chapter  12
14 Pages

Conclusion: How Can I Help?

How can I help? It’s a simple question with no straightforward answers, even after a lengthy journey through the highways and byways of international politics and economics, personal psychology, and a few other detours along the way. The easier question is how not to help – by imposing ideas on others, ignoring your own responsibilities, avoiding accountability, and manufacturing universal solutions. At its worst, the international ‘system’ acts like the stereotypical Englishman abroad: if only we shout loud enough, the foreigners will understand, and do what we say. Laughable, of course, but not so far from the reality of bungled development projects and bucketfuls of inappropriate advice. ‘True steadfastness sparkles with flexibility,’ says the spiritual master Gurumayi Chidvilasananda; the determination to work together is what matters, despite the differences and disagreements that arise along the way. Contrast that with the response of governments and aid agencies, consistently intolerant of different views and voices but inconsistent in their support for those who need it most. Heedless of the Bhagavadgita’s instructions, the gifts of the rich world always come with strings attached. As a result, they rarely achieve the desired results. If these basic errors were put right, the possibilities of being helpful would be transformed. Since that requires confronting vested interests, this is unlikely to happen in the short term, but, as we have seen, there is no shortage of incremental improvements waiting to be made. There are successes to build on,

and ideas and possibilities aplenty. What we lack are the constituencies to put them into practice. ‘How can I help?’ The first part of the answer is obvious: if you are not already part of that constituency for change, then start work now.