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I don't have anything to add to your beautifully written post. Just couldn't read it and walk on by. You are so completely RIGHT ON.
Ugh. I hate that I live in a country that is self centered and self righteous. I hate that we are so entranced with ourselves that the evening news spends more time talking about the rush hour traffic than the tragedies playing out all over the world.

I didn't show up in time to comment on the initial question. I have not even posted on this blog before, though I read it often. And my thoughts are poorly-organized, and I am twenty years old and hot-headed. But I wanted to drop my two cents worth anyway.

I might not consider the problems of the poor to be my problems if I did not benefit from the causes of those problems.

Within this country (the US) I am a college student because several generations of kidnapped, enslaved people made my family rich enough to send its white sons, and eventually its white daughters, to college. College sticks with a family over the generations. We are not very rich - my family has produced mostly agronomists and poor country doctors - except that in this world, sometimes reading, eating, and having a roof over your head is rich.

Do I have to feel guilty for being born with privilege? Only if I hoard it. It is not just my privilege. It is inherited stolen goods. If I share it - if I try to give some of it back, in money, or in work in literacy campaigns, or, heaven help us all, in secondhand clothes, then I am just returning a stolen, inherited wealth.

I do not mean this anecdote to specifically reference your situation as a South African. My family is Southern United States, and my father grew up in a segregated town ten miles from the house of the grand dragon of the KKK. Because the United States is so extraordinarily wealthy, it was not as bad as South Africa, but it was bad, and it was a lot more recent than we like to think.

This means I am obliged to work on a local scale, yes. But what about the international scale? Well, wealth comes from somewhere, and it goes somewhere. The extraordinary wealth of the United States, which, as a middle-class white American, I benefit from daily, had to come from somewhere. It came from colonization, from slavery, from the agressive exploitation of natural resources outside US borders for the benefit of US investors. Starting wars for the sake of US investments is nothing new; in fact, it characterizes our entire military history.

I am not saying that the US is evil, or that Americans are evil. Americans started the Mexican-American war. Americans also fought and died for the eight-hour day, and for worker's benefits. Americans joined the Klu Klux Klan; Americans joined the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King was an American too. Mother Jones was an American too. Jonas Salk, the inventor of the polio vaccine was an American.

I'm just saying that a lot of our wealth and privilege doesn't belong to us. We have to keep it moving; we have to give it back. There is enough for everyone, if we can be reasonable, and generous, and just, and the United States was founded on an idea that people can be all of those things.

That's all, and thank you for giving me so much to think about, and sorry for hijacking your comments like this.

p.s. Your words are much simpler and more elegant than mine, and I could not agree more. Thank you for thinking, feeling, and writing so beautifully.

I agree with you wholeheartedly Tertia. I saw Hotel Rwanda last night and am blown away by the irony that it takes a MOVIE to get the American people only partially (and not really at all) riled up. It is just pathetic. So much need and so many Americans tend to shrug and say "eh, but what can I do, really?" and then do their best to forget about it. Keep eating dinner, whatever.
What a disservice. I am looking for ways I can make a difference. Your idea of organizing donations/collections is fabulous. Please keep us posted.

Poverty is everywhere, and what I see on my street corner is heaven compared to life in other parts of our world.

I try to not look at political boundaries when I think of helping locally and globally. It is a small world we live in, and I'm trying to do my part to help, both close by and afar, because inevitably, it affects all of us to some degree.

I am not going to ignore the pleas for food from our local pantry, and I am not going to turn down the cries for help from across the sea. It is my DUTY, my PRIVILEGE, my HONOR, and my PLEASURE to help others.

What a wonderful post, T!

I completely agree with you T.

"There is no problem in this world that is not your problem. I promise you that. What happens in a tiny little country in deepest darkest Africa / Asia / Middle East etc, could and will come back to haunt the rest of the world."

FABULOUS line. Fabulous post in general.

Very well put Tertia. I couldn't agree more with your thoughts on nationalism. I have a tattoo of the world shaped as a heart which symbolizes my deep belief that people of the world need to unite and work together to protect ourselves and our planet. I am baffled by those who think what is happening in another part of a planet doesn't affect them.

