Just a Thought - 'Who Cares?'
'I don't care'. How often do we hear that phrase? How often do you/ I say that? Some/ oftentimes saying that phrase may be a good thing - it indicates that the person is unattached to the outcome in any given situation. It may show a willingness to go with the flow and just enjoy things as they arise. 'Where do you want to go for a meal'?. 'I don't care'. But the phrase is not always so positive. Sometimes it comes from apathy and indifference towards ourselves and people around the world. It is a direct statement of lack of concern, compassion and empathy. That is not a healthy state of being. It shows that the heart is closed and disconnected. It is a sign that we have no dream or intention for something better. This can result in stagnation, everything staying the same as it is. But that is not the way things work - they only get worse in that attitude.
It is not unlike owning a car. If I say, 'I don't care about my car', it will become dirty and scratched and will eventually stop running. But if I care enough, I will have it serviced, keep it clean inside and outside. It would then hopefully last for years, maybe even decades. Too many people are treating our planet like a neglected car, acting like it should take care of itself. But that is not how it works. We humans have a great effect on the quality of life, and we have a ruinous effect on the planet's eco-systems if we just do as we please with no sense of responsibility. The same is true of our whole being - body, mind and spirit. Without care we just decline. We have to care for ourselves; we must care for others; we must care about our planet. We can't leave the solving of our problems simply to governments, institutions, new rules or technologies.
How can we escape this 'I don't care syndrome'? It begins with simple self-observation. If you/ I are honest, what are the issues of life that we have shuffled off to the side - the ones we know are important, but we habitually ignore because we think we are too busy to have no power to effect change? if we have done this, then you/ I are affected by the 'I don't care syndrome'. But recognising the presence of that, we can begin to deliberately care again. I can say to myself, 'I do care about this planet-earth and about about people who are suffering'. That attitude can change the energy I waste on apathy into compassion. But change can never happen through thought alone. Positive action must follow. So make a plan to effect some real change. Start with a vision of the world, my local community, my church as I would like it to be. Then make a specific plan about what to do. If you listen with the heart, that vision and specific plan will become evident.
Remember Gandhi's saying, 'be the change you would like to see in the world. That change begins by changing,'I don't care thinking' to 'I do care thinking and actions'.
Let me here fill up some concluding space to write about those 'I do care people' who provide 'humanitarian aid'. Humanitarianism in its simplest form refers to any action to improve human welfare. Founded on the view that all human beings deserve respect and dignity, it has come to be associated closely with emergency responses to man-made or natural disasters. Traditionally, humanitarian action focused on offering life-saving support to those in immediate danger and protection of their rights. But to-day humanitarian aid is becoming instrumentalised, narrowly focused, more constrained and less useful. And aid workers trace the loss of their independent status to a spate of Western military invasions. The war on terror dictum of 'for us or against us' has made it far harder for the West's enemies to see aid workers, unarmed and often unprotected, presented, not as neutral humanitarians but as an extension of Western power. The military has muddied the waters by dispensing their own 'non-lethal weapon' of aid to win hearts and minds. US general Colin Powell famously drove a nail into the coffin of aid worker neutrality when he referred to NGOs as a 'force multiplier for us, such an important part of our combat team'. Perhaps the greatest betrayal of trust was the CIA's use of a vaccination campaign to track down Osman bin Laden in 2011. The Taliban then declared all 'vaccinators were spies' and launched a vicious onslaught. Since then more than 100 polio workers have been killed. Attacks continue to this day - and polio increases.
Key to the operation of humanitarian organisations are the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence. MSF has fiercely stuck to these principles. But, as we know from the horror of the situation in Yemen, this commitment has not kept them safe. Yemen is deteriorating so fast that the relief effort cannot keep up. The persistent Saudi sea and air blockage is causing a nationwide collapse. Banks play a key role in policing anti-terror laws. They close accounts and can refuse or delay the transfer of funds from clients with any potential link to terrorism. This process/ 'de-risking' can cause catastrophic delays for charities working in conflict zones. It has, for example, left Yemeni organisations unable to respond to the cholera epidemic. Muslim agencies are the hardest hit. 10 out of 13 major food crises are to-day driven by conflict. Turkey has contributed 56.000 million dollars on hosting refugees inside its own borders. How generous have other countries been? Australia?
There is so much more I could write about the frustration and helplessness that is being experienced by those involved in humanitarian aid. Let me conclude on a note of hope - yes there are, and will always be ground for such. Advocacy groups and NGOs continue to lobby diplomats and politicians to pre-empt, defuse and de-escalate conflict, and move to protect civilians against man-made disasters. But let us never forget that governments, with any sense of responsibility and decency, fear an informed, active public. Ultimately this may be the only weapon humanitarians and their supporters have.
It has never been more important for us ordinary citizen to join the dots, take political action and assert our common humanity.