Remember the last time you gave the local beggar 5 rupees at the stop light? Well, it seemed like the right thing to do. He needs money; God wants you to help the poor. Win/Win situation. Right? What if I told you that you’ve set in motion a cascade effect that is contributing to the devastation in Pakistani society? One of the reasons we’re crumbling. Let me explain…
As a nation we are sold on the idea that consequences of our actions don’t matter as long as we have the right intentions. The most pertinent example of this behavior is our approach to charity.
The Harsh Reality
I recently came across a group of educated professionals who have joined hands to raise money for the purpose of buying dowry for poor girls so that they can be married off, again making sure that the medieval and backward customs not only survive but flourish in society. Similarly every year, a large number of Pakistanis spend up to $ 3000 per head to perform Umra, with the aim of purifying their souls and pleasing Allah, in a country where people commit suicides because they can’t afford to put food on the table for their children.
Guilt Filled Charity
The middle class and upper class live in a perpetual state of guilt. Guilt that is fed by the devastating level of poverty all around us. This guilt gives rise to the kind of knee jerk charity that we see today, people throwing money on symptoms of poverty but closing their eyes when it comes to addressing the conditions and factors that give rise to it. While it is very common to help domestic servants with money when they fall ill, how many masters take the pain of visiting the servant quarters in their bungalows to ensure minimum sanitary conditions?
Doling out money or food to a poor peasant instantly reduces the guilt of the rich, but taking care of the educational expenses of the children of his family, over an extended period of time, so that they can leave the vicious cycle of poverty is hardly the kind of charity we see.
Change In The Attitude Towards Charity
Unfortunately, charity is looked upon as a onetime activity, or something that’s always reactive. Let’s look at charity from a different perspective, what if charity was to be driven by self-interest? First outcome of this will be, just like all things driven by self-interest, it will become proactive and thought through activity.
To bring about this change in attitudes, charity needs to be a way of life, and something that creates a society that’s worth living in, something that helps us take care of our guilt and sustains the status-quo.
Need for Education
As a society we should define priority areas, for starters education and heath would suffice. I am saying education because; it gives poor the chance to break free of their circumstances, and creates awareness about their rights.
Investment in education is a slow process; it will take commitment and perseverance on part of individuals and offers little in terms of instant gratification that comes with traditional venues of charity.
Poor health or sudden accidents of the breadwinners in low income households push them to desperation and absolute poverty, access to better health facilities and improved working conditions can drastically reduce this from happening. May be rich people should start buying health insurance for poor in absence of government funded health facilities!
Also See: It’s The Need That Makes You Fearless!