Night after night, I see on the news horror stories about immigrants seeking to leave Nigeria, Eritrea, Somalia, Chad, Niger, all over Africa, wanting to come to Europe. They are willing — eager, so eager they will pay for it — to take dangerous old boats across the Mediterranean in hopes of reaching Italy. There, they hope to have a more materially sufficient life.
Who can blame them? They live in miserable conditions in Africa. Their nations are underdeveloped, socialist, buccaneering and corrupt. Their chances of a plentiful life are slim. Whatever their countries are doing, it’s not working. The African refugees are the rough equivalent of the sad but highly motivated men and women and children of Central America who risk death trying to enter the USA illegally.
They are the same in some ways as the heart-rending immigrants from Syria and from Myanmar.
It seems as if the whole Third World wants to move to the first world, laws or no laws, risks of death included in the bargain, horrifying conditions of detention in places of departure, like Libya. The world has seen what life is life in Rome or Dallas or Singapore and it wants in from its huts and destitution. Anyone with a smart phone can see the plenty of Beverly Hills from the most miserable slums in Lagos. It’s painful.
Meanwhile, we here in America are obsessed with weight gain and sex change. In most of the places I see, which are not necessarily representative, the problems are about too much. Not too little.
What is to be done? Frankly, I don’t know. There are roughly 1.2 billion people in Africa. That is close to twice the entire population of Europe. Obviously, Europe cannot simply take in any large part of Africa. The population of Central America, including Mexico, is about 250 million. Obviously, we cannot take them all in here. Besides, the people of Italy and the people of Texas and Arizona have some say in all of this.
But even in the wildly corrupt Third World, some shreds of what charity is given by us fat first-worlders will find its way to these pitiful people. There must be multitudes of do-gooders at NGOs and in merciful governments like our own who can set up the mechanisms.
For people like me — overfed people in an overfed part of the world — it’s simply unconscionable and unbearable to watch the suffering of these heart-rending people and do nothing. Even if they have to stay in refugee camps while their fates are decided, money can make those places more livable and can bring them more food and more doctors and nurses. I, my own self, write a lot of checks every month to charities for Third World children. I can easily write more. Better than spending it on sushi.
As I say, I don’t know the long-term solution to this problem and there probably isn’t one.
But charity can be a start, and conscience demands that we give until it hurts.
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