January 06, 2005

Generosity and the US

I admit, I was a bit offended and irritated when I hear the UN call us stingy. After all, they're staying here rent-free, on a prime piece of New York real estate. And we DO send money to relief efforts -- we tend to do it through various charities and religious groups, but we do it.

I read Kristof today (piewview; blogger42 to log in) -- I missed the last two of his pieces because I was on the road, and it looks like I'd have LOVED the December 22 piece -- and I am once again placed in the difficult position of agreeing with him. We are great at responding to disasters, but we're lousy most of the rest of the time. We focus on ourselves and what's going on here, rather than being globally minded.

We're like this in a LOT of different ways, too. While Canadians are lamenting the potential loss of the entire NHL season this year, the subject has been missing from US papers. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. I was in Pensacola, Florida over Christmas -- there are still a lot of people who are homeless there, and a lot of devestation and damage still hasn't been fixed. Don't hear much about it, though, do you? I'd expect that the Orlando area is still trying to recover from the 'canes that hit them as well.

We have a very short attention span. We saw in this election that the average American cannot focus on much more than a soundbite at a time. I saw it when I taught -- kids were shocked that I expected them to remember something I taught a week ago. We pay attention only to what's new and different, and ignore or forget about things that aren't. Part of the blame is simply cultural -- we live in a society that is always in motion, always fast. We buy more powerful microwaves because we don't want to wait 4 minutes for our popcorn. We want our internet fast, so we pay mor money for faster services, better wireless connections.

My real concern is that in a few more months, when the relief efforts in Asia aren't front-page news, and when the recovery and rebuilding can actually begin, when our help is needed, we'll have forgotten all about the tsunami. We'll be on to the next big thing, and our money will go elsewhere. In another week or so, people will start complaining about the extensive coverage that the tsunami is getting -- "Can't they tell us about something else? There are other things going on in the world." And the people there will still be right in the middle of it, and they'll be forgotten.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope that we will keep these people in our prayers, and keep their needs in mind. I hope that the generosity will continue, and our attention spans will be lengthened so we are not so easilly distracted.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 06:13 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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