Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Floods in Pakistan

The media over-reported the earthquake in Haiti. Within two weeks of hearing about it, I was sick of it. I still felt sympathy for all the people affected, but it was hard to care much at all. Nevertheless, many people donated to charities that pledged aid to Haiti. It was a wonderful show of benevolence on the part of those people. Why is there so little of that benevolence being shown today toward the victims of the floods in Pakistan?

According to an article from the Christian Science Monitor, "At the Zakat Foundation of America in Chicago, Executive Director Halil Demir says giving has been 'very slow,' with the charity not even raising 20 percent of what it raised to help Haitians." Also from that article: "MacSorely says 10 days after the earthquake hit Haiti, there were pledges equal to $495 for each person affected by the disaster. So far, he says there have been pledges of $3 for each person affected by the flooding."

The article posits several reasons there may be less giving, including corrupt government officials in Pakistan. But the Haitian government is a prime example of a corrupt government, yet everyone knows how much money was raised for the earthquake victims. Another possibility offered is geographical proximity - Haiti is close (to the U.S.) and Pakistan is not. Nevertheless, these people need our help. I do not understand why so many people became practically obsessed with helping Haiti, yet Pakistanis are being left to themselves.

I must admit, I have no money to give. I wish I had money, and I would donate to this cause (same situation as for Haiti, I am truly a poor college student). Why are there not benefit concerts being organized? Why has my college not e-mailed all the students about giving to a fund (as they did for Haiti)? Where did the giving spirit go? I understand many are strapped for cash, but I am sure the money situation was very similar 8 months ago. Are Haitians really so much more important than Pakistanis? (The answer is no.) I understand reluctance to give to the Pakistani government, but why not give to the Red Cross? To Unicef?

The article in the Christian Science Monitor focused on why Pakistani-Americans are reluctant to give, but the real question is why are Americans not giving like they did for Haiti? Has the urgency of the situation not been communicated fully enough? Maybe over-reporting of the Pakistani crisis would be a good thing. If the public reacted to it in a way similar to Haiti, it would be a wonderful thing! If only we had a Pakistani-born American pop star to organize a Pakistani-relief concert. Please, if you happen to read this, and you have money to spend on anything at all, donate some to UNICEF or the Red Cross or someone who will help the victims of the flood.

Yay Portugal

If only the United States were not currently dominated by politicians and lobbyists that treat politics like a game, then maybe we could adjust our drug policy to be effective. Portugal seems to have the right idea. Personally, I think a bit more extreme measures could be taken beyond decriminalization (make it all legal and tax the drugs like crazy). Nevertheless, a policy like Portugal's may be exactly what the U.S. needs, especially to determine how things would change with such a change in policy (in terms of numbers of drug users and drug related health issues).

As for paying for the treatment options for addicts, I doubt that there would be an issue. After all, with such a large portion of incarcerations being drug-related, the money saved on prosecution, prison and law enforcement could be transferred to paying for treatment. It could even be possible that we could CUT part of the budget. Then again, maybe not. Especially if we took the exact route Portugal took considering they still seem to track down drug users and have consultations with them very similar to court proceedings.

One thing is obvious, the current "war on drugs" policies are not working. They need to be changed. It seems Portugal has the right idea, so the U.S. should try taking a page from their book.