Friday, March 17, 2006

Selective do-goodism, a wiser policy

In many societies there have been social and racial divisions that have existed for centuries, if not for millennia. People have learned to live with them and even benefit from them. By appearing in those countries and trying to be a do-gooder, you may violate the fragile social harmony of those countries and upset many people in the process. It may even cost you your safety. The wise expat learns to heed his instincts and acts delicately without becoming a bigot himself in the process.

In some places, there is a very distinct social structure with the poor performing a certain role, the middle class being a certain way, and the rich being and acting in a certain mode, too. If you appear there and try and change those roles, you may bring upon yourself more trouble than you had bargained for. If you start acting like the savior of poor classes, you will often be taken advantage of. The many poor will simply see you as a sucker and a cash cow and try and exploit your kindness. They will be coming to borrow money from you and then refuse to repay it; they will mock you behind your back as a fool that you are to trust the poor and still harbor scorn towards you deep in their hearts because you are not one of them. Also, the local rich may not like the fact that you are in their country making them look bad, and, in some cases, may even dispatch a professional specializing in threatening people. The middle class people will also scorn you because you are sallying yourself by having contact with the lower classes. Soon you may find yourself quite lonely except for an occasional visit by another poor person to hit you yet for another loan that will, most probably, never be repaid.

Your ideas of equality and helping people may not get the welcome that you thought they would.

If you really want to help, do so discreetly and selectively. Contributing to established local charities could be a good way to do it. Also, setting up a business would be another good way. However, becoming a lone benefactor in foreign land may earn you more headaches that you thought.

In other places there are established racial groups; each one with a role and attitude towards another which has, over many centuries, developed into an uneasy, but steady balance. By coming into their societies and trying to liberate
“oppressed races” may backfire on you from both sides. At best, you will be frustrated; at worst you may turn into a bigot yourself even if, initially, you were not one at all. You do not fully understand what is going on and why races there act the way they do. They have a reason to be a certain way and many have grown very comfortable with their place in society. It would be unwise to disturb the delicate equilibrium that exists there, and if you do, all kinds of hellish effects may break loose a lot of which may fall onto your head.

A lot of racism or classism is ,basically, “culturism” that states that some ethnic/social groups are good for certain professions and certain roles in society and it may not be your place to challenge how things are in that country. A certain ecological system has developed there and you should not try to disturb it. Again, if you want to help, do so as discreetly as possible, teach people self-reliance, and, in the process, watch yourself – otherwise, you may end up in a heap of trouble.

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