Tuesday, March 02, 2010

People are People. Period.

I read fellow blogger Rayray's most recent post where he said this:

"So, there's a statement circulating on Facebook about the situation in Haiti. It goes as follows:
"JUST FOR AMERICA: Shame on you America: the only country where we have homeless without shelter, children going to bed without eating, elderly going without needed meds, and mentally ill without treatment - yet we have a benefit for the people of Haiti on 12 TV stations. 99% of people won't have the guts to copy and repost this"

I'm going to have to agree.
Too long has the U.S. come to the aid of others all the while overlooking the plights on our own soil."

I was going to comment but quickly discovered I have too much to say.

Firstly, I'd just like to point out that there's a massive difference between a country's ongoing problems and a sudden, intense natural disaster. Yes, we have a lot of problems in America…but we also have homeless shelters, food banks, medicare, etc in place to help deal with them. Sure, these problems aren't going away, but we're taking steps to help.

Comparing an ongoing homeless problem to an event like the Haiti earthquake is like comparing the current homeless situation in New York City to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Speaking of Hurricane Katrina, I'd like to point out that while people complain about the amount of aid America sends overseas, they tend overlook the aid coming the other way. When Hurricane Katrina hit, the USA received almost a billion dollars in foreign aid ($854 million to be exact) as well as numerous volunteers, food and other materiel. More importantly in this context, a significant amount of that aid came from 'non-allied' countries such as Afghanistan, Iran and Cuba.

I want you to really think about that. While here in America we're complaining about sending aid abroad when our own people are suffering, over eighty countries sent aid after Katrina. When Bangladesh a country where the average yearly income is around $500 willingly sends a million dollars, it puts the whole 'Americans suffering' thing under an entirely new light.

From a purely practical standpoint I want to ask another question: If America, one of the richest nations in the world, had a policy of ignoring requests for aid from foreign powers in their time of need…what would the response have been when America officially asked the EU for aid after Katrina? If you're mercenary enough to believe that stopping children from starving isn't a reward in itself, the one thing all those aid dollars do buy is a hell of a lot of good will.

The part that honestly sickens me is that the majority of people complaining about 'sending aid to foreigners when Americans are in trouble' aren't donating money to American Charities either. Basically, if you're not helping anyone, why the fuck are you complaining about who other people choose to help?

Personally, if me donating the change in my wallet to a charity will keep a baby in milk for another week, I honestly don't give a flying fuck where that baby lives.

Secondly, I have to comment on blogger Evan's comment:

"…Furthermore, the BEST that we can hope for is that the Hatians' suffering will return to pre-quake levels. I'm not exactly sure that's helping anyone in the long run."

Sorry Evan, but that's a classic case of the Utopia Paradox: Defaulting to inaction because helping won't immediately fix the whole situation… and as a result, nothing gets fixed. Sending humanitarian aid to Haiti may be like putting a band aid on a broken arm, but the simple truth is that unless we help, there won't be a long run.

Returning the Haitians to their 'pre-quake levels of suffering', also means that hundreds of thousands of men, women and children won't die of starvation. Helping won't completely 'fix' Haiti, but at least it's a start.

I'm not saying it's our duty to help anyone and everyone…but as I said above (and I should be clear I'm not talking about Evan or RayRay), it sickens me that people who aren't helping anyone are complaining and getting jingoistic about other people helping people who need it.

In the end, my point is this: If you feel that we should be helping Americans before foreigners, feel absolutely free to donate your time or money to the American charity of your choice. If you're not helping anyone, then the whole issue is none of your business.



I'm still here... said...

I agree with your perspective entirely. I don't feel as though America is ignoring it's problems but, admittedly, I am experiencing "Emergency Fatigue". Someone somewhere is asking for help for that thing that's broken. So, I can see how some people might just be fed up.

Paulius said...

That's the way it always has been and that's the way it always will be.

I think the biggest problem is that the average American thinks that America helps everyone else, but no-one ever helps America.

As I mentioned in my post, America received a billion dollars in foreign aid after Katrina...and it's not just America sending aid to Haiti.

Natural disasters seem to be the only time that people help people simply because they need helping...regardless of nationality.

Also as I said in my post, it's not our responsibility to 'fix' Haiti as a country, but if we can help the immediate crisis, we should.

Kelly said...

Nope, i'm sorry, I agree with Rayray. and the same applies to the Uk too.

I see your point, but I stand firm on my opinion.