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I’ve tried to stay out of the political debate on health care over here in the US. No one will be surprised by my position on this one. I’m not going to comment on the Obama speech or even the stupidity of Wilson. No, I won’t. I want to scratch a little bit deeper here. Deep down to a little thing known as personal responsibility…

So you are against universal health care. Or the government option – or whatever the hell you want to call it. Let me get this straight…

You are against government providing health care to those who can’t afford it or those who the private insurance companies deem as too costly to cover. Better to let them die, right?

Look, the current system isn’t working – we can all agree to that. The problem is that your proposal doesn’t address any of the fundamental challenges of the system – covering the poor and those in need. If I lose my job today then I lose my health care coverage as well. Except if I have the money to pay through my neck for it while I don’t have any income. Doesn’t sound right, right?

Let’s agree on one thing before I rant – cut some of the crap being covered by health care. Obesity? Stop eating crap. Obesity isn’t a disease. Cancer is a disease. Way too much shit is covered by health insurance. Plastic surgery? 90% are crap. Only those with facial defects and burn victims should be covered. A new boob job because you want bigger boobs doesn’t count. Whiter teeth? Go British I say. Cut the fat off coverage and only cover stuff that is really pushing people to their death.

Blame the pharmaceutical companies for lobbying for crap to be covered. They create “medicine” that will address these social “diseases” and then lobby the hell out of (mostly) Republicans for these to be covered. Why? Not because they want to address the real health issues but because they want to make a bigger profit from growing some hair over that bold spot of yours or magically make your beer and Mickey D laden fat go away.

While I’m on obesity. Yes, we carry the burden of that in the US and most developed countries. Stop eating crap and start going outside. If you get a heart disease because of your diet? Make sure you have good funeral coverage. I’m sick and tired of people being covered by health insurance for things that they do to themselves. Over and over again.

You shot yourself in the foot with your own gun? That’s stupid so pay up yourself. You want to carry a gun them suffer the consequences…

Back to the point though. So who will care for those who lost their jobs and can’t afford health care insurance? Or those who the insurance companies judge as too risky or too sick to cover? Let me give you an alternative to the government option.

You.

Yes, you. I’m talking to you Mr and Mrs I’m-Against-The-Government-Option. You should be paying for it.

Why? Because you claim to be on the side of America and the Christian right. That’s just stupid. It’s not an answer it’s just empty words of fake patriotism. America and Christianity is about solutions and not just about shooting your mouth off.

You can’t open your mouth without giving some form of solution. The health care system in the US is a failure. No one can argue against that. We all know it and we all accept it. Private industry is not the answer. I would love for them to be the answer but, in this case, they are not. They are generally the best answer when it comes to making cars (huh?) or computers or televisions or other crap we don’t need to survive. Oh they can make the medicine and medical equipment we need better than any government. But they have proven to be a complete failure when it comes to dealing with our actual health coverage. Especially when it comes to the poor and those in need.

So what alternative are you offering here? Some wishy-washy plan that will NOT result in those people being covered? I’m not interested in making your insurance any cheaper. (Or mine for that matter.) I’m interested in how we deal with those in need. Let’s assume for a minute that we won’t go for the government option. Let’s think of a plan that will help those people in need in another way.

And this is where you come in…

You can’t be American (or anything else) without taking some level of responsibility. You can’t open your mouth against something if you aren’t willing to offer up some form of solution. You do this way too often.

You are against abortion. But you are not willing to take in the unwanted kids. Or those born with disabilities. Or those born with alcohol syndrome. Or those born through rape. Or where the mother died because of the birth. I don’t see you rushing forward and claiming these babies. You shout from the side and walk away when someone holds up the results of your actions and stupidity. Here is my advice to you…

Man up or shut up…

I’m sick and tired of us having to pick up after you. I am sick and tired of having to clean your mess. You spew stupidity and we liberals have to live with the mistakes of your actions and empty words. Yes we do – why do you think those who work for charities looking after unwanted babies, HIV/Aids patients, battered women, the environment, animals etc are almost always a bunch a liberals? Because someone has to fix the crap you created. And I am sick and tired of cleaning your mess.

Shut up or pay up.

You are big enough now. Time for you to take responsibility of your own empty words and actions.

You want abortion to be banned? Then fine. You take care of the unwanted babies. The sick babies. The disabled babies. Because remember, you don’t want government to interfere either now…

You want to carry a gun in the open or hidden? The fine. You take care of those kids and innocent people getting shot by their mates by accident. You take care of what your actions resulted in. Remember, you don’t want government to intervene…

You want to stop people suing others because of defects in stuff they bought or doctors who didn’t do their jobs properly? Then fine. You take care of those people who lost their jobs and income when they got injured and hurt. Remember, you don’t want government to interfere…

You want to be able to cut down every forest to dig for oil and coal? You want to be able to dump your crap anywhere you please? Then fine. You take care of the… oh wait. We are all going down on this one. Here’s my solution. We’ll take that gun you like to carry so much and shoot you. I’ll even dig your grave myself. Hell, you are busy digging mine with your policies and actions. That way we can claim our bit of oxygen left as you wasted yours with hot air – in more than one way.