Take this for what it's worth: I think having a baby really opened my eyes towards the pain and suffering of other people, especially people in developing parts of the world. My son was born with a severe heart defect and has had two open heart operations so far. But if he had been born in a part of the world without top medical facilities, he would not have lived through his first night. And I love my child--cherish him more than anything, probably because that's what parents do--but I also think more so because I've come so close to loosing him. And so I think about women/families who have babies elsewhere, with conditions like my son's, whose babies die without explanation. I think of that sorrow, and ache for them. So knowing that love and experiencing that bond first hand, I feel for people all over the world who lose children to hungry, disease, lack of medical care, war.

When the genocide happened in Germany and in Stalin's Ukraine it took the world one hell of a long time to notice. Nobody wants to get involved, no matter where it is, at least not until a very long time has passed. They're afraid to, and there's always the pesky old "World Policeman" canard which is used specifically to say that countries should stay OUT of others' affairs.

That being said, I agree that we ignore the rest of the world at our peril.

Tertia, you are so right. I really have nothing to add; I'm 100% in agreement with you.

Tertia, Your post has me curious.

What does the average white South African think their obligation is to the average black South African?


Amen, Tertia.

Very well put, indeed.

I totally agree. As an American, it sickens me that we spend trillions of dollars on a war in a tiny area of the world...yet genocide and famine are ignored or given tiny relief funds.

And sadly, I believe that the difference in aid is determined solely for racial and selfish economic reasons. It's a shame.

It is hard to know what the "right" amount of money is to be spent outside of our country. Of course, we have problems here we must deal with. But we must remember we are all part of the same family of human beings. Why would we not want to help all suffering areas, not just those who supply us with oil??

I am very disappointed in people who slam their country. If you don't like how things are done in your country, please FIX THEM WITHIN! It reminds me of someone once telling me to adopt when they had 3 children "naturally". Practice what you preach.

I do think that Americans have a responsibility to help others - whether it be within our country or outside of our country. When the military goes into a country they also help the people (ex. Afganistan, etc), it usually improves the quality of life of those people (maybe not all - ex. Saddam supporters).

It seems to me that people who don't like how things are done often only critize. I think everyone should put their money where their mouth is... volunteer, donate money/clothes/etc, travel to other countries to vaccinate children, volunteer for the peace corp... the list is endless. Don't just whine about "terrible America".

As Americans, we are blessed, but we also should give back.

Anon said it best. Let's all put our money where our mouths are. Perhaps Tertia, you could include a link to some great charities which would benefit needy Africans.
As I mentioned in the post this one refers to, I sponsor a child in Indonesia through World Vision. I am by no means well off, but the fact that I can do so much for a family for a measly $35 a month is very gratifiying. Now that I am working again I am considering sponsoring another. In AFRICA!

interesting, i haven't had time to read the comments (or comment myself) on the original question, but now my interest is piqued. briefly, for the record, i say that yes, the US does have a responsibility to the poor of other nations as well as to its own poor. foreign policy and domestic policy are not the same thing at all. we lost our chance at being isolationists decades ago, so the only thing selective isolationism does--economic, military, what-have-you--is make us look like assholes. anyway, i have more to say, but unfortunately i'm too busy to get into this just now. i'll come back.

Your comments about the difference between being poor in America versus being poor in an underdeveloped country really struck a chord with me, and reminded me of a quote that's stuck with me for many years - Americans are the only country where the unemployed drive their own cars to the protest rally... Yes, there is certainly poverty and hardship for many, too many, in the US, but there is still a difference.

I do my bit to help when I can, mainly at home (Israel) but I'll try to make an effort to do more internationally because you're absolutely right, the need is truly great. Thank you for the reminder.

Just wanted to add that while I live in Israel and have Israeli citizenship, I'm also an American. I grew up there, my family is still there, I hold double citizenship, and more importantly I still pay taxes there, so I feel pretty justified in criticizing when I see something I disagree with.

AMEN Tertia!
I spend a lot of time with young, white and rather privileged Americans. It is unbelievable to me that they primarily think of racism, poverty, sex discrimination, war, etc. as someone else's problems - and "we just don't have time for all those causes".

