My favourite TV programme right now is Tribal Wives where a woman in this country goes to live with a remote tribe somewhere in the world for around a month. The idea is that she lives and works as they do. What I like about it is the shared understandings that emerge and the constant reminders of how comparatively easy our lives are and how comparatively rich theirs are - spiritually of course.
I watched the one where a Bristol woman goes to a remote hill tribe in Northern Thailand (Huai Bong) and two things came out of it for me. The women work in the rice fields each day which is hard physical labour but to get there they have a 2 hour uphill walk! I could hear my dad's voice telling me "you don't know you're born" and we really don't.
The second significant piece for me was when the Bristol woman decided she didn't want to be at the rice field any longer and asked her host to take her home. Her words were "I felt overwhelmed and I know myself, when I feel overwhelmed it is time to go and I do". I agree that we should all know ourselves and we should do what is right for us (and not enough people do) but what a luxury that is, to be able to feel a certain way and act on it. None of the other women in the rice field can afford that luxury. However they feel, they have families and a community to feed.
Just another reminder that life for some people in this world is so very very different. I think one day, when I'm no longer a politician, I think I know where my efforts will go. We live in an unequal world and we have to fight that because as programmes like this always demonstrate, we are all Jock Tamson's Bairns.
As a footnote my cousin's wife Anne lives in Greenock but is originally from a remote village in Thailand. Her elderly mother left the village for the first time 3 years ago to visit her daughter and was questioned for several hours by border agency staff determined to find out if this wee old lady was really coming here to work!