Originally written by Kevin Thomas.
I apologise it’s come to this for you to figure this all out.
I apologise that I had to bring it all so close to home before you connect the dots. I thought you were more perceptive than that. Your arguments were always so convincing that I presumed you’d be able to see the logic in what I was doing without me needing to spell it out like this, but obviously not. So, for that, I apologise.
You probably don’t even know how far back this goes. That probably irritates me the most. That’s why I need to explain this to you now. You probably don’t even remember me. I was just a friend of a friend of a friend at another bustling party. You probably met fifty others like me that night. I’m not surprised I didn’t stick in your mind. But that’s not the issue, because you stuck in mine.
Not because of how you looked or what you did. Please, don’t confuse this as some misguided attempt to address deeply repressed sexual issues. I’m actually quite handsome, and have been told I can be rather charming on occasion. Indeed, that very same party, I did not leave alone (don’t worry, she wasn’t one of the girls I used to make my point, though she did give me your name so I could add you on Facebook; an invite you unthinkingly accepted). No, it wasn’t your outfit, nor the amount you drank, nor the way you danced that sent me down this road. It was your words.
I remember it clearly. I’m not a big drinker, I was still supping my only beer when you started your speech. You were not even addressing me, as much as the whole room, but let me tell you, I was enthralled. Truly enthralled. You used words like artists use brushes and butchers use knives. You wove tapestries and then slaughtered them. Your arguments were beautiful. Your logic infallible. I felt my eyes open and my horizons shatter as you effortlessly explored our social ills. You talked about third world poverty and I was nearly wrought to tears. The way you described their poverty and the injustice of our western opulence was breath-taking. You even made reference to that great Jewish carpenter of lore, and how he would despise the riches reaped in his name while his flocks starve.
You truly opened my mind to a whole new way of thinking. The very next day, I sold my books and the rest of my meagre possessions that were worth anything in order to raise as much cash as I could. I triumphantly took the couple of hundred the sale had garnered and handed them over to Oxfam. The woman at the till was delighted with the donation, even going as far as to print me off a certificate of donation, and giving me a box of leaflets to pass out to friends. I had the certificate in hand when I used the library computer to track your address through Facebook. I know, I know, that was an invasion of privacy and I’m sorry but I had to tell you how you’d changed my life. I had to show you what I’d done. You had to know the impact your words had had.
But… When I got to your place. When I got there…
Look, I’m telling you this because you have to understand why I’ve done all this, alright? You have to understand why I had to make you see.
I just… I couldn’t believe what I saw when I got to your place and looked in the windows. The opulence. The sheer hypocritical decadent luxury in which you lived. I had just given up everything I owned to save others based on your poetical arguments and then I saw the blinding hypocrisy by which you lived. You claimed we needed to erase third world debt and tax the rich and increase foreign aid and redistribute food and water and buy mosquito nets and countless other things that flowed like honey from your money but now tasted rotten as I saw the mini cooper in the drive. The HD-TV on the entertainment centre. There was a PS3 and an Xbox sitting underneath. An iPad lazily hibernating on the couch.
How… how DARE you lecture me about poverty? You had food rotting in your bins and you dare demand that others do more for the homeless? Forgive my bluntness but I saw the whole room reduced to the currency of starving children. You told me… You TOLD me that £3 would buy a mosquito net that would prevent a child dying. You lectured me that £5 would build a well that would give them safe drinking water. Yet there it was, £500 worth of expensive TV just sitting on the shelf. Your house was a mausoleum. On every shelf, in every cupboard, in every bin, in every wardrobe were totems of international poverty. You watch that same advert about the same starving children that I do but then you sentence 30 more to death in order to go HD.
You sickened me.
I had to make you see.
I realised what it was. You were too far removed from it. You didn’t equate your TV with dead children 3000 miles away, why would you? But that’s what it was, so I had to bring that home to you.
So, I made my first point, and posted you one of the leaflets I’d got from Oxfam urging you to donate that same day. I thought that when you connected the two you’d make a donation and that would be that. You’d have seen the point. But when you saw the news report about the homeless woman I used to make my point, you didn’t make the connection between it and the leaflet. You threw it away. You didn’t even read it.
I had to make another point.
I made several more points with the homeless in your neighbourhood, each time posting you a leaflet urging you to make the donation that would end this but you never made the connection between the two. You kept throwing my leaflets away with the junk mail. You wouldn’t even read the pleas written therein. One donation would have ended this. One thing that would have shown me you’d heeded your own advice. But nothing. Eventually, it became dangerous to keep making the point in the same way. I had to make another point.
This time, it was one of the baristas where you bought your overpriced coffee. Maybe you spotted the ‘Missing’ posters around town, but maybe not. Maybe you’ve not even noticed he’s gone. But you still didn’t get the connection when you threw away the latest leaflet, begging for a donation. You could have ended this if you’d recognised the point I was making. But you didn’t.
Today, I’ve already lost track of how many points I’ve made. You’ve missed them all, and thrown away all my leaflets. Ruined every chance you had of stopping this and adding the blood of my points to the death toll in your living room.
See, if you’re reading this, you might be horrified. Your faux-horror amuses me. I can almost see you, indulgently crying with your hand theatrically clasped over your comically agape mouth. It makes no difference.
Let me ask you a question. Knowing what you do now, knowing it was all about you, would you do anything different? Would you go back to my first point and make a donation like I wanted you to? Why? If you’d sell all your stuff to save that missing barista, or all those homeless, why not for all those starving children and beaten animals? Or any of the countless other unfortunates whose pleas for help you turn over from or throw away while at the same time polluting Facebook feeds with demands for likes or ruining dinner parties by waxing lyrical about how everyone except you should change their ways and save the world? Why does it need to be someone you know before you understand? How can you cry for the deaths of your friends and family on one hand then sentence a thousand more to death every time you want a new computer?
I’m giving you one last chance. I’m writing this letter so I can hide it in one last leaflet. I hope you notice in time to read it. I won’t even make a point for this one, you can have this one for free.
But rest assured, I had better see a donation. Or my next point will be one you won’t soon forget.