The world has become a scary place. In times past, when wars and revolutions, plagues and floods happened in some far away place that we never heard of, we felt a passing sense of pity. Then we went back to our normal lives, the office, little league games, NetFlix and Facebook browsing. Our refrigerators are full, our homes are warm during the winter and the bills are all caught up for the month. Then terrorist attacks began happening closer to home. New York City, Washington D.C. London, Paris, Barcelona, the Boston Marathon, just to name a few. Irate individuals or groups labeled as terrorists were igniting fear and rage in places that were previously complacent in their comfortable lives. Now, lives are being lost in a global war against innocent people by those making a bloody statement from 3rd world nests. Operation Enduring Freedom is stacking up bodies on both sides to fight terrorism. A war is still raging in the Middle East that is being fought by soldiers, some of whom were not yet born when this all began. Everybody on both sides consider themselves "the Good Guys".
And the killing continues. Bertrand Russell well said, "War does not determine who is right, only who is left." The politics behind the wars, those making trillions in profits supplying arms, decisions that are determining the path of countries is another article for another time. People much smarter than I am can argue those points. But I see light at the end of the tunnel, long term but effective nonetheless.
Can Prevention Be The Solution ?
In the 1950s and 60s the Cuban revolution saw the rise of a young medical doctor turned revolutionary guerrilla fighter named Ernesto "Che" Guevara. He's the guy on all those tee shirts. He is still idolized today more than fifty years after his execution in Bolivia while trying to incite another revolution. Fast forward to Africa today. Child soldiers are rising up everywhere. Just kids fighting for ideals that they are being told are noble and worthwhile. In the Middle East suicide bombers are strapping explosives to themselves and strolling into open markets to detonate themselves into hero status. How can anybody consider this a "Good Idea"? What motivated them to act with such blind callousness against so many innocent human beings? I have theory. Set aside for a moment those who are acting out of pure greed, power hungry war lords and focus on the little guys. the grunts in all of this craziness, what actual opportunities did any of them have? How were they convinced that this is the path that they should take to have better lives? Che was fighting against the oppression against those who suffered miserably under the Batista regime. Child soldiers believe that their loyalty to war lords will afford them a better life. This begs the question, exactly how bad were their lives to believe that being a child soldier was a step up? In Peru during the turbulent 1990s, the Shining Path terrorist organization recruited and convinced many communities that they were the solution to severe impoverishment, destitution and despair. People who have nothing can be convinced that any solution is better than their current situation. Their politics were of little consequence. Starving people will eat anything. Sick people will try any medicine. This scenario is repeated again and again throughout the world with extreme violence being the common denominator and that violence is showing up at our first world doorsteps. Those living in unimaginable 3rd world environs either suffer and die or fight back. What and if effective humanitarian aid was provided to relieve the suffering? What if wells were dug in places where water is scarce by companies well able to afford the project? What if medicine was provided to prevent the preventable diseases? For example twenty cents worth of vitamin A can prevent blindness in children. Fifty cents worth of Albendazole, an anti-parasite medicine, can eradicate a list of intestinal worms that are killing children and causing anemia. What if opportunities were available for academic and vocational education and sustainable jobs became the way to support families? What if we could dilute the attractiveness of revolution? Solutions. Revolution and terrorism would be stemmed. Disease and death from preventable sicknesses would vanish. Better farming techniques are teachable. Every human has the same brain pan, so why is enormous wealth and prosperity realized in North America, Europe and Asia while Africa and South America live like they have for the last two hundred years? Could it be the age old disease of apathy? Unless 3rd world countries show some promise of providing economic prosperity for giant global companies hoping to capitalize on gold and diamond reserves or abundant cheap human labor, it is perceived that the issues facing 3rd world populations is not the problem or concern of developed nations.
Oh but it is! Revolutionary and terrorist groups can easily manipulate those who are fed up with living in desperation and destitution. Everyone has access to television and the internet. They can see what the rest of the world is about and the prosperity that we enjoy and they want it too. Frankly, I believe that they should have a life of equality and prosperity if and as they earn it like we all did. Who will show them how?
Mere Lip Service Aids Terrorism
Government programs just scratch the surface. Large charitable foundations are laughable when you consider that only 5% of their assets need to be donated to any cause to maintain their charitable status, while 20% can be used for "administrative costs". Worldwide organizations with six figure salaried executives spending multi-million dollar advertising budgets out of high rise offices are disappointingly anemic. Churches have their own agendas and few, outside of their own groups, are being helped. Case in point, 1.3 billion people identify as christian while 785 million live in hunger. When the Red Cross was vilified for raising a half billion dollars for the Haiti earthquake victims and built a mere six houses, people began to rethink their decision to support any charity. However, a surprising solution can be found in those little non-profits out there, that are doing wonders. Operating in corrugated aluminum shacks, adobe buildings and living among the people we support, not some corporate office in New York City, it is these projects that are literally fighting terrorism from even rising up in the first place. We seek out funds and solutions in virtual obscurity. Affording disadvantaged people opportunities and actual development for their future, the notion of taking up arms and violent revolt never is considered a viable option. In a "Guns or butter" decision, butter wins.
Changing the world actually means influencing lives to want to change. When you make a donation to one of these organizations, send a box of school materials, send a post card with a message of hope or share our compassion with friends, you are, in a small way, uprooting the seeds of instability and outrage against the world. Helping us provide the tools for opportunity is a preventive step to fight dysentery which kills millions of children annually. It provides sanitary pads for indigenous women and soap to provide sanitation and avert diseases. It provides educational materials that will give children a chance to expand their horizons and imagination beyond what their parents and grandparents ever had.
To Change the World We Have to Change Minds and Attitudes
During the war in Viet Nam, the popular American notion was to stop the spread of communism and war "over there" before we had to stop it on the shores of California. Stopping insurgent guerrillas in the Middle East before they attack us in our shopping malls and stadiums is the new version of that notion. I submit that we can avert the terrorism, political instability, and preventable diseases that plague the 3rd world before it ill-affects all of us, by changing hearts and minds at their doorsteps first. Not with weapons, armies and more killings but with pencils, books, medicines and bars of soap, drinkable water and compassion in action. It is already working in many pockets of the world where humanitarians can be found diligently working for these solutions. Maybe we are bearding the lions who are profiting from the misery of the world, but our future belongs to all of us, not the few whose solutions are purely for the benefit of corporate stockholders, oppressive warlords and the political elite. I hope that you will join us in these solutions in an active and dynamic way. This is our revolution, how do you like it?
This article first appeared in Changes for New Hope Humanitarian Magazine February 2018 issue. https://issuu.com/jimkillon3/docs/changes_for_new_hope_humanitarian_m