Like most citizens of the world, I find myself in this festive time of the year genuinely grief-stricken over the tragedy that has befell so many people who found themselves in the path of the Christmas Tsunami. That America must help in a tragedy of this magnitude is self-evident. I would like to add my call to those many others who have humbly plead for your contribution for the benefit of survivors.
Amazingly, however, there has been some argument over the nature and degree of assistance we should provide for tsunami relief and that argument has spawned in the messageboards an important debate on what are our obligations as global citizens. Ever the critic of modern American society, this Curmudgeon unsurprisingly weighed in to advocate the moral obligation for the extraordinarily wealthy to help the extraordinarily poor, and to lament the woeful American contributions of the past. To make a very long story short, using rough numbers I calculated that by dedicating modest resources-one percent of our GDP-to global poverty, we would be able to spend approximately $1,000 per reachable hungry person in the World.
One thousand dollars is a lot of assistance for people on the brink of death from starvation.
Sadly, most Americans assume we are doing far more than what we are. If asked how much assistance we are giving, I’m guessing most Americans would pick a figure well in excess of the one-tenth of one percent we actually give. And that one-tenth of one percent includes a lot of aid that properly would not be considered “aid” by most people.
What prompts my surplus written rage today is not this woeful state of affairs: I’ve been fulminating over that for quite some time. What stirred me up this time was a New York Post commentary by John Podhoretz entitled It’s About The Tragedy – Not More Bush-Bashing. Podhoretz therein chides those who have been critical of this Administration’s response and America’s historical lack of generosity for not having a proper respect for the dead. A proper respect for the dead, in Mr. Poderhoretz’s opinion, would have been to wait at least a week before “making use of the tsunami to complain about U.S. government spending on ‘development aid’”.
The American people’s gallingly short attention span does not give us that luxury.
Podhoretz, being a newspaper man, should know as well as anyone about the American people’s eagerness to always move on to a new and more exciting topic. As I write, the tsunami stories are already slipping in the headlines. Increasing body counts are becoming just more old stale news much like the reporting of American and Iraqi deaths in occupied Iraq. Tragic calamities such as this are about the only time you can get the attention of We the People.
The window of opportunity is exceedingly short: the NFL play-offs loom large.
That American “generosity” sits at about one-tenth of our GDP should have been a big story long before now. Those of us who have tried to raise the point in the past have generally been laughed off the stage and more often then not called ugly names. Forgive us then for trafficking in the misery of so many people: we have just gotten a little desperate to be heard.
ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION NOW?