Much misconstruction and bitterness are spared to him who thinks
naturally upon what he owes to others, rather than on what he ought
to expect from them.
– Elizabeth de Meulan Guizot, French author (1773-1827)
My first thought upon reading this quote was about how many people severe the primary relationship of their life because their partner isn’t giving them what they want or need, without considering what they could do for themselves. That is, the partner may disappoint with what he or she gives, but do the disappointed ones do enough for themselves and do they do as much of what they should for the other partner that disappoints?
Before we think about how others disappoint us, let’s consider how much we may fail ourselves and how much we may neglect to give to the others.
What should we give to others? What do we owe to others, especially to those to whom we are not committed?
There’s the hitch. There is no reason why we should not be committed to every other person on the planet, to every other animal on the planet, to everything on the planet. If we do not commit to them, why would they take any interest in committing anything of themselves to us?
So we breathe the air they pollute. We drink the fresh water they poison. We read of how they kill each other, how they enslave each other, how they abuse each other in inhumane ways.
We can’t do anything about that, can we? After all, they don’t care about us, so why should we care about them?
We don’t care about them. Only about what they do. Yet we don’t give a fig about what they may think of what we do.
What do we do? Do we starve, as possibly 20 percent of the humans on the earth are doing today? Or at least their health is destroyed through malnutrition, a problem over which they have no control.
By what measure of ethics or morals is it correct that we allow anyone on this planet to starve or to be starved when more food exists than the world population can eat?
A study was done in the UK recently that showed that 25 percent of the starving people of the world could be saved and made fairly healthy on the nutrition in the food the British throw away as garbage. Every bit of food that is not consumed by customers in restaurants, for example, must be thrown into the garbage, by law.
We have no reason to believe that the amount of nutrition thrown away as garbage by the people of the United States, as another example, would be any different by percent than that in the UK. If the numbers for the US match those from the UK, then starvation could end on this planet if all the nutrition thrown away by Americans were fed to the starving people of the world. The United States is that big and has that amount of wealth that its people can throw away food that would save the lives of every starving person.
In some villages in Africa, almost no adults remain alive because they have all died of AIDS, leaving the remaining children to fend for themselves. Do those children deserve to die because their parents contracted AIDS and had the effrontery to die?
Do the people of Darfur deserve to starve to death (those that are not raped and killed by militias) because the government of Sudan is corrupt and keeps food aid from its own people? Decades ago we put men on the moon, can we not find ways to air drop food to those starving people?
Using a headset or VOIP phone I can speak to anyone anywhere on the planet that is connected by some telecommunications system. In the parts of the world with the fewest numbers of people with internet capability (excepting at the poles, on mountains and in deserts), at least some of their neighbours are starving. Lack of internet capability or minimal capability equals poverty beyond what most of us can imagine. Poverty always means that someone is starving. Always.
Our television networks, news services and NGOs tell us about places where people are starving and where medical assistance is impossible because they have no supplies. We Tsk! Tsk! and wonder why no one does anything to help them.
If there is one sin that every religion would agree on, it’s letting people starve to death when there is more food on the planet than would be needed to feed everyone. The world’s greatest and most widely agreed upon sin.
But those starving people do nothing to help us. They just selfishly keep on starving and dying.
What would you do if you had gone for over two weeks without a bite to eat? If that were true also of your neighbours and the rest of your community, would it turn quickly into something resembling Darfur? It would unless police kept control and others in your country felt compassion for you and your community, enough so to send food to save you. Remember how little police could help in the aftermath of Katrina, in New Orleans?
No matter what you may think that others owe to you, they may feel that they owe nothing or very little. If they are well fed and healthy, they may think that your starvation or extreme illness or disease means little to them unless you can do something for them. Those people include well fed and healthy elected politicians.
If you were starving or dying from some effect of malnutrition, what could you do for those who had the ability to save you?
Well, you aren’t starving or dying. What are you prepared to do see that the people who are get what they need?
If you have what you need, but do not help others, you commit the world’s greatest sin.
To expect those who are starving to save themselves and to reorganize their communities is unreasonable because you could not do it yourself. They may not be able to help themselves.
Figure out how.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow children who care as much about what they can give to others as what they can acquire from them.
Learn more at http://billallin.com