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Not meant to be beggars

BABIES are totally dependent on their parents, for food, shelter, protection. But this state of affairs is not meant to last.

BABIES are totally dependent on their parents, for food, shelter, protection.  But this state of affairs is not meant to last. Report by Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

There is a dynamic force in the little chap driving him or her towards independence. No baby wants to remain a baby.

The little one may appear to be happy enough at his mother’s breast or in his father’s arms, but soon he will crawl, walk wobbly at her mother’s hand, run around on her own. Eventually parents have to release their little darling when he or she is leaving  the house, once full of noise and laughter, now eerily quiet and empty.

But some people miss the bus. They do not grow up. They remain dependent on the  family, on benefactors, on the church, charities, trauma centres in aid of all kinds of “victims”.

Compassionate people try to “put them back on their feet”, thinking it is only a passing phase, with a few dollars and some good advice, a letter of recommendation, a couple of phone calls to influential friends all will be well again. I tried to help some needy people like that thirty years ago.

They are still not “on their own feet”.

They still come and tell their stories of woe. “You are my father, you must help me.” Infantilism we may call this disease which makes people unfit for life. Charitable “hand-outs” do them no good, it is not the correct medicine at all. They merely deal with symptoms while perpetuating the root cause.

In the meantime you hope you can jumpstart them  like a car, put some petrol in the tank, and off they go. You never see them again. Wonderful. If only it were true for all of them.

NGOs  speak about the “dependency syndrome”. But do they really want all dependency to go away  and make themselves superfluous? That certainly should be the aim of all of us who are trying to better the lives of our fellow citizens.  Do we really turn the ignition and make people move on their own, or do they shudder to a halt once the fuel is burnt up?

This is  the question observers of the “development industry” and inter-government development aid  are beginning to ask more and more often.

A few years ago idealistic youngsters in London, Paris or Berlin went onto the streets  to protest against debt repayment, demanding debt forgiveness right across the board. In the case of some severely disadvantaged countries they had a point.

Elsewhere debt cancellation only rewarded the lazybones, giving them the idea that government debts and even private loans between individuals  need not be repaid, something most people believe anyway. The argument for debt cancellation was that it would pay for universal primary education or  badly needed vaccination campaigns against childhood killer diseases.

Sounds excellent, but the fact is it often goes into the wrong corrupt channels and makes the fatcats only fatter while those children remain without education and vital health care as before. Some religious people, too,  develop a “dependency syndrome” even in their spiritual lives.

They complain to their Divine Master that “the health system needs a huge cash injection, education, the roads . . .” Indeed, they do. Only too true. But why bother Him, the source and origin of all our blessings?

Has He not given us a rich country, fertile fields, rivers, trees, and plants, wild life, cattle, goats and sheep, horses and donkeys, and huge resources of energy in the sky (solar power)  and below the ground? What are we doing with all these enormous treasures? Why is there still all this poverty and misery, unemployment, disease and hunger?

What did we do with this lavish gift of diamonds and gold, platinum and countless minerals? Why do just a few run away with those diamonds and get indecently rich while the majority see no change in their lives? Have we never heard of the common good, of sharing those blessings with everyone,  which must be the aim and objective of any sound government?

“I do not see anything wrong with some divine intervention,” a writer recently declared. This is like begging and begging and begging without end, without ever growing up. People want to be carried on their mothers’ backs until they are grey or even bald. Never want to use their own feet and hands and put all those blessings to good use for their brothers and sisters.

And  I have not even mentioned the greatest gift of all: our human mind, unique in all creation, our intelligence, our power to remember and store knowledge, and more importantly still the sense of responsibility and morality, our ability to make free and independent ethical decisions for the common good, for the lives of our fellow citizens, great and small, which the Divine Master has given us and continues to give us provided there are parents and teachers to develop them in our children. Our country has the resources to feed us all.

The manpower is there – why do we not use it? Why are so many workers without work? Why do our young men waste their youth and  their energy doing nothing, loitering at street corners in utter frustration ?

In this bleak picture there is one bright light though:  if the majority is not perishing altogether it is because of womanpower :  our mothers use the moral power which the “divine interventionist” gives them in answer to their prayers and put sadza on the table, anyhow.

The divine healer has given us the intelligence and ingenuity to defeat so many formerly fatal diseases. Why do people still die of them? Is it not because we lack the will as leaders to cure and heal, to go to the very fringes of our society, to the frontiers where nobody else will set foot and share our medical skills with the “least of our brethren”? When you cry for healing to your Creator, do not forget that He heals, not through power from heaven, but through  the human hands of inspired and dedicated doctors and nurses. Do we put the right working instruments into their hands?

Do not cry for “huge cash injections” to fall into our laps. That will only increase greed and corruption. Ask for your own transformation. For the power, for instance, to turn “blood diamonds”  into a source of health for the wretched, the wealth of a few into a blessing for the many.