Man up or shut up.

You can’t just spew stupidity without coming up with a workable solution. You can’t be anti everything. Not when what we are trying to fix is all fucked up. You are either part of the solution (any solution) or you are part of the problem. It’s not working stupid. Fix it. And it you don’t like my plan then come up with a better one. Take responsibility for your stupidity.

It’s easier to say what is wrong with a specific part in a proposal than come up with a workable solution yourself. But it doesn’t solve the big problem standing like an elephant in the corner waiting to walk all over all of us. Someone is going to get hurt and I will be damned if it is me and my kind again.

Let me put it this way.

If we had to write into law the current state of health care. Guess what. We will all be against it – you and me. The current system doesn’t work and what is proposed by the Big O is better. Not perfect but at least better. And if you don’t like it? Then either come up with a better plan or take responsibility of your own position and stupidity.

Man up or shut up. Own up or pay up.

Until then – grow a pair of balls and stop shouting from the sidelines. 

And one more thing…

This Christian thing you claim to have going on your side…

God stood for very few basic things. Actually, it all comes down to a single concept – love for all (remember that bit? You should love others like you love yourself and as much as what you love God blah-blah-blah…) Dammit you must hate yourself a lot if that part is true. And I believe it is true.

Because if you did love your neighbor… Let me ask you this. Letting a person die because they can’t afford to pay for health care and you knowingly supported them NOT getting any help. Is that the way God will want you to love? Letting someone die from cancer because they lived in a community where some mining company dumped their crap and now they can’t even afford their health care – and you knew about both of those. Is that the way God would want you to love?

So stop giving me the Christian crap. I think we might be serving a different God here. My God is ashamed of you. I know my God actually cares about everyone and cares for everyone. Ask yourself this before you open your mouth – What would God do? Would he be proud? Would he help those who needs help? Or would he walk away? If you pick this last one – here’s something to think about… He walked away from you a long, long time ago…

Own up or pay up. Man up or shut up.

I’m not cleaning your mess anymore.

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This might be a bit tricky. It cuts a little bit too close to the work bone. Let’s see if I can avoid stepping on any landmines…

As you know I lean to the left. Okay, less of a lean than a complete body-and-soul kinda jump and stance… And damn proud of it. Part of the definition of liberalism (according to the Webster dictionary) is “One who is generous”. But not everyone agrees with that. I can’t recall how many times people will tell me that conservatives give more to charity than liberals. And they love using a study by Arthur C. Brooks called Who Really Cares to prove their point. Aah… That study…

No. Arthur C. Brooks isn’t some right-wing nutcase. Yes, he has been a Republican registered voter in the past. But he has also been a Democrat registered voter in the past. And the study is actually pretty good. I can go into some detail on his use of statistics and data but that isn’t the point. But just in case…

“When it comes to giving or not giving, conservatives and liberals look a lot alike. Conservative people are a percentage point or two more likely to give money each year than liberal people, but a percentage point or so less likely to volunteer” (Brooks, A.C. Who Really Cares: America’s Charity Divide; Who Gives, Who Doesn’t, and Why It Matters, Basic Books 2006: pp. 21-22)

One slight problem with his data. He uses the 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmarking Survey (SCCBS) data to back up is claims. I am skeptical of using SCCBS as the foundation of any argument, mostly because it reports that liberal families make more money than conservatives. He should have used the General Social Surveys (GSS), which are a much more representative sample of the US. The GSS also shows that conservative families make $2,500 to $5,600 a year more than liberal families. Blah, blah, blah… Lies, damn lies and statistics. But that isn’t really the point of my argument. It never is, is it?

But let’s assume that conservatives give more to charity than liberals. Let’s just go with it for a moment. And please remember I know that most people don’t fall into either bracket easily. Shades of gray more than black and white. So we are talking more about those at the extremes. Maybe. Whatever. You know what I mean – let’s just agree with the study and that people fall nicely into a pigeon hole for a minute.

Yes, conservatives give more to charity. So what? Who cares? Hum… Conservatives apparently. Seriously though. What does giving tell me? I don’t give much to charity. What does that tell you about me? Here is the difference. I have a great job that allows me to try and be part of making the world a little better. I try to work to make the world a better place. I put my life forward to try and make the world more just. Fair enough, it’s not just me but the whole bunch of great people I work with and for. But this is what I do. To work with others to make it a little better. To bring equality, liberty and freedom to all. I fight for peace. I live to love. I am because we are. I don’t pay for my conscious. I work for my conscious. I speak out and fight injustice no matter where they are. Sometimes loudly and sometimes a little bit more quietly and strategically. It would be easier for me to “just” give. I can make more money doing something else. And then I can give more money than what I can afford right now. But would that make more of a difference than me trying to fight the good fight? I work to give. I give not money. I give my life.

