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Damien Lane: Poor need a fairer world.

Byline: Damien Lane

IT is easy to give money as a way of appeasing a guilty conscience, pricked by death, despair and unknowable destruction.

But it is much more difficult to change for ever the way we live so that the world can become a fairer and better place.

For that is the challenge that lies ahead of us all as we stare heart-sunk into the debris of modern humanity's worst natural disaster.

Cash is expendable, ephemeral, dirty. Spending it makes us happy.

Giving it away for a good cause gladdens us - but the warmth we feel is only fleeting.

We Irish are great at giving cash to charity when it is urgently required.

It is a national trait of which we should be rightly proud. Hold your head high, sons and daughters of Eireann.

In the 12 days since the wave washed away 160,000 lives and left a trail of biblical-type destruction in its wake, we have donated EUR15million.

That money will go some way towards providing the aid necessary to save lives in the disaster zone.

But it is not enough. Money on its own is simply not enough. All the money in the world is not enough.

There is much more needed besides. We need a change of heart.

We need to realise we treat the Third World with disdain and contempt.

We need a fresh politics, an end to corruption.This tragedy occurred in the Third World.

The majority of the victims were poor and the poor always bear the brunt of catastrophe, natural or otherwise.

Unfortunately, the compassion, care and concern we are currently showing for the tsunami victims won't last.

When the images fade from our TVs, when the newspapers turn their attention to another story, we will slap ourselves on the back for having given money and done our bit and then we will turn away and we will forget.

This is the greatest fear, not just of the millions struggling to survive in the debris of destruction left by the cruel sea, it is top of the Aid Agencies' fear list.

Most people will simply forget. Some may even forget how much they gave.

It will simply be a philanthropic flash in the pan.

Our money will provide the bandages, the ointments, the water, the shelters, but it won't change the lives of the world's poorest for the better - because altruism doesn't do that.

We have created a world so unequal, the world's richest, the top 10 per cent consume rabidly, the other 90 per cent stare open-jawed with hunger and despair for a crumb of the mountain of wealth we have.

This is what we have become - beasts, who expect the respect of the poor for digging deep inside our stinkingly deep, deep pockets.

We have given them money. But it is not money they want.

They want us to make them our equal.

If that were to happen, it would be a joyous, momentous time in the history of mankind. It needs to happen.

We are the only ones capable of eliminating poverty. It is our collective duty. By all means - give your cash to the needy.

But open your minds to how sick capitalism has become.

In the wake of this tragedy we must all resolve to stop our gluttonous consumerism.

We must make the world a better, more equitable place for all mankind. These are the lessons of the cruel sea.

CAPTION(S):

DESPAIR: The tsunami has left many people homeless and thousands of children orphaned
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 7, 2005
Words:589
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