This post only scratches the surface of all of the topics mentioned. I just hope that it encourages everyone to be more mindful.
A couple of days ago, I was scrolling through Twitter, and I came across a few images of the items that Americans were donating to the earthquake survivors in Syria and Turkey. I have not stopped thinking about the sheer disrespect and disgust laced within these images. “Donating” used makeup, cotton swabs, and torn clothing to people, who are ultimately victims of Western consumerism, is beyond distasteful. This post is a reminder to not lose sight of our values despite the hoarding of material items to which we all succumb.
As with any issue that does not impact the West, many friends and fellow organizers have taken to social media to hold people accountable for ignoring disasters happening in the Middle East or other Eastern areas. As another tweet mentioned, the Notre Dame fire received a flood of monetary donations while humans are being buried under cement and rubble in Syria. People were willing to make noise about a building on fire in France, but a small, brown child crushed by an earthquake is meaningless. I do not think that anyone should be surprised by this sort of reaction at this point, but it is disheartening regardless. This horrific event is just another example of how desensitization is a scapegoat for apathy.
I am writing this post because the pictures of those donations angered me deeply. Fully grown, privileged adults in the West thought that placing their literal trash in a bag was an acceptable donation for earthquake victims. In their minds, used, crusty foundation and a pair of torn slippers is going to save lives, and they are probably going to report these valiant deeds on their tax returns. Passing one’s trash onto another does not, somehow, lead to less waste. I would hope that most people would know this, but here we are. I would rather see someone not donate anything at all than indulge in the selfish aspect of altruism.
While I have primarily highlighted this issue from a Westernized lens, I want to take this space to examine the issue from a capitalist, classist lens as well. In the United States itself, the issue of donating trash to those in need is glaring. I am sure that shelters and charities (and probably even places such as Goodwill) are insulted by half of the “items” that they receive, and I urge everyone to think twice about whether something is worthy of donating. If you would not wear it yourself due to holes and rips, why would you assume that someone else would want to do so? A coat without sleeves is not going to keep your unhoused neighbor warm.
tweets referenced in this post:
donate here (prioritize mutual aid groups whenever possible):
– SAS Harvard fundraiser
– Turkish Philanthropy Funds