It reminds me of the days back in Apartheid South Africa. It was unbelievable how many people who supported Apartheid went to church on a Sunday. They pray and they worship on a Sunday and then go on exploiting on a Monday. Oh, and on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. And they do it again when they watch rugby on a Saturday. But the Sunday cleared them of all their sins. A prayer will make it all right then I guess. No matter what you do on those other days.

Giving to charity does not mean a thing. Not if you are a bigot on the days when you don’t give. You can’t give your $10 or $50 or $100 a month and think that it is okay. Or even a foundation of a million or billion dollars. It does not make you a good person just because you are giving. It does not absolve you from your duties as a human being. You can’t just carry on with what you are doing with the rest of your time. Your responsibility to your fellow Americans and the world goes beyond money. You can’t buy absolution. You can’t buy forgiveness. You can’t buy justice. You can’t buy equality. You can’t buy freedom. You can’t buy liberty. You can’t buy life. And you can’t buy love.

Do you give because you feel sorry for those poor souls who don’t have as much as you? Who aren’t as lucky? Don’t. Don’t feel sorry for them. See them as your equals. See them as the human being they are. See them as people. People who want the same things you have. Not the material things. Rather things like opportunity. Freedom. Equality. Pride. Justice. Liberty. Peace. Life. Love. They don’t want your money. They want you. They want Ubuntu. I am because we are.

Of course there is the little issue of who do you give to? It’s not really that important. I know that conservatives don’t just give to religious groups. They don’t. They give across the whole range. But make sure you are diligent in your giving. Don’t give because it is something you believe in. Give because it is something they need and want. They know better than you what they need. Give to help them be themselves. Not to be you. Give because we are.

Do you know the story of the Good Samaritan? He first went to bandage the wounds and poured on some oil and wine (Must have been pretty strong “wine”!) He loaded him up on the Biblical pick-up truck, the donkey, took him to the inn and cared for him. And then he paid the innkeeper. He took action. He didn’t throw money at the guy. He took action. He did something. He cared by first doing what was right.

But it goes further than that. There is this old saying we all know – “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for life.” It is even more important when it comes to giving. If you give money you only sooth your soul for a day. If you get involved and help make this world a better place. If you fight for equality every single day. If you spread liberty each day. If you push for freedom every day. If you stand on the side of justice every minute of every day. If you spread peace where ever you go… That is how you teach to fish. That is how you sooth your soul for life. By being part of it. Not by throwing money at it.

Have you noticed that the “heroes” in the movies and books are people who do things and not just throw money at it? But you can even look at real heroes. Nelson Mandela. Gandhi. Martin Luther King Jr. Mother Theresa. They did things. They are known for their actions and not their money. Not their money giving. But for their soul giving. For their work and deeds. They do. It’s an action.

Giving money or giving yourself. It’s the difference between giving medicine to treat the symptom or trying to find the cure. By all means, fight the symptoms, but be like a heat-seeking, radar-driven, laser-guided missile and find that cure. Or else we will never stop giving them bitter pills to swallow. Charity is dealing with the symptom. Involvement and commitment and fighting side by side every single day is finding the cure. It’s systemic. It’s going to the heart of the problem. Not just trying to make the heart go on for a few days longer.

I see too many people trying to buy their way into the good books. Big powerful people starting big powerful charities or foundations. With money that they got how? Run that past me again? And what do you do with your time when you aren’t giving? Who suffered for you to be able to now do the right thing? From the ashes left behind flows a money trail.

It’s like telling your wife or husband or partner that you love them when it is Valentines Day. Or hugging and kissing your children when it is their birthday. Sending flowers on an anniversary. Buying presents at Christmas. Those “special” days. Giving is your special day. It shouldn’t be. Every single day should be your special day. Like loving, hugging and kissing your partner and kids every single day.

Please. I know that I might have offended some people with this. It is not meant to offend. I admire people who give so much. So much more than money. And I admire people who ensure that they gives for the right reason or reasons. I have had the pleasure to work with some of the most admired minds when it comes to giving. And they all give money and themselves for the right reason. A just cause. Doing the right thing and giving for the right reason. Now that is the way to go. It is neither liberal nor conservative. Both sides can do more. One can give more to what is truly needed in this world. And the other side can do more to what is truly needed in this world. Liberty. Freedom. Equality. Justice. Peace. Hope. Opportunity. Life. Love.

It is not about how much you give. It’s whether you give yourself. It is about what you do.

