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Len: But you know, Archbishop, it’s only tape. We’ll chop it up and cut it up, s o … all right. Are you okay, Ian?

Ian: Yes, I’m ready.

Len: Are both c ameras going?

Ian: They are.

Len: Okay, very good. Well, I s uppose my first question is why, why do you think we have a world where children have been more or less pushed to the sidelines, and the needs of so many of them go ignored?

Desmond Tutu: In many [?] we are a world that has let the worst features of human nature [?]. When you think of a holocaus t, think of a genocide in Rwanda. Think of apartheid in South Africa. You think of what we have been doing to women, for ins tance. In many, many respects we have allowed that uncaring, callous part of us to come to the fore. Though I will add very quickly that that is not the total picture. But, Imean, it is a huge part of the picture. I mean, you can imagine how Jes us would feel who was so sensitive to the needs of the most vulnerable. He got angry only on a few

occasions, and one of the occasions was when they tried to stop children coming to him. And he really lambasted his disciples. We are far too frequently prone to push the most vulnerable to the end of the queue. Why? We’re prone. But again, it isn’t the total pic ture.

Len: So you’re suggesting that there’s a better side to human nature waiting for us to …

Tutu: Oh, absolutely! Absolutely! I mean, the fact that there can be organizations such as ChildRight and – well, yourselves! That you should have this passion when it almost seems a thankless task. Very frequently you feel like you are hitting your head against a brick wall, trying to shake people into a sense of caring. Oh, I have no doubt at all! I believe very, very fervently that evil and wrong are not going to have the last word.

Len: What has been your experienc e with children and poverty in your own country?

Tutu: I, myself, come out of a deprived background, precisely because apartheid was this injustice. There was a time when the government, the apartheid government, gave school feeding to white kids whose parents were

able to afford to feed them. And the ones who needed it most and whose parents were almost always not able to provide them with good meals for school were the kids who were not being so provided. And [?] it’s etched in my mind as a small boy – my father sending me to town. And I saw black kids scavenging in the dust bins of the white school.I mean, I wasn’t at all politically conscious at all. I mean, and that I didn’t even think that it was an image that would remain with me but I can still see them, bare-footed and in tatters and digging – and getting really quite good food which the white kids had thrown away. And this was a school feeding provided by the government, because they preferred the lunches that their mommies had prepared for them. And then – even now with freedom having come to South Africa, you look around and you see state kids who have – have nowhere to [?] who are on the streets begging. You see – you see them sniffing at glue, and you know what it is going to be doing to their health. You see – you see them with hardly a stitch on their backs,and the weather is freezing c old, and you are so aware of how their growth is stunted, physical growth is stunted – their emotional growth is stunted because they do not hardly anyone to love them. To nurture them, to help them feel that they matter. And you know that so much of this is preventable. Our kids and kids in so many other parts of a developing that is generally poor not getting the kind

of nutrition that would enable them to grow up strong and they are so apt to catch disease. Far more easily than children who are brought up properly. And I can quite well understand our Lord could get so “hot under the collar” as it were because these children have not asked to be brought into the world. And we have an awful phenomenon just now, with the HIV/AIDS pandemic that somebody we will with blessing a home to help look after people with HIV/AIDS and somebody brought two kids, and one w as nine years old. And the other was about seven. The 9-year-old was the head of the household. And they lived, they lived, they lived in the ghettos . Their parents had died. Now we’ve got that phenomenon as well, of HIV/AIDS orphans. Somebody was saying you know it’s such unnatural, really. You expect your children to be the ones that will bury you, and now you bury your children. That seems to be something that has gone wrong in the universe,where grandparents are having to become surrogate parents.

Len: UNICEF has estimated that this s treet children phenomenon that you are talking about …

Tutu: Yes …

Len: … that it now numbers over 100 million children. And w ill be close to 150 million children. That’s the – that’s the population of a country. Of several Latin American countries. What do you do about the scale of something this enormous?

