I am from a proud working class background emanating originally from the north of England, a place where the idea of accepting charity is rather a kin to accepting an insult graciously and just as likely to occur!
So at times I must admit that I find it difficult to watch those who not only accept hand outs, but actually expect them. Obviously there are people in all countries who are existing at a level where their basic needs are not met and their government, often rich with tax income, fails them. In their case it is not really charity it is basic subsistence living and no one with a decent heart can resent that.
Yet there is also a national psyche that exists amongst certain countries, where they have seemingly accepted their position as perennial basket cases, or as a poor relative, that requires their sibling nations to support them without question.
This position of institutionalised begging raises an interesting question; at what point does a nation attain respectability, self respect and the maturity where it no longer looks to any other country to fund its existence? I don’t mean cross border funding of trade or products, as say within the EU or AU, I mean the funding of basic housing, food and or medical necessities? At what point does a country become an adult and not a dependent, yet independent, child or elderly relative?
Can you imagine China appealing to Germany, or Australia, for milk to feed its own children? Can you imagine Argentina asking England to fund its road building programmes, or France looking to the USA for money to buy text books?
So why does India, with its billionaires, Bollywood and corporate ownership of some of the world’s greatest brands such as Range Rover and Jaguar, expect Europe to fund the inoculation of its own children, to save two million of its own babies a year? How can anyone demand that “others” do their duty when they themselves lack the moral integrity to do the same, yet at the same time it competes with China to be the fastest growing world economy? How can we in South Africa look to any nation for any aid whatsoever when our tax service is apparently so efficient and creating such vast monies that we can afford the World Cup, pointless submarines and thirty odd 21st century fighter jets, but only three people with a licence to fly them?
Charity, as they say, begins at home and so does the lesson of self respect and common decency. A population of 60 million with only 5 million registered tax payers, of whom only 2.5 million actually pay tax, that is South Africa today. Our focus should be the creation of work and the development of a middle class comfortable and affluent enough to pay tax and also for services. Let’s put the bowl away, realise that colonialism is actually perpetuated as long as we keep reaching or grasping for free gifts. Our government needs to realise that there is no such thing as a free lunch and if you take the twenty pieces of silver you will be selling your soul and repaying in kind for years.
A nation or person that stands nobly on their own feet and proudly utilises their resources carefully to create their own future becomes respected. Such a character accepts assistance on their own terms and accepts the consequence and obligation to repay. Those with a built in sense of entitlement, or self pity, are actually loathed and pitied and let’s face it anyone with an ounce of self respect would rather be hated than pitied.
On the other side of the coin there is also a strange trend amongst the donors. Charity and benevolence, the idea of giving and being a benefactor, is a calm, quiet and confidential position. When it is surrounded by noise from the donor it is rather “self publicity”, than self sacrifice. Beware the organisation that spends more on telling you how good they are, than they do on doing good.
Charity does begin at home and that is where the information on what you have done should stay.