Charity Begins at Home.

As I mention in the previous blog, this is something I hear quite often.

By the way, I agree, absolutely, one-hundred percent with the statement  “Charity should begin at home.”

I am horrified and ashamed that in the UK in year 2014 there are people sleeping in the streets, and that some families are dependent on food banks to feed themselves.

And I understand that during these times of austerity why some people in the UK may feel this way, and I agree, family must and always should come first.

However I do have just two small points to clarify on our agreement of this opinion.

Firstly

Why should overseas aid be reduced to support the needs of the poor of the UK? Why can’t we continue overseas aid and reduce poverty in the UK at the same time?

After all, the annual spend on overseas development is currently only around £11.2 billion, (0.7% of GNI) isn’t there another way to increase the amount spent on poverty reduction in the UK without reducing this? Perhaps there are other areas of government spending that could be considered as less important?

How about war as a fine example?

The Afghanistan War is conservatively estimated to have cost something in the region of £37 billion so far. Would you consider that money well spent?

Or what about the interest the government pays on the national debt? That works out at about £43 billion each year. Though who this is paid to is slightly confusing and not really clear, it might, or might not be the Bank of England. Which kind of doesn’t seem to work, but anyway it seems a bit of a waste of money.

What about the £125 billion that has been spent by the UK to rescue the banks over the last few years. Would you not say that aid to save the lives of millions living in abject poverty around the world was a better use of public money than rewarding the banks for doing such a thoroughly bad job? Although I agree something had to be done, it does seem an awful lot of money.

Or how about looking at things from a different angle? What about the money the UK should be getting, but for one reason or another isn’t? For example tax avoidance by the big companies. Current estimates on the amount of taxation income lost through non-payment and tax avoidance suggest it was around the £35 billion mark last year. Every little helps!

And let’s not even go down the route of considering the lengths people (and by people, I mean really rich people) go to, to avoid paying inheritance tax.

So if your complaint about the money spent on overseas aid is solely based on reasons of finance – and that you agree the money that UK tax payers contribute to government could be better spent – then I hope you’ll agree that there is a great deal of money being spent that needn’t be, (and these are only a few examples of where I think money is wasted) and a huge amount of revenue not being collected from places it should be collected from.

So perhaps the problem doesn’t necessarily lie in the amount of overseas aid being spent, but in the poor management of the public purse by the British government?

Which leads me to my second point.

And bearing in mind I realise that you personally may not wish to donate any money towards charity, as your family circumstances may prevent this, and you are as you say “already giving enough in taxes”. In fact a British tax payer earning £25,000 per year donates about £1 a week towards the overseas aid budget through their income tax.

But if your argument is not based on the finances of aid, or your ability to contribute and may be more of a xenophobic nature, then I would be interested in your definition of ‘home’.

Accepting that home is your place of residence and family, is it really home that you are referring to? Or are you being more liberal with your definition of ‘home’?

Do you consider ‘home’ to be just:

England?

Or perhaps is it Great Britain? – England, Wales and Scotland.

Or would you go as far to say that ‘home’ is the United Kingdom? – England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man, and the other islands such as the Shetlands, and the Isle of White to name but a few.

Or even the British Isles? Which might include the Republic of Ireland in the group, although it’s controversial to say so.

What about the Falkland Islands? Would you include them in your list? If so (and they are after all undeniably British, we even fought a war over them, and the islanders hold British passports and everything) then you’d be adding the British Overseas Territories to your list. Including such exotic places as Tristan da Cunha, the Pitcairn’s, Saint Helena, the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Ascension Island, Anguilla, Montserrat, Gibraltar, to name but a few.

And if you’re going to go that far afield, what about the Commonwealth, the former British Empire? Fifty-three countries – all the way from Antigua to Zambia – sixteen of them still maintaining Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state. You can’t argue how inextricably linked we are to these countries, and how massively they have contributed to our current (relative) wealth. Could they tentatively be included in the ‘home’ list?

If so, then where do you draw that line?

I don’t believe you can draw a line.

I don’t think we should limit our view of the world – of our home – or make decisions on who we should or should not consider helping if they are in need, by measuring it on the current location of moving land masses, nor on the artificial delineations drawn by bureaucrats, cartographers and colonialist land grabbers on dusty maps, in stuffy smoke filled libraries in Europe just over a hundred years ago.

I have a more global view of what I would consider ‘home’ and I think that is exactly where charity should start.

(I am by the way, quite an affable party guest, as long as you provide me with sufficient ale, and don’t go down the questioning route of “so what do you do then?”)

 

 

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