Do you really give a damn?
Lots of people say they give a damn.
They say they care about what goes on in the world, but when it comes right down to it, they choose to do nothing.
They don't really give a damn.
What they actually do says a great deal more about whether they really care, or not.
For all of my life, Bangladesh has been considered one of the worlds poorest countries. I remember as a teenager back in the 70's that Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) was so frequently in the media that people made jokes about the deprivation of the country. I guess it was a sort of pre-politically correct compassion fatigue.
In that situation the world can either watch and make sympathetic noises whilst people die..
..or they can get up and do something.
One man that I've watched at a distance for a long time now is a Bangladeshi economist and academician called Professor Muhammed Yunus. He is someone who got up and did something.
Seeing that the banks would not help poor people in his country, would not lend them money to help them grow businesses that would support families and communities, Professor Yunus started his own bank. It concentrated on helping poor people, especially women who bore the brunt of the poverty and feeding of children.
It was amongst the first of the modern day microfinance initiatives and has been copied around the world. The bank, Grameen Bank, is 95% owned by the people who actually borrow the money with a 5% stake held by the Bangladeshi government. This isn't handouts, these are hand-ups to people who really need it. It is life affirming, life supporting and life saving action.
Long story short.., the scheme has been successful. Individuals, communities and the country as a whole have grown, despite economic setbacks and natural disasters. Professor Yunus's contribution has been recognised around the world, including being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Microfinance initiatives have spread around the world, and even in "rich" western countries there has been a substantial growth in similar schemes and credit unions.
So far so good? Yeah, everything seemed to be going swimmingly, until a Norwegian TV crew made accusations of corruption. The Norwegian government said "No", there was no corruption and the TV programme was biased.
In a massive over-reaction, the Bangladeshi government has moved to dismiss Professor Yunus from his post as CEO. More importantly the government is moving to take over ownership of the bank itself. In other words, instead of being owned 95% by it's borrowers, it would now be owned 100% by the government.
It is hard to figure out why.
It is impossible to figure out how the people who benefit by being the owners, borrowers and customers of this community-supporting bank will be better off by having their banks control and assets seized by the government. It's also impossible to see why the deeply poverty-conscious Professor Yunus, who has helped his people and country for thirty years, should go.
Professor Yunus cared enough about the poverty he saw around him some thirty years ago to do something about it. He got off his backside and did something when others - his government included - would not. He walked the talk.
I get the impression that the Bangladesh government is either spectacularly inept or else they simply couldn't give a damn.Now
, as Grameen bank is viable and socially successful, Professor Yunus is under attack. Grameen bank is under attack. The bank's customers and their ability to earn and live, are under attack.
So, like I asked, do you really give a damn?
Do you care about poverty? Do you care about governments slapping down those who help the poor and needy?
Do you care enough to do something about it, or do you just talk about caring?
If you want to help, go tell the Bangladesh Prime Minister and government they've got it wrong! Read the details of the petition..,
..AND THEN SIGN IT!
Paul Coelho, the international best-selling author, has already signed and said,
"The only weapon that we currently have and that the government doesn’t, is international awareness and presence in media and people’s heads!"
If you really give a damn..
Do your bit, spread awareness. Make a note on Facebook, Tweet it, write a web page.
Don't just make sympathetic noises whilst people die.
The Friends of Grameen website gives a lot more background information as well as showing some of the high-profile supporters.
Also worth "liking" is the Support Yunus Facebook page.
If you do Facebook you could surely do that?!
Do you really give a damn?
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