Tutu: Well, if it’s s omething like that, you know, it would be nearly three times the population of South Africa. The total population of South Africa, which is about 40-s ome million. And it’s just staggering. But the thing is that figures of that kind make people shut out. You don’t engage. They are statistics. And you know Grass______gave a wonderful speech at the HIV/AIDS Conference, as you said. Don’t think of them as numbers. ust J put the face of a child you know, you love, and then it hits you in the pit of the tummy. That you know, I mean, the thing that we often so glibly trot out and hope, of course, I mean that it is the way to shock people –I think it numbs people, in a sens e, until you try and say to them, “Remember these are not figures on a page. These are children of flesh and blood. Think of your own child,” you know. I was saying this about those children who can’t [?] in countries which have been devastated because there are unexploded land mines. And imagine what you would say to a child to go and play outside, and the next thing, your child has stepped on a land mine. Which

aims not to kill but to maim. And the number of children who just been [?] – say Angola. Or Kampuchea. And the number of kids who are now without limbs. It’s … Yes – but, yah, w e’ve got to paint that horror pic ture in the way that you are trying to do, to wake us up, to get us moving. But you should – we should also keep saying that in fact there is a great deal of good in the world. There are those who are not killers. There are those who really care. Who needn’t, I mean, you know, they could, they could, they could be enjoying their lives very comfortably in their homes, but they don’t. And I think we should – we should highlight that. And we should highlight the fact that actually good does triumph. It may sometimes take a long time but ultimately, it triumphs ! I mean, Hitler, Hitler was, you know, s trutting on the stage, and nearly defeated almost all of Europe. He nearly took over all of Europe. You think of Muss olini, you think of Franc o, you think of Amin in Uganda. You think of the guys who were perpetrating injustice of apartheid. I mean, there was a time when they did look invincible. But where are they now? I mean, you know. And you have – let me say that in the end, in the end, we are going to realize, you know, that to be indifferent to the suffering of another is not just cruel. It is actually, it is actually the worst thing you can do to yourself, because our humanity is bound up with one another’s. And whether I like it or not, what happens to you even though I may not be able

immediately to realize it, what happens to you inexorably affects me. If you are dehumanized, I may not – I may be totally indifferent to it, but somehow or other I am less of a human being than I would otherwise have been.

Len: Does our basic humanity bring with it a s pecial responsibility to children? A child is born into this world…

Tutu: Yes. In the African c oncept there is s omething called “w un-tu” [?] – the essence of being human. And that says a person is a person through other persons. And that I need you to become all you can become, for me to become what I can become. That we are bound up in what the Bible calls “the bundle of life.” And yes, in the traditional African community, a child born is not just born to the biological parents. This is the child of the community. The community welcomes this child. And that is why, for a very long time, you couldn’t, you couldn’t say the word “orphan” in an African village, because we have this thing called the extended family. I am – I am a Tutu. And I’m also, to use my clan name, I am “Chase. ” [?] Every Chersey[?] under the sun is related to me. Whether I like them or not, we are family. And s o that child is a gift to us all. Not just to the biological parents . And you see, our c oncept is one that s ays the community is not jus t the community of those who are physically alive. The true community is a

community that stretches backwards to those who have died, and forward to those who are still to be born. That is a community. A nd there are tender bonds that bind, that bind us all together. And when, when we are whole, it is that we are aware that those who have died, whom we call “the ancestors” are not miles away. They are hovering around here. So when I drink – I take a drink, I will pour a little libation on the ground and say, T hat is for the gods. That is for the ances tors who it is always believed are deeply interested in the welfare of those who are physically alive.

Len: I see. T hat’s a remarkable – that means that our human enterpris e is part of a fabric.

