The Oxfam-Haiti scandal has confirmed what many of us already knew, or suspected about ‘big charity’: that sometimes money given in good faith due to our innate desire to help other people is sometimes misused and abused.
That sometimes those who are supposed to be helping — trusted in positions of authority and power in doing so — abuse that power and authority.
That huge charitable organizations — such as Oxfam — are also able to breed cultures in which abuse happens — and cover it up.
However, given the current rhetoric, it is clear that the scandal is being ruthlessly exploited by those who have much to gain as they attempt to manufacture public consent for an end to taxpayer’s money being used to fund charity at all.
Think of it like this: the Catholic church was for many centuries — and still is in many parts of the world — entrusted to run large social provisions, such as schools, hospitals, and orphanages.
The endless scandals and abuses involving the Catholic church will not need repeating here (unless you’ve had the privilege of living on the moon for last 40 years, that is.)
However, despite these abuses and scandals, nobody claimed that the Catholic church itself needed abolishing altogether: rather the institution had to be reformed so that the good work they do can continue and the atrocities ceased.
This is how we should really look at the Oxfam scandal — with clarity, honesty and above else: sensibly and practically rather than reactionary and hysterically.
The Haiti scandal then is yet another example of the worst of human behavior and the vulture mindset in-built into some .
Organised, large-scale multi-national charities that resemble brands more than actual charities have always made me feel uneasy at best.
Having volunteered in an Oxfam charity shop many years ago it became apparent to me that even on this small scale, and in minor ways, there are many inbuilt systemic flaws into the entire set-up of big charity.
People would leave bags and bags of clothes and other items at our front door overnight: the donations. We would then have to price up these items and sell them….however, one major thing really troubled me:
We would also have to make sure that nobody would steal any of the stock from the shop — yet the only logical reason to steal from a charity shop would be because you’re in poverty yourself.
Oxfam — we were told — was dedicated to fighting poverty: but we consistently had to stop people in poverty from stealing goods that the shop hadn’t paid a penny for in the first place.
That’s just a small example, but it always struck me as seeming morally wrong — not to mention backwards — worse than this it seemed as if we were doing little to actually help tackle the root causes of poverty that lead to people trying to steal from us in the first place.
I was told to send thieves or potential thieves to clothes banks some three miles away, where they would have to prove their poverty before getting any help — it felt wrong on pretty much every level.
In short: it was depressing as it was ridiculous. But overall, it seemed that at least we were doing something, and hopefully, someone somewhere was actually being helped.
Now, that’s just one small-scale example of how charity is a paradox and filled with uneasy contradictions: on one hand, charity can do a lot of good, on the other it can also be abused.
Another consistently negative aspect is that it can also be used as a way for the very rich to feel morally superior despite their multiplicities of evil.
It should not surprise us that Harvey Weinstein’s initial response to the torrent of rape and sexual harassment allegations was to cite his “work” raising money for a charity that helps women get scholarships at The University of Southern California (USC) — as if he had somehow morally balanced out the universe…..
His response kind of typifies how charity exists within the minds of elites: as if they can do whatever they want, so long as they give just a little back. A bizarre and scary mindset — yet an all too common one.
It should also not surprise us that many charities are patronized by members of the Royal family and other such Oligarchal breeds: by doing this these elites make it seem as if they part of the solution, whilst actually being in great part the core of the problem itself.
Oxfam then, within this context — and this sad reality — has not done anything that unusual or even that scandalous (again on the spectrum).
We should perhaps wonder then exactly why Oxfam is being persecuted in this way? and ask ourselves: what the end game is? Who out of all of this actually benefits? And: who is likely to lose the most?
The outrage about taxpayer’s money and government aid being abused is apparently only used very selectively by the media and the political elite.
The attacks on aid spending are focused solely on charities and Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) rather than the multiplicity of private corporations who receive government aid and often use it to line their own pockets and loot the people of the third world in the process.
Yet, this never seems to make it into the mainstream “debate” over aid spending, which essentially ranges from between these two intensely limited positions:
Left: Aid is good, we need more, we have a duty to the third world, etc…
Right: Aid is a waste of money, help our own first! etc….
As usual, there is little room to debate the actual issues around the subject in question, but rather an incoherent mess of uninformed opinions perpetuated by the MSM and political elites.
Little if any attention is ever paid to where aid goes, who gets it, how it is used, if it is effectively used, if it helps the intended, etc, etc.
No, we don’t have that debate because then we might end up with a public who actually knows something about where their money goes — and they might decide that even if they support the idea of government aid, they don’t support it propping up the profits of Guinness and other large multinationals….
Global Justice Now reports on the way that aid is currently being misused and abused for corporate gain, saying:
Aid isn’t working. Instead of helping to rectify injustice, aid is being used to support multinational corporations, build shopping centres and force poor countries to privatise their public services. Aid urgently needs to stop being a corporate cash cow and start being used as a radical tool for real justice and social change.
