Pakistan in floods of tears

August 17th, 2010


Before the floods, what images came to mind when you thought of Pakistan?

None of us is immune to prejudice. Our views are often coloured by the sensationalist broad-strokes that the mainstream media tend to make. I am not immune to unconscious prejudice, even though my own prejudices offend me when I drag them out into the light.

I have noticed, particularly on Facebook, a deafening silence when it came to collecting donations to aid Pakistan, compared to the calls that were made for Haiti. Why is nobody (or so it seems) interested in helping Pakistan?

Perhaps the answer lies in why I was slow to make a donation, and slow I was, compared to how quickly I responded to Haiti’s need. I asked myself why and these were the uncomfortable answers I got:

  • Pakistan chooses to maintain a nuclear arsenal, so why the hell do they need my money to help their own people? – Discomfort scale: 3/10
  • Pakistan’s need seemed less because of the relatively few numbers killed in the initial flooding (compared with an earthquake) – Discomfort scale: 5/10
  • Pakistanis: aren’t they the ones who send their sisters and daughters back to the “old country” on a family holiday, only to force them into marriage and virtual imprisonment? – Discomfort scale: 8/10
  • Pakistanis: aren’t they the ones who train people to commit acts of terrorism in Britain (my former home)? – Discomfort scale 9/10
  • Pakistanis… aren’t they the ones who murder their sisters and daughters for daring to choose their own boyfriends? – Discomfort scale 10/10

Notice that the more unreasonable and ignorant the stereotype, the more uncomfortable I was with the fact that part of me was thinking that way.

My first bullet point might be considered a valid and reasonable point, but the fact remains that millions of ordinary people in Pakistan desperately need help. I believe that charity begins at home, but I also believe that the whole world is our home and that someone else’s problem on the other side of the world is not just their problem.

I also believe that it is better to teach someone to fish, but there are times when someone is starving right now and needs a fish right now.

While my unconscious prejudices did not long survive the glare of conscious scrutiny, I am ashamed I had them at all, and that they delayed my helping the people of Pakistan, and I apologise to the friends I have who are of Pakistani origin.

I have made a donation to the International Red Cross.

These people need our help.

2 Responses to “Pakistan in floods of tears”

  1. wychwoodon 08 Sep 2010 at

    Unfortunately, Pakistan itself is pretty choosy over who it decides to receive aid from:

    and to whom it gives the aid it gets:
    (Pakistani Christians face aid discrimination).
    Word is, unless you convert to Islam, no aid for you!

    From what I’ve read on the Net, there are plenty of people who have gone through the same thought to donation process as you. It’s a personal thing to decide what to give.

  2. Declan Chellaron 08 Sep 2010 at

    Yes, I saw that and it is disgraceful!

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