Tutu: Well, one of the things that I’ve been – it ’s almost an obsess ion just now, is trying to awaken us to what I call “God’s dream.” And God’s dream is actually very straight-forward. It’s a dream that one day we will wake up to a very simple fact –that s tares us in the face. That we are actually family. And that might sound almost s entimental, and yet, I mean, when you look at how the world operates, you realize that it is bec ause we are breaking this fundamental law of our being, that we are family, that we have so much of a mess. You know, that we forget we are family and we spend on what we call defense obscene amounts when a fraction of that would enable our

sisters and brothers everywhere to have enough to eat, to have clean water – which is one of the things that causes so many death,infant deaths. That they don’t have clean water. And so they get diarrhea and I mean they are dehydrated and they die when they needn’t have died. But we could have a world where everybody had enough. You know, I think it was Gandhi who said there is enough for everyone’s need, not enough for everyone’s greed. And you see what are we doing now? We are spending enormous effort on something called a war on terror, and we will never win it!We will never win it as long as we have conditions in so many parts of the world that make people desperate.

Len: How do you feel about the millennium approach that the United Nations has put forward – the work that’s just beginning to address these goals of hunger and preventable disease –

Tutu: Yah – cutting, c utting infant mortality rates –

Len: And coming at them all at once. As opposed to –

Tutu: I think I mean, that they are ac hievable goals. We can get to them if we have the political will. And the trouble still is that people do not

realize that to do good to the other is not in fact being altruistic. It’s the bes t form of self-interest, because – I mean, look. fImos t of the world w as prosperous, most of the world was free of disease, most of the world women were treated as who they are, human beings, most of the world had kids who did all go to school. I mean, we wouldn’t be s pending all of this money and time on security, you know. Bec ause everybody would be – say, “I’m okay here, man. This life is good. ” But it is , it is that people are in a pit of despair, of poverty and deprivation, and they look – because your television and things – they look and they see others who, who run the show. Who have more than they need. And it’s very difficult not to feel a resentment. It is very difficult not to feel humiliated when you are speaking on unequal terms – those who are powerful determine the rules. They are the referees when the game is played. They decide. I mean, you don’t – you don’t have to be a rocket scientist, I mean, to see that that is unjust. And you don’t need to be educated. Nobody needs an educator to tell them, “I am hungry. ”I know I’m hungry. And I can see food here. I mean,they see on television how people eat in well-to-do countries. You go to a restaurant, they pile your plate and you people just nibble, nibble. And all of that is going to be thrown into the dustbin. And – and they’re aware, too. I mean, it is not they who have been degrading the environment so much. They are not – they’ve not been

responsible for most of the pollution. They can read and hear that the powerful say, “No, we won’t sign the Kyoto Accords ,” you know?So that is why I say, doing good to the other is not being altruistic. If you want to be able to enjoy your wealth and your prosperity, share it. [laughs]

Len: It seems that there’s a toolkit that is not being us ed in terms of making the world a safer or a better place.And that is that because if you look at the performance of donor countries,it’s very poor. There’s very little money actually committed to the work of helping children and helping poor families.

Tutu: Yes.

Len: And establishing a little more balance in the world between have and have-not. A third of the world living on less than a dollar a day, less than two dollars a day.

Tutu: Yah, yah, yah.

Len: What would you s ay to the political leaders of the world?T o the United States, the largest economy in the world, which is dead last in terms of what it actually gives as a proportion of its wealth?

Tutu: [laughs] You know what? T here’s a lovely s tory told of someone who went to heaven, and he came to heaven and he saw exactly the same setting as he had seen - because he was going down to hell. And it was people sitting around a table with food – oh, gorgeous food on the table. Both in heaven and in hell. And they were sitting opposite each other. And he looked and the guys in hell were [?] and haggard – with all of this food in front of them. And the people in heaven – enjoying themselves, and they’re looking very good, because they’ve got food. You s ee – they had – they had long-handled spoons. And so in hell, a guy would shovel food but he couldn’ t get it into his mouth, because the handle was long. And the same thing in heaven, except that in heaven, this guy would shovel food and feed the guy opposite and the guy opposite would do the same to feed him. Watch out. The selfishness is self-destructive. Okay! Goodbye!

Len: Thank you, sir. Thank you.

Interview with Desmond Tutu transcript  

Interview with Desmond Tutu in NYC