I was watching a television special the other night about Argentina, the fiscal mismanagement of many years by its governments, and how it affects the population there. Actually, the program didn't really dwell that much on the role that government played in the successive financial disasters that beset the Argentinian economy, but it is ultimately to blame. If I recall from past reading, Argentina had a 7th place standing in the economies of the world at the turn of the last century, and it is now a disaster area. It's getting better, but its citizens, rich and poor, have paid a very heavy price.
The program showed families squatting in abandoned buildings and thousands of protesters and picketers on the streets. Formerly well-to-do families had trouble making ends meet. Jobs disappeared. Real estate values plummeted. The currency was devalued. To be sure, the program was filmed several years ago, when situations were worse than today, but I thought to myself how lucky most of us are here in North America. Not all of us, but most of us. Even here, in the land-o-plenty, we have disadvantaged people. A whole industry exists to 'help' the disadvantaged. There are government programs galore, charities aplenty, committees by the hundreds or thousands, and bloggers by the tens of thousands, all focused on righting societal wrongs and on helping those who can't help themselves.
I am ambivalent about a lot of this. There is no good reason, not a single reason, why people have to be poor, either here or anywhere else in the world. Economic policies, political ideology, and corrupt leadership all serve to keep people 'down.' Where there is enough freedom for individuals to thrive financially, if they want to, most people do well enough to be able to live comfortable lives, raise their families, and even have some fun in the process. Some people, though, simply do not want to do what it takes not to be poor. It's too much work, too much responsibility. I have no pity for them. There are, however, the others who truly deserve our help and attention, due to illness or accident, and those are the people I am most interested in helping. I know mine is not a popular view: the prevailing outlook appears to be that every individual is a helpless pawn in the game of life and that he or she can't help what they become. That's nonsense. Some needy individuals might fit into that view, but not many. For most of us, every action we take and every step we make, lead us to where we ultimately end up in life.
Let's dwell on this for a moment. Most of us have a kid or two or more. What happens if we don't teach them to be financially responsible, and simply give them money whenever they ask for it? We do it because we love them, right? We want them to have a better life than we ourselves had growing up. In the process, they learn nothing about the realities of life, and when the time comes for them to take care of themselves, they have no clue how to do so. They make poor choices, spend money quicker than they earn it, and they get into financial trouble. Suddenly, they need help from others. Is it up to you to support my kid, if I screw up and turn him into a lazy and unproductive sponge? No, it isn't. And it's not up to me to support your kid(s) either, if they are physically and mentally able to take care of themselves. I am always prepared to give a 'hand up' but am not inclined to give a 'handout.' People who have no incentive to work, who have never been instilled with a work ethic and a sense of personal responsibility, will take whatever is meted out to them via various programs, then spend much of their time and energy griping and little or no time or energy trying to change their lives. It's sad, but true. Yell at me all you will, make as many nasty comments as you wish about how heartless and cruel and clued out I am; it won't alter the fact that I am right.
But, let's be fair. I am of course referring to times when jobs are available, even McJobs at minimum wage. These entry-level jobs serve a useful purpose in that workers get experience that will help them get better paying jobs in the future. I had a number of minimum wage jobs, way back when I was a young man. I didn't like them much, especially the fact that I never had any money left over after paying my bills. I used the experience to leverage myself into better paying positions and eventually into going into business for myself.
There are times, though, when enough jobs simply aren't available. There are times when things happen in our lives that keeps us from working to support ourselves and our families. It is at those times that people need, and deserve, help from the rest of us.
And that, finally, brings me to the thrust of this post. The 'Walk the Talk' website that we are building and that I have mentioned in previous posts, is an enterprise that will enable everyone who has talked about, written about, and sat on committees about the sad state affairs of the disadvantaged, the homeless, the addicts, the battered, and everyone else who needs our help, to do something constructive. That's what Walk the Talk is all about: putting our money (or our time and energy) where our mouthes are.
To be really useful, and to differentiate ourselves from sites that simply offer lists of services, we want to do more than simply match needy people up with organizations that might be able to help them. In order to truly help people, we have to teach them to want to help themselves, that if they take an interest in creating a a better life with more security and promise, they can do so. What they need to know is that it is possible, with a little sacrifice and application. What I would like to see on the Walk the Talk website, eventually, is a growing collection of life stories, where those who faced adversity and won, can write about their experience and motivate others to do the same.
Remember: if you want to be part of the process of helping out, of walking the talk, first sign up to our Yahoo Group. Then go to our Walk the Talk website and register there. Join in the discussions. Offer suggestions. Volunteer to do research or data entry. Help promote this effort. Write about it. Generate interest in it. If we all do something, this will succeed.
I can say with almost dead certainty that not all of us will agree on the best policies of governments and charities to follow in helping those in need. We will have philosophical and practical differences. You will blame Tom, I will blame Dick, and the guy over there will blame Harry. It doesn't matter, really. For the purposes of this project, we are all hitched to the same harness. We want to help those who genuinely need it, somehow. That is what matters.
So, let's help.