Call to action: Humanity needs you

By Katie Wolf

“Are you unaware that vast numbers of your fellow men suffer or perish from need of the things that you have to excess, and that you required the explicit and unanimous consent of the whole human race for you to appropriate from the common subsistence anything besides that required for your own” Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1755

As I sit in my office at 11pm on a Tuesday night, I’m bombarded with worries of everything that needs to get done, and now; taking care of logistics for the tailgate/Student Congress Reunion during Homecoming weekend, finalizing everything for the Congress retreat this Sunday, preparing for budget amendments, scheduling speakers for meetings, one on ones with our executive board, scheduling meetings for our focus groups, and a million other things, not to mention the PHY152 homework that’s due tomorrow or the CHM234 quiz the day after. But in the midst of all this I can’t seem to shake the thought of Haiti from my mind. It seems to follow me everywhere, when I go to bed, when I wake up, when I’m out with my friends and even when I’m in class. The images that I’ve seen in the last few days seem to haunt me, but I haven’t tried to forget, and I can’t allow myself to.

In the aftermath of the most catastrophic natural disaster to hit the Western Hemisphere, where 20,000 people are estimated to die every day due to the lack of life saving surgeries & rations, the world needs us to show a little more compassion than to just donate some money and/or pray for everything to be ok. One need not be stuck under the rubble or smell the stench of the bloating dead bodies to share the common bond of humanity that unites us all.

Somewhere in the rat race of the 21st century we seem to have lost our compassion and ability to be able to relate to the peoples of the world. While catastrophic events like last Tuesday’s 7.0 earthquake in Haiti help bring communities together to help distant suffering nations, they also shockingly showcase how we, ‘the generation that could/should/would save the world’, are too caught up with our own petty issues.

Beg to differ? Just take a look at your friends’ status updates, posts and links on facebook. How much compassion have you seen pouring out from your live feed in the last week, on the most widely used social media network? Probably not as much as the amount of concern/compassion exhibited for the local Lady Gaga concerts or the American idol ‘pants on the ground’ phenomenon. And how many FMLs have you come across lately? This clearly indicates that there is a very apparent disconnect between the realities of the world and the perceived realities that we the young generation choose to surround ourselves with. Yes, I understand that everyone has their own version of misery but NOTHING in our lives will probably ever compare to the tragedy of the Haitians at this moment in time.

As you know, the Declaration of Independence states, “All men are created equal”. If all men are created equal, then all men should have equal access to the abundant resources that our wonderful planet has to offer. But if there is an imbalance in accessibility, then who bears the greater burden of providing that equal access? Yes, you’re right, the privileged. No, I’m not referring to the movie stars, professional athletes or singers. I’m talking about you and I, the poor college students. Because with access to clean water, food, a roof over our heads and a warm bed to sleep in we are considered privileged, living on a planet where 1 billion people struggle just to survive EVERY single day.

Time and again I’ve been told not to expect too much from our generation, because my peers would rather be blissfully ignorant than face the harsh realities of the world. But I refuse to accept that argument. There is never any justification for a lack of compassion when it comes to humanitarian issues. The world owes us nothing, but we may very well owe the world everything. We, the developed world take for ourselves so many of the Earth’s valuable resources that no matter what we do for the impoverished, it’s not enough. And these acts cannot be considered acts of charity. They are acts of justice, a moral obligation.

So I hope that in the midst of this seemingly insurmountable human suffering we are able to look at ourselves in the mirror and start the process of change, by realizing what it is that we can do today, to make our global village a better place for generations to come. We sell ourselves short when we think that we have done enough or more than enough for the suffering masses. We explicitly exhibit ungratefulness when we allow for miniscule and materialistic issues to overtake our lives. And we do great injustice to ourselves when we don’t give of our time, effort and money. As Anne Frank, a teenager who perished in a Holocaust concentration camp wrote, “No one has ever become poor by giving”. We have the power to change the world. We need to start now.

“Well, I donated money. What else can I do?”

” …shocked Americans can do more than shake their heads and, with pity, make a donation. They can confront their own country’s responsibility for the conditions in Port-au-Prince that magnified the earthquake’s impact, and they can acknowledge America’s role in keeping Haiti from achieving meaningful development.”

1. Search through your list of friends and family who are in any way related to the medical profession or who may have other connections to businesses or organizations that may be able to donate goods for earthquake relief efforts.

2. Encourage the international community to cancel Haiti’s $890 million debt, so that it can rebuild without loans.

3. Look around yourself, and be grateful.

“Be grateful that you have the dollars to help, and the next day and the next day” – Meryl Streep during her acceptance speech at the 67th Golden Globe Awards

More information:

1. Educate yourself on the issue. Haiti’s problems started long before last week’s earthquake. I would highly recommend reading a book like ‘Mountains Beyond Mountains’ which provides a historical perspective of Haiti’s development and introduces you to the resilience of it’s nationals.

2. Move on with your life, but don’t forget the Haitians. There is a lot that the world can learn from the resilience of the people of the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Haiti will need the international community for years to come in order to rebuild and move on.