Cambodia,  Ponderings

The Rich, The Poor And The Confused

Playing candy crush in an air conditioned bus on a ferry, eating a chocolate croissant while two hungry children knock on the window pointing at our food is not a situation I expected to be in and I didn’t like it. I wondered who is more helpless, the one helping or the one being helped? Sure, I can give these girls my bread, that woman $5, this boy my shorts until I am naked with no money, begging myself. I won’t have ended their suffering and now there is one more beggar on the streets.

I find that giving money is a lazy way of helping, because it is impersonal and may not address the actual problem at all. It will more likely lead to corruption and exploitation of the less fortunate, for example Orphanages run like businesses to drain tourist dollars. Tourists flock to these countries for voluntourism, often not realising it is just a selfish feel-good exercise. Donating to an organisation is helping them, not the people in need as most of the money is spent elsewhere and a mere fraction goes to those in need. The organisation can only make money as long as the people in need remain in need.

The constant presence of poverty is depressing. As long as we help people they will depend on us helping and as long as there are people needing help there are opportunities for some to make money. Poverty becomes a corporation. The hope remains with the tiny minority of people that will actually take the time to educate those in need honestly, without personal gain, so they can prosper by themselves.

Buying some food for the hungry amputee makes you feel good, but you have only prolonged the suffering and reassured the beggar that help comes in form of a sandwich bought for him by an ignorant tourist. We cannot abolish poverty. We can’t all be the same. After giving it all so much thought I come to the same conclusion that many assume without thinking twice. Lets give him some money to temporarily relieve the suffering of another human being while making myself feel a little less guilty for being better off.


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