Government orchestrated social injustice here in Ireland and humanitarian annoy me equally. They upset me deeply because of the harm that they do and because they are two sides of the same coin. I am not a humanitarian, and I remain an anti-humanitarian precisely because I am committed to the idea of equality and social justice; here at home and internationally. A position such as this may understandably cause some degree of confusion. We are used to the idea (that is to say that we have been conditioned to the idea) that organised international humanitarian efforts are helping the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Volunteers and voluntourists have been leaving the shores of Ireland for generations to help natives in far off lands dig wells and build houses, and have themselves photographed with dark coloured children, before returning to Ireland to take up careers in state and private industry which profit from the destruction of the countries and lives of those same children. In later life, when criticised for their culpability in poverty creation, they simple present those lovely photos – the evidence that they have purchased some capital (and possibly some real estate) in the moral high ground. Every architect of the transfer of wealth from the poorest to the richest in Ireland has a selfie with ‘poor children’ in some African or Indian village.

People in many parts of the world do need help to escape the death grip of poverty and injustice, and no doubt most voluntourists go on their gap year with the very best of intentions. This is a structural evil, and not necessarily a personal one. All of the big humanitarian businesses employ a professional staff paid at the appropriate Charity Sector rate, and CEOs paid in the region of €100,000 (give or take, but mainly give) per annum. On the ground yes, there may be new wells, a few new goats and milk cows, even a new house or two, but nothing is done to challenge the international and structural causes of poverty around the globe. If fact the population of the poorest is growing, and they are poorer today than they have ever been. Humanitarianism has a zero impact. Well, it does one thing. It soothes the consciences of the privileged white people who venture out for the adventure of a lifetime. Hélder Câmara said, “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.” Câmara was dead on the money. Few voluntourists become communists, and the poor continue to get poorer.

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