We will forget Haiti
Just once I’d like to see a celebrity, the kind that make a lot of fuss about pledging money to a cause like Haiti, to follow through.
It doesn’t matter which one. I just want to see them turn up again a few months-even a year- later to check how things are going. After the camera’s been turned off and around the time we’ve all started to forget how badly we cared about it.
Because that will happen - it happens every time. And many of us won’t even realise it because the images that fill our minds now of the devastation and the screaming, hungry children will be replaced by something else. Maybe even something in our own lives.
But wouldn’t it be great if at that moment Mr or Ms Famous would charter their private plane right back to a place like Haiti and walk around the streets that their money helped rebuild, and say “hello”.
Maybe they’d visit the families they’re so worried about. Or pass through wards of the hospitals as they’re slowly being built. They could even give another donation to boost morale and prop things up when they get hard again, because they will.
In their book Philanthropcapitalism Matthew Bishop and Michael Green argue that people with a high power status, like celebrities, have the power to make great changes in the world if they put as much effort into the organisation they’re throwing their money into as their careers/business.
Bill Gates is used as a positive example of someone doing exactly that and his wife Melinda “travels the world so that she can understand what a cheque from Seattle is actually accomplishing 10,000 miles away.”
So while the celebrities busy themselves with that, why can’t the rest of us do something about our readiness to forget. We may not have the money to fly to out to Haiti and pass through the rubble, but we can learn to open our eyes.
The Huffington Post recently posted a photo essay of seven of the world’s “other” great humanitarian causes to encourage their readers to keep their minds in check.
And while the still images of places like Sri Lanka, Bangledesh and China are heart wrenching and horrible, they’re also a strange kind of placebo.
Because what they present is a reality that’s far away from our own. And it’s a reality that seems to imply that this kind of all-consuming tragedy only ever happens to someone else - somewhere else.
And that’s just not true.
In three days time we’ll recognise the first anniversary of the Black Saturday bushfires where approximately 173 Victorians perished and hundreds more lives were destroyed.
Just yesterday 2000 Australian farmers rallied at Parliament House against proposed changes to their property rights; a group whose extended exposure to the pressures of drought has seen as many as 1/6 now face serious mental health issues.
And on the first day of parliament for 2010 Kevin Rudd reneged on a Sorry Day promise to the Indigenous population to make his “Closing the Gap” statement; an update that promised insight into the national Indigenous community.
This is a community who last year had the highest rate of children in protective custody; three percent of it’s population suffering from rheumatic fever (a disease that no longer exits in the “developed” world) and an average male life expectancy of just 67 years of age.
I’m not suggesting we turn our back on Haiti but with stuff like this happening in our own backyard, instead of choosing to forget, shouldn’t some of our well-meaning energy be re-directed.
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