Are You Helping?

In Articles, Philosophy, Words by Ben

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John Stuart Mill: “As for charity, it is a matter in which the immediate effect on the persons directly concerned, and the ultimate consequence to the general good, are apt to be at complete war with one another.”

Charity is quite a commitment. Doing what appears to be the ‘right thing’ may in fact lead to greater suffering in the long term. The unsustainability of rapid population growth in Ethiopia ought to be a more ready example of this than it currently is; there are now more than 80 million people there, compared to 40 million twenty-five years ago during their last famine.

This is due to well-meaning Westerners saving starving children’s lives, but not building sufficient infrastructure for those children to mature into productive, globalised adults who can import the food without recourse to usurious loans or long-term contracts for the export of useful natural resources. In essence, it is due to the brutal nature of life and death on that Continent. With high infant mortality and a lack of sex education/ facilities, there are just too many new mouths to feed.

We should not be so appalled. I remember being particularly moved by a population graph showing the relationship between foxes (predators) and rabbit (prey). As the number of rabbits increased, so the number of foxes followed. When they had made a significant dent on the bunnies, so their own numbers dwindled. This is not to quite debase a people to parity with animals; my point is to highlight our inherent tendency to keep pushing the graph higher and higher, forgetting that resources are necessary limited.

Fox Rabbit Predator Prey Population Graph Biology

The link with the economy and capitalism’s demand for constant growth is an obvious one. How fast are we able to produce and consume in order to support an ever-growing population still fast being dragged out of its natural animal state? How long can we expect for this to continue? And how willing are we to face the natural fall? Will it be the oil that’s allowed this that runs out first? Or will the incredible number of people without access to clean drinking water grow larger, and closer to home?

If you are reading this, then take a moment to reflect on the abnormality of your existence. Are we an evolutionary blip, a Catalan tower of people destined to tumble solely by virtue of having been built on frail, frail people? It is disappointing to cast an eye around and see that destructive tendencies perpetuate. Maybe money is food aid fueling unsustainable growth? At least Mr Bernanke et al can conjure money out of nothing; maybe one day there will be quite enough to go around without the money itself losing its meaning, and therefore its value; but maybe not. In any case, now that you’re doing your bit at Christmas/ Whenever, remember that charity is always a personal thing, and as such best starts at home, face to face.

Ethiopia Population Growth: