Monday, 29 March 2010
Recently on campus, I've being seeing people wearing "I [heart] Haiti" t-shirts. This really pissed me off for some reason. I imagine it's because nobody wearing one of these shirts loves Haiti. I can tell, because nobody who loved Haiti would wear such a shirt.
If you loved Haiti, you would make sure all of your donated money went to helping earthquake victims, not for giving yourself a new shirt. Certainly there's a poor Haitian kid who could benefit more from a clean, new t-shirt than you could. Even if you somehow were unable to donate money to Haiti without getting a t-shirt, a person who loved Haiti would send the shirt along with their money.
Of course, a person who really loved Haiti would have been donating time and money long before the earthquake ever occurred. If you truly loved Haiti, you would have donated money before Wyclef Jean told you it was a cool thing to do. You at least would have realized it was a country before CNN reminded you it existed in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Now, I'm sure you can say, "But, Eric, I'm wearing this shirt to support Haiti. Other people will see me in my Haiti t-shirt and donate too!" Which would be great, if the earthquake in Haiti was something that needed more public attention. There are plenty of issues that the public doesn't know about, and wearing a shirt to remind people could help. There are political issues where public opinion is a deciding factor in what happens. Your t-shirt message could maybe help here. Haiti is not one of those issues. Not now, anyway. Everyone knows there was an earthquake, and everyone knows they need money. When you wear your Haiti t-shirt, what you're saying to me is "I want to look like I'm making a difference. I want people to think I care. It's more important to me to appear to be a loving, worldly person than it is to make a difference."
We as Americans aren't going to make a difference in places like Haiti if we only start caring after thins go wrong. It's not enough to rush to the aid of victims whenever rock stars and actors tell us to, only to forget about it when nothing catastrophic happens in the next six months. Remember the tsunami in 2004? All of the countries effected by it will be hurt just as much when the next one hits. Just patching up hurt kids and going home isn't going to solve the problems. Haiti will be in just as bad shape when the next earthquake hits.
Maybe it's not our job to care about the rest of the world. We've certainly got plenty of problems here at home we can take care of (New Orleans, for example). But if we're going to care about places like Haiti, let's actually care. Let's realize that the problems in Haiti weren't caused by an earthquake, they were just brought to our attention by it. Let's realize that there a bunch of other countries in just as bad of shape. Let's realize that we as Americans, the self-proclaimed "Greatest Country on Earth", can do a lot better than we are. Let's realize that if we build infrastructure, improve education, and help create stable economies in the countries we're trying to help, when the next disaster hits, we won't have as much work to do to clean up the mess. Of course that would require us to actually care about other countries and other people, rather than just caring enough to look good, but I'd like to hope that we care because it's the right thing to do, not just because we get a free t-shirt.