I received a phone call the other day from a charitable organization seeking donations. They wanted one hundred of my hard earned dollars to help mitigate the current "food crisis" on the reservations in Arizona.
I'm afraid I wasn't very nice, but, if I were to explain some of my experiences with telemarketeers (spelling on purpose), you might be more forgiving of my immediate, knee-jerk kussen mein Arsch reaction.
I listened for a bit. Their plan was that I would donate $100, and they would take my hundred dollars to the store and buy non-perishable foods, which they would distribute using volunteers. It is, supposedly, a program that encourages self-sufficiency, because the recipients of the donations 'work' to distribute them to others.
I was left wondering, where is the self-sufficiency part?
So, I asked, "Do they have arable land in Arizona?"
He said that they do.
Then, I asked, "Do you know how much a packet of seeds costs?"
I didn't hear his answer, because I didn't care to know if he knew how much a packet of seeds costs. I was kind of being facetious.
So, I asked him who he represented again, and then told him that I would not donate at this time, but that I would like to do some research on his organization, and invited him to call me again some other time.
And I did do some research.
I found that they don't score very high with the AIP, and there was a lot of negative press about the entire group (this was one of the larger group's subsidiary programs), but most of it was several years old, and it's likely that they've cleaned up their act.
I guess being only one generation removed from extreme poverty (heard the stories, but didn't live the life), I have a problem with organizations like this - in general. I understand that the US government and Anglo settlers were unkind (I know - understatement of the year!) to the native populations. I mean, imagine if somebody just came up the beach and told you to get out. I wouldn't be terribly happy, and I would, very likely, not just up and walk away, either. The natives have reason to be ired, and they deserve more than just the land that has been allotted to them. They certainly deserve more than a paltry $100 from someone like me.
I get that, and if there were anything I could really do to help ease their suffering, I would be more than happy to do so, but I don't think my hundred dollars worth of canned food is really going to make a difference in the bigger picture.
It's like the whole stocking up for TEOTWAWKI thing. Yes, we should have some food stored, BUT at some point, we'll have to find a way to produce our own. At some point, the supply lines are going to run dry, and there won't be the option of the grocery store. At most, people will have stored a years' worth of food.
And, then, what?
What's the plan for replenishing in the absence of an oil-soaked food chain? I mean, we need to eat every day for our entire lives, right? If the grocery store (or my $100 canned goods donation) is the only place we know of where we can get food, and there is no grocery store ... what?
What do we do?
Yes, in the short-term, if people are starving, we should give them food to eat, but that's not the long-term solution. There has to be the teaching-how-to-fish part of the equation, too.
I couldn't find anything about how this (or any other) organization was working with the native populations on the reservations to learn to feed themselves once my $100 ran out.
Rather than answer my questions, much of the information I found just begged more questions.
In one video I watched, they showed a man who was living in, essentially, a one-room building without electricity or running water. He walked several miles each day to a neighboring town where he did odd jobs, and earned about $20 per day. I assume he fed himself with this money.
What I took away from the video was not how horrible this fellow had it, but rather the tragedy that his ancestor's knowledge of self-sufficiency has been completely lost to the point that he feels like he needs "modern" accouterments to live a good life. That he feels his quality-of-life is substandard because he doesn't have money. That the most proud and self-sufficient people on the North American continent have been so changed that they can no longer speak to the Earth that once nourished and sustained them ... without the help of Green Giant whole kernel canned corn.
And worse, that we "do-gooders" feel like we know what's best for them (and have thought so for hundreds of years). *We* think they need canned food (there is an extremely high incidence of diabetes among the natives living on reservations. Reckon the Hopi suffered from diabetes in the 1830s?), because they're starving. *We* think they need suburban-esque, vinyl-sided houses with electricity and indoor plumbing (heck, *we* think *we* need those things).
It made me sad, and it reminded of my own ancestor's experiences with the do-gooder US government programs.
The book Stinking Creek is a look at what happened in a very poor, very rural, very isolated part of the Kentucky appalachian region following Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty, and how much more terrible life has been for the people of that region since they've been turned into Welfare County.
I know this region. This is where my grandmother grew up. The region is where much of my family still lives, and like the natives on reservations, my kin (many of whom are some degree of "native") were stripped of their dignity and plagued with government assistance programs that took away their pride and self-sufficient, subsistence living, and forced them into a life-time of dependency and impoverishment - because there will never be enough money or adequate government programs to replace what the people in that area of the world once had.
I know all of this is very easy for me to say from my comfortable, suburban home with fully-stocked pantry and a pot of beans simmering on the electric stove while I type on this computer, and my girls wash their hands in the bathroom with hot, soapy water, but I also know that we have done (and continue to do) these people a great disservice, and I won't perpetuate the myth that we are doing "good" with our charitable donations.
I also know that if someone were to give me an allotment of raw land, where I could live completely for free (no taxes, no mortgage) that I would find a way to make that land support me and my family. I probably wouldn't have a computer anymore, and I may not have indoor hot and cold running water, and life would be incredibly labor-intensive, and often very difficult, and we'd probably be hungry a lot when things weren't growing, but I would be able to take a certain pride in my independence, because, really, for me, the best part of life is having the freedom to make my own choices.
In the end, I won't be giving any money to that organization, because, like all of the public programs available, it will be money wasted trying to force an unsustainable lifestyle on these once proud people who lived just fine, thank you very much, before the US government mucked things up with their do-gooder programs.