If we reserve ethical conduct for those whom we feel close to, we may neglect our responsibilities toward those outside this circle. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
To me, it seems a bit self evident. If we only treat our friends nicely, we are not treating the rest of the people as well as we should. This is a form of tribalism, where those who are on the inside are taken care of, and the rest are ignored – or worse.
You don’t have to look too deep into human history to see tribalism, or it’s modern counterpart, nationalism. From WWII to Bosnia and many points in between, the “us vs them” rhetoric has reared it’s ugly head. To me, that is what this saying is about. If we only care about the “us” people, what happens to the rest of the people? The tendency will be to neglect them in order to focus on our own. And that is a troublesome path to be found on, isn’t it?
Why is humanitarianism important?
Starting with the definition from thefreedictionary.com, it says that humanitarianism is : “Concern for human welfare, especially as manifested through philanthropy.” and “The belief that the sole moral obligation of humankind is the improvement of human welfare.”
Note that neither of the definitions include anything that limits the people who should receive your help. Nothing about humanitarianism being just applied to your friends, tribe or nation. It’s for everyone.
What would life be like if you only applied humanitarianism to your friends and family? More importantly, what if you could only receive assistance from your friends and family? Doesn’t sound like that big a deal, until your town if flooded or twisters level your city. How about a big earthquake or a nuclear plant failing to keep all the nasty stuff contained? Would help from others be useful then?
For most of us, when we think of humanitarian aid, we think of helping folks in the third world. But it is also useful when disaster strikes. These tend to be times when the world does pull together, but wouldn’t it be better for all of humanity if we did these things every day?
Where can I apply this in my life?
It seems a little awkward starting locally, after spending so much time talking about thinking on a larger scale, but one must start somewhere. For the sake of this column, I will assume you can get to the American Red Cross site, or various other emergency service sites and send money. That is often the most helpful way to deal with some of the larger problems.
Starting locally can be one of the easier ways to get into the whole “helping others” routine. Find something you can get into, something that will keep you motivated. If your thing is helping to end hunger, and are starting locally, there are several outlets. Local food banks can use helpers in acquisitions (food drives, and pickup from donation points), sorting, boxing & delivery of the food to the people in need. Other groups provide pre-cooked or microwave ready meals to shut-ins, and will usually need help with the acquiring ingredients, cooking and preparing of the food, and the delivery of the food to the people.
That’s just two groups that help with food and hungry people. That doesn’t include shelters (which are always looking for more people to help, as well as more helpers, more food, preparing, cooking and serving food), co-ops or programs like second harvest and hungry kids. In case you hadn’t guessed food is a big thing to me.
There are other groups dedicated to helping people in almost all aspects of life. As usual, you can see ads for them on TV, see features about them on the local news, hear them on the radio or find them on the internet. Then you just need to call, write or e-mail and schedule some time to provide assistance.
Once you get some experience, you may want to try to find some other ways to help. These might include groups that cover wider geographic areas, including internationally. There are some groups working on teaching people the best practices for small farmers in pre-industrial societies. That’s another way to prevent starvation, by teaching them how to feed themselves.
Humanity is one of the most caring and giving creatures on Earth, but there is always room for more people to help. Please consider taking some time to help another. Thanks!
From: Twitter, @DalaiLama
confirmed at : it’s his own feed…