So this year I didn´t do or go to a Stand Against Poverty event. I had been berating myself for my inaction, I had wondered about whether I could somehow bring it into our gig last Friday 16th October, which was actually a Švyturys (Lithuanian Beer) promotion night. But realised that it would probably be a gesture as hollow as the barrels at the end of the night. I can´t escape the fact, for me it´s got to have some meaning. With further thought I let myself off the guilt trip as last year I helped provoke two events: the Darwin´s Nightmare screening in the streets of the Raval and the Freud Quiere Bailar gig at Comafosca. (Thereby inadvertently playing with the Guinness Record Book statistics in the process...) Here´s the vid:
All this thinking (if not standing) did lead me to reflect on those little things I´ve done over the last year that I hope might have done something for the cause: volunteering as an interpreter for Medecins Sans Frontieres (really intense, really difficult!), making Kiva microcredits (great karma - your money comes back and you put back the same $25 into circulation, doubling the benefits!), upping my membership subscription to MSF, spreading the word about Kiva by setting up group lending teams for Kroonos (members have now lent $1,200!) and Avaaz... Small actions but big results!
Which should be rewarded success, failure or inaction?
I´m reading Weird Ideas That Work about fostering corporate creativity and innovation and one of the ideas is that inaction should be punished; success and failure rewarded - after all, the benefit of failure is you can learn from it, and hell! at least you tried, took a risk, stopped playing it safe.
Giving is rewarding, maybe that´s also considered a selfish motive, but so what! Altruism is not a common word in today´s thinking. I think it can be easy to turn our back on other distant people´s suffering, hearing about nasty things can make us feel really uncomfortable, saddened and hopeless - but ignoring them doesn´t make it go away either. (And don´t worry, I´m the first - I can´t watch the news, but I like to think that´s a slightly different story.) I think the MSF are really positive in how they present their campaigns, and although NGOs get a lot of stick nowadays, at least they´re doing something - the aim should be not to stop doing things, but to learn how to do things better! Films like Hotel Rwanda and The Constant Gardener do credit to the film-makers in the way they can deal with emotionally impossible subjects in a swallowable form, but there is still an important place for hard documentary like Darwin´s Nightmare or Channel Four´s Dispatches How to get ahead in Africa - we mustn´t completely lose touch with reality.
Anyhow, the good news is 173 million people stood up against poverty last weekend, breaking last year´s record of 116m! But what´s most interesting should be the follow up - what happens between now and this time next year, how do we keep the pressure on for the Millennium Goals and what little things can we do to make a difference?