Friday, August 27, 2010

A helping hand from a Neighbour

[The intention of this post is neither to blame anyone, nor to offend. The intention is merely to let of steam on account of something that frustrates me time and again. If it offends you, please do not judge- I am not being insensitive, I am merely angry at the games people place even at times like this. Leave a comment, think about it, or ignore the rant and please come back tomorrow.]

Your neighbour's family is in trouble. The kids are starving, they have no place to stay. You have had a long history of antagonism with your neighbour, but you have been neighbours for a long time and now that you seem them in trouble, you offer to help. It is not an act of charity, it does not mean you have won the battle- it merely means you have declared ceasefire long enough to help your neighbour get back on his feet, before you can resume your normal disagreements.Your neighbour turns down your offer, even as he goes around the neighbourhood seeking it. The kids are starving, you have cooked extra food, but the neighbour refuses to accept it. You want to walk across and thrust the food down their throat, but you can't - that would be trespassing, and your neighbour will never let you get away with that.

What then do you do? Except hope better sense prevails. And.... curse your neighbour for being so stubborn.


The relationship between India and Pakistan has always been strained as best, but when the floods hit Pakistan, the Indian government offered aid as any good neighbour would. The amount offered in the first installment was so low as to make me blush- was that the best we could do- but what appalled me was the fact that the Pakistani government refused to accept it, and continued refusing to accept it, till the US government told them that they should accept it, or else....

The paltry sum has now been accepted, and is hopefully being utilized in the disaster management efforts, but nobody is happy. In India, we are flooded with images of the flood hit areas. Those images are familiar to us- we see similar images from various parts of the country every year. We know what is expected of us. We are ready to donate clothes, blankets, food supplies and medicine as we do every year when parts of India get flooded. Indians trained in disaster management are ready to hop across the border and help the flood affected people, but we can't. Nobody wants to collect relief material, when there is no certainty it would ever reach the people who need it. Security concerns make it impossible for people to be sent across to help.

Why?

When your people need help which you can't provide, and when someone else is willing to provide that help, what are you proving by turning down the help?

Will proving a point put food in starving bodies, provide a raincoat to protect people from the rain, or conjure up basic medicines to prevent water-borne communicable diseases?

Is politics more important than people? Should it be?

Images - Save the Children

31 comments:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Of course politics is not more important than people! But governments always seem to make it so, don't they?

ladyfi said...

Darn governments... people must always come first!

Lydia Kang said...

Sometimes pride and prejudice (no Austen reference here) gets in the way of an honest gesture of goodwill.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's just stupid! Governments are so stubborn sometimes.

Jemi Fraser said...

Governments, red-tape and stubborness getting in the way of helping people. Absurd. Sad. Frustrating. *sigh*

Karen Walker said...

This is so heartbreaking, Rayna. There are no easy answers to this dilemma. I guess all we can do as individuals is do what we can to help where and when we can.
Karen

Jules said...

This is a powerful post, Rayna. I have struggled with this same issue and it makes me wish there were no governments to guide us.

My motto; throw caution to the wind, help those you can and keep one hand free for those who might reach out. :D
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Ellie said...

It saddens me, this is the case so many times. I don't understand the politics of it; There is so much we aren't told. It is this way daily, people starving all over the world, people in need of aid and they are ignored, due to red tape, boundaries and bs. We can only do what we can...within our boundaries. I don't get it, or understand it!
Then I think of Hurricane Katrina and this was within our countries boundaries and failed miserably!
Governments have their own agendas; I don't necessarily agree with~

Clarissa Draper said...

I really find it frustrating and I see of the stuff happening here to. Why are people so stubborn? I'm glad you got to rant about it because sometimes that's all we can do.

CD

LTM said...

the more disasters happen, the more we see how ill-prepared government is to handle these situations. It's troubling to me when we have the wherewithal to provide help and we're blocked from doing so... I can only imagine your frustration. And thanks for the "inside view" of the situation.

warm thoughts headed your way~ :o|

slommler said...

It does happen and it is so sad! How frustrating to those who want to help!! Rant away dear one! It is all one can do sometimes.
Hugs
SueAnn

Damyanti said...

It is always politics trumping people...especially so in a country where the survival of the ruling class depends on spiting the neighbour...

Margot Kinberg said...

Rayna - You raise such a very important question and what a heartbreaking story! I wish that I had the answer as to why politics always has to win over humanity, but far too often, it does. My heart breaks for the loss of life and the terrible troubles because of the disaster in Pakistan, and I wish I could think that taking care of those people came fist...

Mary said...

I share your frustration. I often wonder what happens to money that is sent anywhere as nothing seems to improve. Once the governments become involved things seem to dwindle into nothingness.
How can anyone be so proud as to let a person, especially a child, starve?
Such fools!

Deb and Barbara said...

I congratulate you for this rant, Rayna, and think we all need to rant about these things. Your analogy about the neighbour and his kids brings up another good analogous question: if the paternal figure refuses the offer of food, would his children also refuse if you asked them? Are they also so stubborn and prideful? Or would they accept the offer and be grateful for it, acknowledging their neighbour's kindness and maybe discovering we are nearer and dearer than we thought???

