Wednesday 18 September 2019

Looking too hard at the big picture

I am a long-time admirer of Kevin Myers as a writer, but am deeply upset by his article 'Africa is giving nothing to anyone apart from AIDS' (Irish Independent, July 10).

In the 40 years since Concern Worldwide was founded to help fight famine in Biafra, the organisation has fought famine and hunger in several of the poorest countries in the world. Today, Concern is among those fighting a worsening hunger situation in our ill-divided world of plenty.

Tragically, in some of the now independent poor countries, people who were once exploited to satisfy the greed and thirst for power of colonial masters are now exploited to satisfy the greed and thirst for power of some of their own people. And ex-colonising countries and others which never colonised, are today contributing to the continuing poverty in developing countries -- but not doing so by giving aid!

Looking too fixedly at the big picture can drive one to the distorted thinking expressed in Mr Myers' article. Mr Myers should continue to look at the wide-eyed gaze of the starving, as he did for so many years, and continue to respond as he did with the outstretched hand of friendship and caring, rather than advocate a "hands-off, let-them die to prevent greater misery" approach.

I am writing from Concern's office in Chicago. I am here after spending a week visiting Concern's projects in Haiti, an obscenely poor country. While in Port-au-Prince, I walked in slums and visited, among other projects, an inspiring clinic addressing the AIDS problem in a very poor area.

While deploring the big picture, we should turn to the individual child or adult suffering in poverty and helplessness. Each one of us can and should help those in need in some way. Over the years, Concern's supporters have been hugely generous in doing so -- not motivated by self-serving generosity, but by genuine caring.

I conclude by saying that I can only hope that Mr Myers' scandalous statements were intended to provoke greater caring rather than a "let them perish stance!"

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