Teaching a nation to fish

Published 10:32 pm Monday, January 27, 2014

Ebenezer UMC in Eclipse will host a Stop Hunger Now effort on Saturday to package thousands of meals that will be sent to other nations where food is needed.

Allow me to preface my thoughts on the event by saying this: I do not mean to suggest I do not support this effort. I hope many people volunteer that day to help in this important event. I am a longtime member of Ebenezer, I was chair of the church council for six years, and our personal financial support helps pay the mortgage on the Family Life Center, plus the heating and power bills.

I’m not against the effort. But, like many such efforts, I believe it is incomplete. I do not suggest that we should stop supporting the Stop Hunger Now event; it is about what else we should do.

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Why do we have such an abundance of wealth to share, including food, but in other nations people are starving, even when there is great wealth in their nations?

Part of the answer is that the governments and economies of nearly all other nations are structured so wealth flows to a few controlling families. As long as these families can control the government, economy and military, they don’t care about what happens to the rest of the people.

These nations have a government “by the few for the few.” They are not governments “by the people and for the people.”

Consider the situation in Syria today. A great deal of Syrian wealth comes from the sale of crude oil to Europe. Some additional wealth comes from the sale of agricultural products. But the economy, like the government, is tightly controlled by the ruling families, who live in luxury while 30 percent of the people live in poverty. There is also a high rate of unemployment and under-employment.

In Syria, there are a few rich people, but many very poor people.

Today there is an ongoing civil war in Syria. But the civil war is not about “the people” overthrowing the ruling families. The war is about which group of families will be the controlling families that benefit from the national wealth.

“The people” are caught in the middle of the war. Thousands have been killed, and millions have become refugees, fleeing their homes often to other nations. When the war is over and one group of families has won, they will not care about the well being of “the people” who had no vested interest in the fight.

“The people” will remain poor and disenfranchised just as they were when the war started.

Preparing food to Stop Hunger Now in Syria and other places where similar conditions exist is a good thing to do. But we should also focus our studies and efforts to encourage these nations to structure their governments and economies to be more like ours, so they will no longer need our help.

This is much the same as the old saying, “Feed a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.”

Joseph L. Bass, Ed.D. is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at ABetterSociety1@aol.com.