(Picture-Jatta-Earning a living in The Gambia is not easy)
Much of the focus of the developed world and its austerity drive is on “self sufficiency”. The belief is that if you isolate people from social support they somehow will become self sufficient.
This push is being driven by those most wealthy. They demonstrated in 2008 just how self sufficient they were themselves. Industrialists and bankers alike rushed to governments for help when their own existence was threatened.
This reality is that their help came from the taxes paid by those most hard working people, many of whom are now are part of the unemployed or on social support.
The process of dismantling the most successful socio-economic experiment in human history is well underway. The post second world war program of social and economic support brought much of humanity to a more balanced society; unlike any period in human history.
The few who “want it all” found this untenable and began the deconstruction process a few decades ago. What they would like is to send the poor and disadvantaged back to caves so they will be out of sight and out of mind. The hope is that in time they will disappear.
The mantra of self sufficiency really means that if one can’t survive without social or economic support then they should just die. Dependency has to be eradicated, no matter the human cost or the societal destruction.
What is lost is the fact that every living organism is dependent on each other in some way. As we destroy the foundations of our society we eliminate the basis of human stability. By destroying our natural environment, we destroy the very basis of living existence.
Perhaps a journey to the heart of the poorest countries in the world might be an education in how survival depends on the many and not on the few. It certainly would go a long way in dissipating the arrogance of plenty and understanding the humility of those most poor.
These people survive because they realize the interdependency of life and how fragile it is when one is alone. It is evident in time of crisis, but visible everyday when one is observant and sensitive.
I was part of such a crisis scenario this past week. A young woman in my sphere was evicted from her small apartment by a landlord who felt insulted by some alleged indiscretion. She was basically pushed on the street with a six month old baby with nowhere to go.
As the day wore on the reality of finding even temporary accommodations appeared remote and my ability to assist appeared futile. What happened next was a lesson in human concern and compassion.
As we wandered throughout the neighborhood seeking alternate accommodations local people became concerned, many even alarmed. They came to offer advice, provide support and to suggest solutions.
They gathered in groups and individually offering help. These were people who had little themselves and realize the tenuous fragile nature of their own circumstance.
A former friend of the young woman, who recently was alienated by some personal dispute, came forward and found a temporary shelter in a house already full, as most are. Forgotten was the past dispute. The desperation and urgency of the situation forced human compassion to usurp the anger and resentment of this falling out.
A small group emerged who barely knew this young woman. It was led by a young local tailor offering to mediate with the landlord in order to find a resolution.
They felt the tension of this woman and child and knew of the inflexibility of the landlord. It took two days of negotiations, discussion and apologies to resolve the situation allowing this woman back into her apartment.
This small neigbourhood showed the very essence of the interdependency of humanity and the compassion that exists at the heart of human kindness.
The whole affair provided for me a lesson in humility. It has always my belief that local people can solve their own problems and that of their community with a little support and when allowed.
World leaders in developed countries are discussing and debating the merits of supporting those most in need, both locally and internationally. They might take a lesson in human compassion from those most impoverished and find it in their hearts to provide for their real needs.
Poverty is growing rapidly in Europe and North America, with many facing a similar plight as those in the most impoverished countries. They too have to reach out to each other, because with no jobs, little opportunity and diminishing social support their survival and existence is also at risk.
The distance between those most poor and the majority of society is shrinking, as it has been for the last number of years. Soon it will be much harder to be a bystander.
As the environment is destroyed and the number facing economic and social hardship grows people will perhaps understand that it is not only those poor who are at risk, it is humanity itself. Then self sufficiency will be exposed for the lie that it is.
Written by Bill Pardy
October 30th, 2013