things are rational.

The startling thing of course is the fact that whilst I’m vigorously exercising, researching, thinking about things to take to Kilimanjaro, etc, these boys, who barely have a pair of shoes, are literally just doing it, climbing the mountains, and travelling in any way that they can, because that truly is the only way that they will survive the journey from their own damaged country. No one voluntarily traverses the Italian portion of the Alps, without shoes, medicine, food or shelter. However, this statement in essence, cannot be true, because people do it, if not regularly, then often; it is not an unheard of occurrence. This is startling because in our world, that is to say, the “civilised” western world, the thought of doing something so fundamentally dangerous is tantamount to declaring one’s own insanity.

One of the young boys who travel (1)

We continually, as adolescents in particular, moan about how bad our lives are; our student loans aren’t large enough, our boyfriends don’t love us enough, and our parents are always completely unreasonable. And to a certain extent, we are entitled as teenagers, to moan a little bit; to realise slowly that we aren’t the centre of the universe. It’s a rite of passage to know that, however these teenagers never had the chance to be ungrateful, because they were thrown into an unimaginably intense world of pain, where their parents don’t survive long enough to be able to ground them. That privilege was removed from them by extremism and foreign intervention.

Their education is also of paramount importance to them; something that as financial markets narrow, becomes even more important. We don’t tend to notice how privileged we are, and more often than not, will moan about getting up early, our homework, and something that a girl said about us, to someone who we thought was our friend. The boys who walk across Europe seek education as ferociously as they seek food; it is inspirational to read their stories, and to hear such unshakeable commitment, is fascinating.

These kids are inspirational, please have a read through!



(1) http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/u/



4 thoughts on “On Survival

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more – I recently went to Cambodia and found the smiling, happy children there to be an inspiration. Living in the US, I see many who take for granted the comfortable lives in which they live, mostly because they have not seen the reality of how others live in the world. Seeing documentaries don’t make it sink in, you almost have to see it in person.

    • Exactly! Next summer I should be travelling to Kenya to climb Kilimanjaro, but also to work with children out there, running sports societies, fun and games, and that sort of thing. People don’t tend to appreciate things until they are gone. I hope my trip to Kenya will at least be enlightening, and I’m hoping to do something to make a difference, even if it’s a very small one.

      Thank you for reading!

  2. Lovely, lovely post. I wish more people would come to this realization. Not that people don’t have the right to get upset /sad about things… but when I hear people acting like it’s such a HORRIBLE ordeal that they had to wait in line, or a waitress brought them the wrong dish. When I hear people with secure jobs,a warm home, good healh, etc…whining on and on about the most idiotic things…ugh. Just ugh.

    • It’s true. There’s just a little perspective: people should make their whining capacities directly proportional to how bad the problem really is. For instance, if someone brings you soup instead of salad, then there’s really very little to complain about; at least you have food, hmmm? (:

      Thank you for reading! (:

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