We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, is a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defence. -Barack Obama
From the beginning of time, man the most evolved of animals has been on top of the game when it came to survival. Adapting to harsh environments, making epic journeys, trying to discover better and more efficient ways of doing things and above all evolving a morality code so that every man had a fair chance of harnessing the available natural resources for one’s own good; man stamped his will on planet earth
This is what set man apart from other animals, and this is what made man the dominant and the most successful species that could dictate the course of all life itself. However the sustenance of the above model depends upon an adherence to a moral compass-something that prevents mankind from using up all available resources to the detriment of the planet itself.
Inequality of Wealth and Its Consequences
With each passing day as man became cleverer at harnessing resources, some of his own brethren who couldn’t keep pace got left behind, and with each passing day the gap between them increased till it became a wide unbridgeable chasm. So much so that the former began to consider the latter to be not fellow people, but weaklings who were good only for exploitation.
This skewed model of development eventually leads to over exploitation of resources for the benefit of a few; leaving the rest to fight over ever diminishing crumbs. Is this situation forever tenable? Already we are seeing how the environment has been devastated to the extent of the weather patterns becoming increasingly erratic and extreme. Global economic problems beset the industrialised West as well as the developing world.
Unless there is a rejig of this prevailing order in favour of making it not only more humane, but in consonance with the environment, we will all face social and economic meltdown. Resources have to be pooled; people and nations have to contribute in accordance with their capacity and competence and a more just and equitable distribution of wealth has to be brought about.
If one were to look at the available statistics of global poverty, and how easily so much misery can be eliminated for millions of suffering people around the world, all the discussions about unemployment and growth rates will cease to have any meaning.
Close to 50% of the world’s population exists on $2.50 a day. This means that a whopping 3 billion people have to eat, pay rent for their homes, pay their children’s school fee and take care of their medical expenses in that paltry sum. Is it possible? No. Then what happens to these people? Well some of them die of hunger and starvation; most are sick and weak and of course the children don’t go to school; hardly anyone has a roof over their heads, and medical care is out of the question.
Far worse off are the 1.2 billion who live on $1.2 a day. Is it any surprise therefore to learn that 22000 children die of poverty every day. 2 million children die annually of preventable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia. According to some figures more than 19 million children worldwide don’t get inoculated against disease. It is a crying shame that this state of affairs is allowed to continue, year after year.
The cost of providing basic education, clean water, basic healthcare and nutrition and reproductive health care to all women of child bearing age in the entire developing world is $40 billion-a huge sum no doubt, but surely not something that cannot be raised if the will be there. Just look at the number crunching which goes on when one discusses financial stimulus packages, or even when calculating the sales turnovers of the largest companies of the world. Especially if helping out eventually helps the global economy.
The more people you help break out from the vicious cycle of poverty and join the fully productive workforce, the more will be the wealth generated. There will be more demand for goods and services and this can only augur well for the global economy. Moreover with less lop sided development and more equitable distribution of wealth, there will be more dynamism in the global economic order, with a much larger number of people contributing.
Everyone Can Give
When St. Francis of Assisi says, “it is in giving that we receive”, or when Gandhi called the destitute, “the people of God”, they weren’t merely delivering homilies for people’s spiritual deliverance. They were on to something more basic. Unless you share the resources made available to mankind by nature or God, you are writing a blueprint for disaster.
They knew that lasting peace and prosperity would only come if growth and development was just and evenly distributed. Today when the world stands on the cusp of environmental disaster, the time has come, that mankind comes together. There are billions who need to be helped. This means everybody can pitch in-with money, resources, expertise, skills and above all personal involvement. There is so much one can do. One can organise fund raisers, lend one’s voice and support to a campaign, adopt children, organize events in aid of charities, get corporates to partner with creditable aid organizations and so on.
Getting your kids involved with charity will sensitise them to the problems of the world. By the time they up and join the workforce they will do so with a better idea of creating and fostering better and more holistic models of economic growth.
Each one of us can contribute in a hundred myriad ways to help the less fortunate. One could take care of the education of one child, distribute medicines in homes for the destitute, have school children visit lonely elders in old people’s homes, distribute woolens to the homeless in winter, organise daily community kitchens for the hungry, take children of slum dwellers on joint picnics with children of their age group from more privileged backgrounds, give lessons on personal hygiene to children of migrant labourers, so on and so forth.
Making charity a part of your life, not only benefits the recipients, the giver benefits enormously too. Your imparting skills to somebody will aid that person for life, while you would have the satisfaction of putting your skill to optimal use. You help troubled teenagers cope with life; you would yourself have gained an invaluable insight into life and what it means to different people. Helping other people teaches you a few things about yourself. You learn humility and what’s more you inspire others to follow in your footsteps.
You may acquire new skills like fund raising and find that you are so much better at managing people that you thought was possible. But the biggest source of satisfaction has to be that you giving back to society in the most impactful way possible. You experience that a simple gesture like appreciating the first poem presented to you by the poor child from the slums you give lessons to means the world to him or her.
Truly why wouldn’t anybody not want to give? There’s a whole world to be gained by it?
Non nobis solum nati sumus (Not for ourselves alone are we born)!
-Marcus Tullius Cicero