Have you been feeling down lately? Indifferent or apathetic? Is daytime TV not as pleasurable as it once was? With all those donkeys (and the token panda) disrupting your viewing. Are you taking the long way home to avoid the Oxfam man to whom you promised you would ‘come back later’? (We’ve all done it). Do the letters ‘U’ and ‘N’ evoke disappointment and hopelessness? Does the general thought of an empty donation box conjure an uneasy sense of guilt and irritation?
If you have answered ‘yes’ to the above then the diagnosis isn’t good. You’ve mostly likely come down with ‘compassion fatigue’ or one of the deadlier strains ‘Africa fatigue’ or ‘Mogadishu syndrome’.
With the barrage of upsetting images it is not condemnable that we have become desensitised? Otherwise we would just sit, be poor and cry – which is no use either. Administration costs in charitable organisations make us question where the money is actually going. International action is kind of a letdown. It never quite makes it in time and when it does it imposes top-down templates that don’t work. Cough – Rwanda – cough. But is seems the best we’ve got. After all, we know what happens when America and the UK decide to go it alone….
But it’s not this article’s purpose to address NGO mismanagement or attack the UN’s track record. Perhaps we should save that for another date. And if you are critical of the media’s ‘Live Aid’ portal of ‘that country Africa’ I recommend googling ‘Radiator for Norway’. Thought provoking and it has a catchy jingle. What could be better?
So instead here are some possible cures. Any long-term solution requires a revolution in Western media or a few regime changes. But here are my suggestions, the ‘home-remedy’ if you will:
1 – Do it for yourself
Put simply: less conflict plus greater world stability equals less ISIS and less terror. Doing-good is sure to be followed by a warm fuzzy feeling (á la gap yah). But seriously, volunteering at home or abroad builds your CV, experience and has a more immediate and noticeable effects than just cash.
2 – Do it differently
Money and military intervention are not the only options. As well as the solutions based on Western models finally there has been a recent shift towards home grown solutions. Social cohesion programs over guns, that sort of thing.
With these we can be facilitative rather than dominating, after all good relations go a long way. So, be selective in who you support – make sure you know who they help and exactly how. It is no use building a well if there it’ll run out of water in a few yeas time the complex socio-cultural conditions are not accounted for.
3 – Do it for others (Time for the moral berating)
Helping people is nice. It is nice because it is good. And good is well, just good. (Consult Plato or Aristotle for a more comprehensive explanation). We talk of suffering as a condition but look at where we are and what we have. In reality ‘Africa fatigue’ is akin to man flu. It’s no excuse!
Even if you can’t feel it, do it anyway. You know it is right. Just be more selective and wait for your heart to catch up. Life in all its forms is beautiful, precious and fragile. Foster it as best you can.
As for the side effects: your purse might be lighter, you will have less free time but you would also have done some good, helped a little and changed the world just bit.