So… Who really cares? Do you? Or do you just give money?

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Note: Don’t stop giving money! Those working at charities across the world still need support. But they want your hands and soul in it as well. There are people out there doing amazing work who needs your financial help to allow them to keep on doing what they are doing. Support them. Believe in them. Hold them accountable. But most of all… Be part of them! Be the change you want to see. Don’t try and buy the change.

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You want to hug a dolphin? Or maybe plant a tree? What about buying a goat for a village in Ethiopia? Or a desk and chair for a school in Banda Aceh? No. Mm-mm, difficult one. Wait, I have just the thing for you – how about supporting the Foundation for the protection of Swedish underwear models?

And you think I am joking about that last one. It might be tongue in cheek, but this cause has over 400,000 signed up members globally. Okay, it is a Facebook cause – but one of the most supported causes. They even managed to raise some money for their nonprofit – after specifically asking for NO money. Yes, this is a nonprofit and their aim is the “promotion of international understanding”. No, I really am NOT joking.

The point I am trying to make is that we now have a cause for every taste and need. And then some. Once you find your cause – which organization within this cause do you want to support? And so on, and so on. The list just gets longer and longer.

This shouldn’t be a problem. People can now match their passions with the right organization. And there are enough charities out there to still have a slight different individual flavor that makes you so much more different from the plebs who support Oxfam (joking people…). Oh no, you support Project Africa – because it is so much more than a goal, it is a mission. A cause that goes with your evening dress and another that goes well as a car refresher hanging from the rear-view mirror.

And it makes life so much easier if you run a company. All you have to do is pick your cause and adopt the charity or nonprofit that is still available. You feel strongly about education for kids? Make your pick – we still have EduKiddiCare and KEDUCare available. (Man, how many times can someone focus on education before we run out of charities or ideas?)

But the growth in charities and causes can have a bad impact as well – apart from the bad jokes (sorry). Firstly, it waters down the important stuff and diverts attention. Instead of tackling the real big issues facing the world – Climate Change, Abuse, Poverty & Hunger, War, Disasters and Health (the Big 5 plus Climate Change) – we tackle every issue that comes to mind. Can we really justify saving the dolphin, battling bottled water, fighting immigration, protesting GM crops and anti/pro-abortion marches (the Little 5) while people are dying of hunger, disease, abuse, disasters or war? Of course all these other issues are important, but more important than people dying right now in this world we all share? I don’t know – your call.

Even more important than the long list of options and diverting attention – the diversion of funds. Two dynamics stand out. Firstly, aid only increases marginally each year – and even then it goes to certain causes that are important, but not really charity for the needy. For instance, where do you think 80% of US federal ‘aid’ go? A handful of countries that are not really on the most needy list – Israel, Pakistan and Egypt. And oh, it includes military aid… And it gets worse because the money is now spread across and even wider range of causes and organizations. Each year another nonprofits comes along that wants a piece of the pie – and reduces the share of the next one.

But the single biggest problem I have with the proliferation of charities? They divert money away from Africa and other places of need. Instead of the funding going directly to the charity in the country suffering, it goes via other charities and donor bodies first. And everyone takes their cut. The money for empowering women farmers in Zambia doesn’t go to Women for Change. Oh, they might get a small amount. But the money first goes to DFID or USAID or GTZ – or whatever government agency. And then it goes to Oxfam GB or US or Germany. And then it goes to Oxfam Southern Africa. And then it goes to Oxfam Zambia. And the leftovers go to Women for Change.

Businesses always try and streamline their value chain. We should do the same with funding. No more than 2 steps before it gets to the actual people that need it and should benefit from it. Cut out the middlemen. Hey, they make money for campaiging in any case by collecting from door to door and in the streets. It doesn’t mean the end of Oxfam or Care or Save The Children and mates. Just the beginning of the nonprofits who can really bring immediate change to the people who need it most. It will force every charity to focus on achieving real change and doing the bit they are best at. And more of the program money will go to the charities who are closest to the real issues on the ground – they are part of the people who suffer in their community. We just need to streamline the charity supply chain a bit.

Of course there is another reason for my little rant. Is it about caring about something or doing something? The caring bit is about you. But the doing bit is about those who need the help. It’s a slight but important difference. You can pick a charity or a cause the way you pick a dress or shoes – something to fit in with your needs and different tastes. But please don’t forget that this isn’t about you. It’s about those who really need you to be part of them and part of the solution. I worry that the causes are so diverse that we start forgetting who and what this is all about. It’s not a clothing outfit to fit with your personality. It’s about people. And what they need.

Mm-mm, maybe I just found the cause that fits my charity. The AA BARF charity needs your support. Really… The Angry African Beer And Rugby Fund never really got the funding or supporters it deserved in any case. And the money will go directly to the cause it supports. I promise…