Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Reflex charity

Christchurch - 21st February 2011
Haiti - 12th January 2010
L'Aquila - 6th April, 2009

What have these places and dates have in common? They were major earthquakes that have happened in the last few years. Yet most of them have disappeared from most people's minds, especially to one person who I was catch a lift who totally forgotten what had happened in Christchurch just under one month ago.

I'm using this point and the recent earthquake in Sendai to emphasize what I call reflex charity. Most of us don't think about the disasters in the world until it is staring us in the face and affecting our own lives. Only when it is in the news do we feel compelled to do something about it and not at any other point in our lives.

The case in point is the Sendai earthquake recently. Most of us acknowledge that it is a disaster and send our condolences and prayers to the people in the area. But what are most Hong Kong people concerned about from the Sendai earthquake? That Japanese milk formula powder will go up in price or even worse not become available, despite a whole range of other choices available. We also have the media scaring us into the belief that the radiation will be swept from Japan to Hong Kong from the exploding nuclear power plants. We have this belief from the media, despite the facts...

1. Sendai is more than 3000 km away from Hong Kong.
2. Radiation is not "contagious" although there is a rare possibility radioactive particles could be deposited on objects such as food and clothes.
3. Authorities would obviously check most imports for radiation.
4. The prevailing winds around Japan will tend to blow the radioactive particles towards the Pacific Ocean.

I hate this kind of reflex charity. People from these disaster stricken areas will have to live on through the hard times, long after the camera crews have gone home. Remember the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami? Touristy areas such as Phuket will recover quickly but impoverished areas such as Indonesia, which have had numerous earthquakes since, still have yet to recover.

Everywhere there has been a major humanitarian crises. Barring earthquakes, there are other natural disasters. Remember the 2008 Cyclone Nargis which swept Burma and killed more than 100 000+ people. Do you really think the military junta will be helping the impoverished there? What about human rights disasters such as the ethnic cleansing that was going on in Darfur, Sudan.

And don't get me started on other humanitarian and natural issues. People in the developing world are constantly dying from hunger, poverty and diseases. We constantly are demolishing are earth and wiping out species just so we can have a better lifestyle.

What I am trying to stay is we really shouldn't have this reflex charity. We really shouldn't need TV charity programmes such as Comic Relief and Children in Need to constantly remind us about giving to the needy. We should be doing this on a regular basis. I know a great deal of my friends are quite well off and can afford to give a little bit to charity. What everybody should be doing is just setting up a Direct Debit or whatever else you call it. Just donate a little bit of your money to a charity of your choice every year. It doesn't have to be a lot, just a little bit will be nice.

Because charity shouldn't have to be a knee jerk reaction, it should be a constant action all the time.

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