Bill Clinton visited the earthquake-striken Haiti, check out this article for more.
Clinton, the co-chair of the commission overseeing Haiti’s reconstruction, has been frustrated at the glacial pace of international aid flowing into the country. And it isn’t that nobody has donated to help the victims of the devastating earthquake, it’s just that the money has been stuck in governments, held up by a certain government maneuvers. In the case of the United States, it is a senatorial hold put in place by Senator Tom Coburn (R – Oklahoma), that is preventing the money from reaching the Haitians.
A representative from Coburn’s office claims that the Senator has been wrongfully criticized for holding the money because he is concerned about what the money would do to America’s deficits. But the thing is, America made a pledge, a pledge to send 1.15 billion dollars in aid to help victims of a horrible natural disaster. This pledge should not be broken because of (maybe) a small dent into the already ridiculous deficit. Maybe Coburn will change his mind if he leaves the comforts of America and see for himself what the Haitians are going through.
People often forget the most fundamental element of what it means to be a humanitarian, or join a humanitarian cause. It is simply to help other human beings who are in need. But this cause is often lost amidst all the media mumbo-jumbo, where petty politics and celebrity appearances eat away at the humanitarian nature of a specific cause.
The first two examples that comes to mind are the two big music hits that came about as a result of the Haiti Earthquake, which are new renditions to the “We are the World”, performed by the most popular musicians in North America today, and K’Naan’s “Waving Flag”, performed by the Young Artists of Canada.
Both songs are moving and brilliantly executed, but seem to miss the bigger picture. Singing a song and raising money is a great way to provide aid and raise awareness to the cause, but it only tells half the story, if that.
At some point in our generation, charity has become something that we do to be recognized as a loving, giving, caring people. While many people, including celebrities and business millionaires, do not receive anything in return for their work / donations, they do gain publicity, which, really, is what they want. This is one kind of charity. The other, more pure kind of charity entails that you give a part of you and expect no personal gains in return, only the betterment of those you are helping. This acts as a personal fulfillment in an abstract sense, and it should be all a charitable person should ask for.
Look no further than Angelina Jolie, an UNHCR ambassador who’s visited Pakistan in September (read the article here) to look into the flood disaster, Bosnia-Herzegovina to work on a plan to bring war-displaced kids back to school in August, and has participated in many humanitarian causes before that. She’s hasn’t gotten a lot of public exposure as a result of her work as a humanitarian; rather, the tabloid media is only interested in digging into her personal life, as if to see when she will snap at a report and create a scandal of some sorts.
George Clooney is another example of a ‘quiet’ humanitarian. Last week, Clooney visited Juba, a little known region in Southern Sudan, to inquire about the region’s independence vote on January 9, and, if the region successfully secedes, the possibility of a civil war breaking out between the North and the South.
The the mainstream news reporting didn’t cover any of this. I wouldn’t have known about it had I not gone on Huffpost and caught a small article about it.
There are subtle differences between the two kinds of humanitarianism I mentioned above, one of which is that the latter kind often actually goes to the area the cause is concerned with and really looks into the problem. I’d very much like to see Miley Cyrus go check things out in Haiti or Justin Bieber to go visit Pakistan.
Selflessness is not easy to achieve, and humanitarianism is a concept ought not to be abused for fame and glory.