Sorry, got no change!

Posted: August 19, 2010 in Politics
Tags: , , , , ,

There’s a nice fellow standing outside my neighbourhood Tesco for the last few days asking for donations towards a relief fund for flood affected in Pakistan. Every time I go there, which is almost every other day, I’m faced with a dilemma whether to drop something in the box or not.

The guy is nice, smiles nicely and looks expectantly at me for a donation. I can understand his expectation, given my obvious South Asian looks, the probability of me being a Pakistani or at least a sympathiser is quite high. Unfortunately for him, I’m not – neither a Pakistani nor a sympathiser. So, I smile back (sometimes with a shrug, other times with sheepishly) and move past him.

Despite not being from that country or having any sympathies for them, the humanist1 in me still wants to donate. After all, despite all the discord between our two societies, it’s still simple human beings who’re suffering. Yet, I won’t. And the reason that I give myself for that is this: The people who’re suffering may be simple and peaceful, yet the intermediaries can’t be trusted to be so.

In fact, both the main sets of intermediaries – the Pakistani Army and the Islamic charities – are key actors in the long history of violence and antagonism towards our republic2. And neither of them has shown any change of heart whatsoever. Given this backdrop, the probability of any penny donated to them turning up as a bullet for an Indian soldier or a bomb in Delhi is non-zero. Actually, that probability would be closer to one than to zero.

Frankly, even if the money were guaranteed to be used only for humanitarian relief missions, my answer to the donation request would be No. The reasons are still on similar lines:
1. The final benefactors don’t know that the money has been donated by a foe, or even a neutral. To them the money reaches through an intermediary and, like it or not, they tend to come under the influence of the intermediary. Now, why would I want my money to help JuD expand their influence.
2. Every penny NOT donated but spent means a penny NOT available to buy bullets and fund bombers. Even if it’s the smallest of numbers, it’s still a number. And that number can, hypothetically, be saving a life. Or many. (Displacement/Substitution effect)

Hence, my answer is and will remain No. I may donate money to folks collecting to Russians suffering from wild fires or even to the Chinese suffering from incessant floods, and definitely to fellow countryfolk in Leh. But, if the money goes to Pakistan, No, I won’t help.

P.S.: I still support Indian government’s donation to Pakistan. The reason: unlike a small individual donation, such a well publicised donation has clear visibility. The common folk know that while their own president was launching his son’s political career in England, the country they’ve all been taught to hate helped them. And the small sum ($5m is a tiny sum in international aid circles), did get India lots of good publicity in international press too. This positive press, within Pakistan, and the West was surely more than those $5m could have ever bought otherwise.

1: I hate all the -isms & -ists, yet realise how frequently I use them. Any ideas on how to drop it.
2: It doesn’t matter which country I reside in, I am and will remain an Indian. Even if India herself renounces me.


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