Doesn’t it strike you as strange that Britney Spears can still make the news headlines day after day after day, and yet we struggle to draw people’s attention to the need for financial and practical contributions toward helping genuinely needy people discover a path out of their poverty?
It seems that “Britney Spears” is among Technorati’s Top 10 Tags every day when I view the list! Come on!! Surely we can’t STILL be that fascinated? Aren’t there even 10 other things more important in our lives than Britney Spears?
I mean, sure, Britney needs people to take an interest in her and help her through the emotional/mental crisis she’s in, but those people are the handful of family, friends, and appointed professionals who are close to her – not the rest of the world gawking.
But my real point is – why, when we try to bring home to people the urgent need for compassion and assistance toward the most disadvantaged in this world, do we struggle to raise even a few dollars or get a few clicks through the web sites? Why do people not go searching for ways to help? Why are people not reading up on these predicaments and educating themselves about what can be done?
I guess my questions above are largely rhetorical – in one sense I feel like I already know the answers… but I wish everybody would prove me wrong. I believe the answer is: because we don’t want to face the realities. Most people find their own life tough enough, they don’t want to invest the emotional energy, time and money into what feels like an impossible and incredibly daunting task. I don’t berate people for feeling this way, and I’m sure in 99% of cases it’s a sub-conscious tendency rather than an intentional avoidance.
But how then are we to help the 2 billion people living in extreme poverty on this planet? How are we going to stir up in the hearts of those with the means, the desire to assist those who don’t have the means?
I believe one of the big challenges we face is that of how to alert people in a meaningful, thought-provoking, and inspirational manner about the potential for them to have a huge impact in the lives of the poor, and to do it in such a way that people don’t just tune out to a continuous stream of pitiful images. If the realities of poverty were headline news every day of the week as Britney Spears is, I imagine people would rapidly become ‘immune’ to the message.
The only way that the message can become ‘epidemic’ and spread perpetually throughout the entire developed world, is for people to have some form of encounter with it, and be shown opportunities for them to make a meaningful contribution, the contentment arising from which will spur them on toward further involvement and participation. Put in the simplest possible bullet-point form:
(1) People need to be emotionally engaged in the needs of others, and
(2) experience the satisfaction that comes from some form of achievement in assisting others
These two factors will foster commitment and involvement which is long term and will in term rub off on others around. This is one reason why short-term ‘mission trips’ and visits to affected areas are so valuable – because they help participants to change the way they perceive poverty, and really become emotionally engaged.
I don’t yet know how I can best utilise the above theory to greatest effect, but one of my earliest visions was to be able to communicate the realities of poverty in the Philippines back to developed countries like Australia and USA by photographing and writing up the personal stories of individuals who have lived in that situation and been helped by effectived programs for poverty relief. I still dream of being able to do this regularly (some of my earliest photos are at www.flickr.com/photos/philipbrookes/collections/72157600037843194/).
I’m also working on a project which should launch within the next couple of months, to establish a significant business in Philippines for the purpose of training, employment, and economic benefits to the community through exports.
For me personally, this involvement is the greatest example of the above principle – nurturing and growing my passion constantly to help the Filipino people. For others, I hope my words of encouragement and example might help to inspire something similiar.