Something in the air

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 July, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 July, 1994, 12:00am

I DON'T know, maybe I'm becoming more sane or maybe it's the glass of warm Nigerian Riesling, but, sitting on the balcony as the sun sinks slowly into the sludge, I watch a bird circling aimlessly in the sky and ponder the age-old question - is that bird having as much fun as I would be having if I could soar through the clouds and crap on the humans scurrying around on the ground below? The contemplation of such notions - is that what separates us from the animal kingdom? I watch the evening news and see footage of babies dying in their own waste in Rwanda and I'm convinced that it is all that separates us.

The irony isn't that we are sending too little aid too late, it is that even if we save them from extinction, where will one million of them go? These people are running for their lives from folks who are slaughtering them.

This isn't about sending cans of corned beef or fire engines full of fresh water. Remember Live Aid? You have to get through to the bad guys first. And there seems to be bad guys around every damn corner these days.

Seems to me the evolutionary cycle got a flat somewhere along the road to global freedom. Maybe it was idealistic youth, but back in the early 70s, we seemed, as a generation, to be moving towards higher ground.

Oh, I'm not just talking about solar energy and getting out of Vietnam. We didn't need political correctness back then because we were going to be the first generation in history to ''get over it'' . . . all of it.

Colour, religion, sex. None of it was going to matter anymore. But as the years wore on, things started to go all peculiar. The music went first. It started with a case of disco fever and has degenerated in the 90s to rap. At its worst: death-to-whitey, no-pokin', crack-smokin' little ditties. At its best: disco without the harmony parts. Oh yes and then there's New Age . . . or Hypno Tech. Its sole purpose? To sedate. ''It'll be all right in the next life.'' That's most reassuring.

But, I digress, back to the brotherhood of man. A couple of years ago, I went to see a movie called City of Joy with an Indian girlfriend of mine. After it was over, as we stood in line for a taxi, she said. ''I just hate the whole 'white man saves the day for the poor brown masses' thing.'' ''Yeah. Phooey.'' I added, nodding liberally.

But what the hell is the alternative? I think today as I watch two non-African female doctors sagging under the heat and futility of the task at hand in Rwanda. Do we give these people a military escort home and set up a fair and just government for them? Or do we allow jungle rules to take their course.

Natural selection is a much less complicated issue when it's zebras and panthers instead of tribes of humans. Muslims. Bosnians. Tibetans. Do we just stand by humming Hutututsis Goodbye? These people have been massacring each other by the scores of thousands.

I suppose there has not been a point in history when people weren't treating each other abominably, but up until recently who cared? This global concern business is a recent blip on the time line of recorded history. Perhaps the mere fact that we are moved by the suffering of people we will never know is a sign that we are indeed evolving.

That we are moving towards that higher ground we sought so fervently back when there was only one bird on the Woodstock logo. The further we can see via satellite, the smaller our world gets. And we are awash with images of the misery these planetary neighbours of ours endure while we sip our evening cocktail, watch the birds go loop the loop, and wonder at the possibility of soaring higher.

There are certainly many of us here on terra firma who deserve to be crapped upon, but perhaps the best we can do is write the cheque to the Red Cross . . . if we can find the cheque book . . . and a pen. Anyway, will the supplies even get to the poor devils? The wine chills as we ponder. Perhaps this is all that separates us from the animal kingdom - the wining and the wondering.