Other ways to “help”

They are gathering money in London for Sandy’s victims in New York. Based on the initiative “Jeans for Genes”, the idea is that you give £5 and, in return, you’re allowed to wear jeans at work. It seems the campaign is going to be quite successful, obviously only among those who don´t normally wear jeans from Monday to Friday, but rather suits, ties and jackets.

I heard about it yesterday, and immediately I remembered a group of university students I saw in Manchester in March 2011, soon after the Fukushima crisis. They were asking for money for victims of the nuclear disaster. I remember thinking: Is British money, really, what Japanese victims need?

Considering that the US is the first economy in the world and Japan goes third, money shouldn’t be the issue. Regarding the case of Fukushima, a more reasonable way of “helping” could be, for example, to make sure that you never vote for a party that supports nuclear energy.

In the case of Sandy, as usual, the ones who have been most affected, both in the US and elsewhere in the Caribbean, belong to low income families or, in less euphemistic terms, families who live below the poverty line. Among other things, money is needed urgently to respond to the emergency. But it still doesn´t seem reasonable that money needs to travel all the way over the Atlantic to reach New York, home of some of the richest people on Earth, the real belly button of the world.

Please don´t get me wrong: Giving money to charity is not a bad thing. Rather the opposite, NGOs need money. It is as simple as that. But money is often an easy way to help, but not the only way, and not necessarily the most effective and pertinent way.

Addressing the social inequalities that lie behind the drama is a compelling necessity. (I encourage you to read Naomi Klein’s article in The Nation, where she connects the hurricane Sandy with the “shock doctrine”). Since this was an election week, one would think that another way of “helping” would be to vote for a candidate that is truly determined to push for the necessary institutional and structural changes in America so nobody lives in poverty anymore and so the gap between the very rich and the very poor narrows down. Did such a candidate run on Tuesday?

Koldo Casla


Cartoon: Patrick Chappate, International Herald Tribune, 1 November 2012


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