One of my pet peeves is when lobby groups say they are “taking action” to deal with the issues – while they sit in plush offices making phone calls and writing letters. “Take action today: write a letter to your member of congress / member of parliament.” That’s not action – that’s just sitting around complaining. Who is supposed to take action here? Congress? Are the suits in Congress supposed to get on a boat and haul food and clothing to the poor? Not likely. Then who?
I read an article in the paper today about a Washington-based group that is allegedly taking the lead on providing microfinance to 100 million of the world’s poorest families. Their version of “action” in this case is to watch what everyone else is doing, tabulate it and publish the results. Their mission statement is that they are a “grassroots advocacy organization committed to creating the political will to end hunger and the worst aspects of poverty.” That sounds really nice, except where is the action? Advocacy is about asking other people to do stuff. Why not just do it yourself? Waiting for the government or the World Bank to do anything is like waiting for Antarctica to melt – barring a global catastrophe, it will take thousands of years to see any results at all.
If you really want to end poverty, don’t just send a letter asking someone else to spend someone else’s money – send money to one of the many organizations in the world that is actually doing something. Or loan money through Kiva – that way the money will circulate several times, helping a few people.
Talk is cheap (except in Washington, where it costs a lot of money). If you want something done, either support the cause yourself, or shut up and go peel potatoes. Either way, make yourself useful.