Felix Writes: Want to help? Get real!

DigitalThoughts / Want to help? Get real!

It's blog action day, and I'm supposed to write a moving essay about how much poverty is in the world and how we should all do our best to help eradicate it.

Or something.

How naive is that? I'm not a kid anymore, and neither are my readers, I assume. Come on, we've all known for ages there are poor people around. And I don't mean poor as in "can't afford a new pair of shoes once a year" (been there), or even "can't pay my electricity bill so I sit the dark" (done that). I mean poor as in "I'm friggin' starving to death, my kids are all sick, and I can't help it". That's how poor some people are.

Mind you, not all of them are "victims of the system". I'm cynical enough to realize there are so-called human beings who just won't move off their asses. I have zero pity for them. Nor do I think humanity will ever get to eradicate inequality. After all, people aren't carbon copies of each other; it stands to reason that some are simply better than their peers. You don't want to "equalize" those, do you?

No, today my thoughts go to my former school mates who struggled to build themselves a future despite their parents. And to my Army mates who were happy to be conscripted, as they at least had food and shelter. Those were the poor people I met, as opposed to seeing them on TV. This is important, as there's no point in making grand plans to help somebody you don't even know. And I think most poverty-eradicating initiatives (read: ivory tower idle games) fail precisely because they are directed at generic "down-on-their-luck citizens", as opposed to real people with real needs. That, and donations passing through too many hands. You're better off ignoring such "actions".

But if you personally know a poor family and you'd like to help them, I do have a few hints:

  • your old clothes can keep a kid going to school during the winter (and kids need schooling more than anything else besides basic survival);
  • your old computer can help the same kid (and his parents!) participate in the modern society;
  • your old books can open his mind towards a wider world than the one he grew in.

How do I know, you're going to ask. Been there, done that, remember? Got the help I needed, and here I am. The least I can do is help others in turn. But I can't help someone I'll never meet. It's just an illusion.

2008-10-15