I didn't read the other comments but I completely agree that when the ship of humanity is sinking - we're all responsible.

Tertia... I could not agree more...

Tertia... I could not agree more...

What a G&D post. Righteous anger is so beautiful. Couldn't agree more.

Anon, you know, willful blindness is not a virtue. You think the only people for whom life is worse in Iraq now are ex-Saddam supporters? You have got to be kidding me. Haven't you seen the pictures of the kids covered in the blood of their dead parents? Don't you know what was done in Falluja? And let's not forget Iraqi women who used to go to the University, but now can't leave the house alone for fear of rape or murder. Let's not forget Iraqi children who can't go to school because it's too dnagerous. Oh, and let's not forget the woman in Aghanistan who got stoned last week on the ruling of the religious authority in her province. She asked for divorce from a husband who moved away 5 years ago and has not been supporting her. So she was convincted of adultery and stoned to death. Yes, I am sure they all were ex-Suddam supporters.

"if the genocide had to happen in America, in France, in England, would the reaction be the same?" No. sadly, we know it wouldn't. Something would be done. Maybe not b/c of the genocide, but because of the nature of the relationship between states.
T, could a paypal account or something be sety up? I'd like to herlp, but just went through my closets a few months ago- Don't have clothes to send. I could, thougfh, send a few bucks to allow you, Rose or Beauty to shop locally for what is needed :-)

I just had a chance to read the latest comments, and I wonder if Anon was speaking of me...

Just to clarify. I love America, and know I am very privileged to have been born here. I do my best to give back with whatever time and money my family can spare for charities, etc.

But I don't know how you can deny the lack of balance in our spending for foreign aid in different parts of the world. That's all I am pointing out. We have a lot to give, and I think we should share the wealth a little more evenly. I can vote and campaign to leaders to change that, but the ultimate decision of what money goes where is for them to make.

This is all way over my head, but if you'll send me a link of some charities, Tertia, I'd love to donate what I can to SA! And other outside countries!


*lurker new to site*

I agree.. but I have other thoughts as well.. there are so many people and so many things that need our attention and charity. Whether it be in our own country, a 3rd world country, the environment in general, to help find a cure for breastcancer, aids, or a billion other diseases to help get/keep kids off drugs etc.... Where on Earth do you start? I admit I do very little when I think about all that needs to be done.. I go through our closets and toyboxes here about 4 times a year and drop them off to goodwill (I thought I was doing good) but yes, there are people who do need that stuff more... in my case though stopping at goodwill is *convinient* for me because its on the way home from the store, and I am pinching pennies so I don't really have money for postage to send this stuff to another country.. I used to recycle... I think I may start again now that I am thinking about it.. I give a dollar at the fast food place that is collecting for March of Dimes or Make a wish foundation, or breastcancer... I empty out my change in my car to the firefighters, and I donate to all of the school functions that my younger family members are doing "for causes" such as walkathons for disaster relief etc etc....

I feel like People should open thier hearts and help others, but how much should be expected of each person? What priorities should each person have? Is a person like me who drops off at goodwill a "bad" person for not doing something more spectaculr because its not as convinient? I was going to reply to the orriginal post something short like: Maybey some comprimise is a good answer.. a person could donate to their country say 60% of what they were going to donate and then try to help other countries too? That way they can better the place that they live in, without ignoring the rest of the world....

But is that good enough? What IS good enough?

I could go on and on but I think I expressed my thoughts well enough for now :)

Thank you for shedding light on the subject - I really do agree with what you said... I'm just not sure if it changed the way my personal charity habits will go.... time will tell :) (if I ever do get to a point in life where I can afford to I'd love to do more and I will keep your post in mind when I get there)


What the.....?

If genocide had happened in France things would have been different? How the HELL do you have priviledged knowledge of something that never happened in that location? Anon is right. Stop whining and complaining and get up and do something about it. I'm still proud to be an American. I hope you all are proud to be from Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, France, Great Britain, etc. Pride in one's heritage is beautiful, but only if you can respect other's diversity, too.

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