Barbara

RosieC said...

It's such a fitting analogy, but government's frequently get in the way of people's better judgment. Pride and nationalism and the hopes for reelection make politicians crazy. It's a terrible shame that it took the international bully to step in.

Hart Johnson said...

I completely think you're right... that it is a SHAME to be unwilling to accept help when it is so badly needed, but I can also see the fear they may have that there are strings attached, or worry they may be asked to reciprocate at a time they really can't. It is a hard situation. I still love the perspective you bring, Natasha. From across the world these things seem distant, but you help make it tangible.

Theres just life said...

Governments have a way of turning the simplest thing into a big mess. They don't realize it is people helping people, not a government helping another government. The leaders say no then go home to their safe dry homes with food and clothing. If their families where out there suffering I wonder how long they would let their pride stand in the way.

Donna B said...

I can feel your frustration. What a hopeless feeling. I hate red tape and mud slinging. It sucks. Your heart is in the right place and you offered a hand. The fact the neighbor chose not to accept is on the neighbor...tragic the children will be the one to pay the price.

L'Aussie said...

As you rightly point out, your neighbour wouldn't accept your help even when the kids are starving. As someone said, charity begins at home. If we can't get on in our own little world, how can we expect governments (who are supposed to represent the people) to do much better. I hate these types of stories which show just how low humanity can stoop..:)

Cruella Collett said...

Politics shouldn't be more important than people, and it makes me so sad when the news informs us that it often is. I think it stands to the Indian government's credit that it chose to overlook the persistant conflict and offered help; and I think it should ring a bell in the Pakistani government when they refuse to accept the help because of the conflict. In the middle of this, however, are the people - both of India and Pakistan - probably tired of the conflict, the Pakistani affected by the flood are helpless and at the moment could care less about the conflict. And yet the conflict, and the governments' decisions of how to handle it, is what determines their fate?

It is so unfair that it makes me want to shout.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Debra- and I guess it is partly also our fault for letting them do so

@ Fiona - and yet, they so rarely do :-(

@ Lydia- and such a pity too

@ Alex- and so short-sighted too. This could just be what tips people into voting them out of power

@ Jemi- really sad, isn't it? Ten years back, when there was that dreadful earthquake in India, customs took so long to clear some of the aid containers, they stuff got spoilt before they reached

@ Karen- they pity is that in this particular case, the individuals are not allowed to do anything either because of the same stubbornness

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Jules- "help those you can and keep one hand free for those who might reach out"- that is so beautiful

@ Ellie- and even within countries, or even within cities, there are so many boundaries, there are people with enough to spare, and others not able to reach out for it

@ Clarissa- and I have my neatly packed bags of "charity" stuff packed away ready to give, but they don't want :-(

@ Leigh- it is most frustrating, isn't it?

@ SueAnn - I can understand not wanting people to go across, but not even accepting money?!

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Damyanti- that too. I guess that is the main reason for their refusing aid

@ Margot- it should, shouldn't it? And while money is needed, material could help as much, and India is better poised to offer material aid than any other place

@ Mary- a recent study in India found that of 100 rupees that are given out by the government as aid for the really poor, only 22 rupees actually reaches them. The rest get lost while filtering down the ranks

@ RosieC- yes, the bullying served a good cause for a change

@ Hart- more than anything else,they are reluctant to accept anything from India, because in their eyes it would seem like they are acknowledging India is better by being in a position to offer help. Don't they realise, it has nothing to do with that?

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Barbara- in this case, the children don't know. But I would hate a situation where the kids see it happening, but are too scared to confront the father.

@ Theres just life- precisely. Not very long at all, I am sure

@ Donna- it is really sad, isn't it?

@ L'Aussie- the pity is that there are both kinds of stories- stories like these, and stories of the heights of generosity that individuals can scale. Why should there have to be the first kind at all, when we as a race are capable of the other?

@ Cruella- to be honest, the amount the Government offered was really low. But for all you know, they offered a small amount to test the responses- if they had collected money from the public, they would have raised a lot more.

dipali said...

I wish there was more practical common sense in the world. Awesome post, Rayna.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Dipali - it does seem so counter intuitive, doesn't it?

Laura Eno said...

I hope we might see the day when such stupidity is not commonplace around the world.

Jayne said...

Rayna, this is such a good post, and you have written about it in such a clear and concise way - it really gets to the heart of the matter. I actually read this a few days ago and haven't had time to comment until now, but I wanted to say this post of yours stayed in my mind, and so I wanted to tell you that you have a very powerful and special way of ranting!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Excellent post, Rayna, and so true. Countless times countries have turned down aid for one reason or another. It makes no sense when people are suffering.

Patricia

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Laura - I too hope that days comes soon, and it couldn't come sooner

@ Jayne - thank you for commenting- it is wonderful to know the thought stayed with you for so long

@ Patricia- absolutely. Though I also hated the paltry amount my government offered.

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