In a report in which they highlight who is abusing aid, how and why: the offenses range from tax avoidance, to corporate welfare cheques for massive corporations, to climate change, to increasing poverty, and so on….
The world extracts $192 billion from Africa every year through things like corporate profit, debt repayments and tax evasion – while giving only $30 billion in aid. Even if you add together other inflows of money into Africa, such as loans and private investment, the total flow of money from the world into Africa is still just $134 billion…..
…..So, far from giving African countries a lot of aid, the world takes $58 billion more than it puts in……
….Amid all the self-congratulation, few people question whether this is generous in the first place….
….The language of charity and generosity conceals the fact that UK policy actively contributes to the poverty which aid is supposedly trying to solve.
The business community for this reason, of course, is heavily in favour of government aid.
But any threat to this — such as aid actually going towards a charity that might do some good, that might actually be fighting in some way against their corporate interests, well that, that doesn’t sit quite right with them.
In short: they want their hands on all of the aid money — and charities and NGOs are the major barriers to total domination.
Although the amount of government money that Oxfam recieves is actually miniscule, as the BBC reported:
The charity, which had a total income of £409m last year, received £31.7m from the government in 2016, accounting for about 8% of the charity’s income.
The amount also represents about a quarter of a percent of the government’s annual foreign aid spending.
It is still a considerable threat to corporate domination.
Oxfam is well-known for investigating global inequality and poverty and yes, sometimes actually trying to do something about it….
In other words, they are literally the enemy writ large of many of the corporations.
Oxfam’s anti-neoliberalism sheds light on the global destruction caused by the neoliberal system.
Not to mention the fact they actually do some reporting and work from our many war zones across the world. Yemen, for example, a conflict the state would rather nobody ever speaks about, for fear that the arms industry and our Army might make not maximum bloodsoaked billions out of it.
And we can’t have that now, can we?
So as flawed as Oxfam can be — the latest scandal being just another example — they are at least fighting in the right direction sometimes…..
It should be clear that the same elites and MSM who are so outraged by Oxfam apparently didn’t care too much about Hilary and Bill Clinton’s multiple Haiti scandals — many of which are far worse than Oxfam’s.
The Clinton Foundation’s Haiti scandals — which also involve serious allegations of child trafficking and prostitution — apparently, well, they just don’t really matter in this case.
The MSM didn’t call for an outraged end to the Clinton Foundation, and for donors to stop giving millions of dollars to the Foundation — no, it doesn’t seem to matter at all in this case.
I guess it might have something to do with the fact that the elite donors are usually connected to corporations or leading government figures themselves (usually from tyranical and brutally repressive regimes) — better to leave them to commit their scandals and abuse alone then..(wouldn’t want to bother the little angels now, would we?)
It seems then that the Haiti-Oxfam scandal is clearly being used as a way to manufacture the consent of the public to have government aid taken away from charities and NGOs.
The tactic already appears to be working: Oxfam has already made it clear that they will not be bidding for new contracts until the government has decided they meet “sufficient ethical standards”.
Oxfam’s chief executive, Mark Goldring, has said the attacks on Oxfam are out of proportion, the BBC reports that Goldring said:
The intensity and the ferocity of the attack makes you wonder, what did we do?
We murdered babies in their cots?
Goldring also said that he believed the attacks were waged by those with an anti-aid agenda, adding:
anything we say is being manipulated… even apologies only make matters worse.
what I felt really clearly is many people haven’t wanted to listen to explanations
And I must admit I think he’s right.
The Haiti scandal should be learned from, punished, and the institution should be reformed as is needed to prevent such things.
The response so far by both the charity and the elites has been disproportionate and irrational: and this quick analysis of the situation has attempted to address why that is.
The problems with charity run much deeper than the Oxfam scandal: they are fundamental to the premise of charities in the first place.
However, despite all of this, we mustn’t let the Tories, the MSM, the corporations take away from those who have the least (yet again) — this time using Oxfam as the cover-story.
One thing is certain here: if the Tories stop funding charities then the people who they actually help will be left with nothing.
Already other major charities are being put under the spotlight, no doubt, they too will have at least one scandal to revealed, the BBC reports that:
Another charity – Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – has now come under question as the president of Haiti called for an investigation into the activities of aid agencies working in his country.
Jovenel Moise, asked why the medical charity MSF had repatriated 17 of its staff members.
He told the Reuters news agency: “The Oxfam case is the visible part of the iceberg,
“It is not only Oxfam, there are other NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in the same situation, but they hide the information internally.”
MSF said it took reports of staff misconduct seriously and was seeking to clarify questions raised by the president.
In the coming weeks and months, no doubt, the attack against charity will intensify and more and more incoherent and unconstructive outrage will be blasted around by those want to see an end to the government aid spending that might actually go towards helping people who actually need helping….
That is what’s really at stake here, and that’s the debate we should really be having right now.
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