On Wednesday of this week I attended a Taiwanese Night at the College which aimed to raise money to aid the plight of those affected by Typhoon Morakot.  To date the actual numbers killed by the worst natural disaster to strike Taiwan in 50 years are not known. It will probably be close to 700. The thing is, the numbers do not tell the full story: entire villages were decimated; bridges collapsed; schools were wiped out; places of work were wiped out; and most significantly entire families were obliterated.

No amount of money or aid can compensate for the enormous losses that have resulted as a consequence of this natural disaster. Money can of course help and go some way to assist with the rebuilding programme that will be required to ameliorate and alleviate immense human suffering and misery.

The event at NCI was very successful and in a few short hours almost 5,000 euro was raised from donations and from a raffle. Guests were served a fine selection of Taiwanese dishes while they watched some photo diaries and other media that painted the starkness of the devastation wreaked on the island one month ago.

During the evening a number of special guests spoke but just one particular piece of information struck me like a lightning bolt-the Irish Government donated 30,000 euro to the Typhoon Morakot Appeal-yep, you read the figure right- a measly, paltry and insulting 30,000 euro. Now I know that we are cash strapped as a nation. I know that we are plummeting ever deeper into the vicious jaws of recession. I know that we have mounting problems with poverty and unemployment; I know that we are in a bad place. But come on, 30,000 euro.

This got me thinking…

A few weeks ago I was at lunch with a good friend of mine and we were talking about the terrible state of the economy. It was a gloomy enough conversation from that perspective. I was being uber-critical of the government and its recklessness during the (in retrospect) eponymously named Celtic Tiger. I was bemoaning the levels of generous support doled out to all and sundry. I was bemoaning the fact that it was largely the wealthy that benefited most from free education. I was bemoaning the fact that there was no property tax. And so it went on.

Anyway, much to my surprise, my friend agrees and she proceeds to tell me about her own child care benefits, courtesy of this fine state. She has two children-one just turned 4 and one just turned two-tot that up and you get six years of child care support. She says that she opened a savings account and has not spent any of that money and in doing so has accumulated around 23,000 euro. Now of course she has had to feed and clothe her children. Of course she has being paying a creche a lot of money so that she can continue to work but the general point is that she could actually manage to save that amount of money without being financially stretched. That is just plain wrong. She herself admitted as much and added that it was a crazy situation, arguing that child support and benefits  should be means tested.

I don’t want to get into a debate about child support but merely wish to use the above story to highlight all that is bad about what we have become- a savage self-centred tiger! Think about it: as a nation we give 30,000 euro to aid the horrific plight of a devastated island and we give almost that amount to a family that quite frankly might not need it. There is surely something radically and fundamentally wrong about this. There is something rotten in the State of Ireland!

Have we come so far and progressed to a point where we have forgotten the seminal events of our own history? What has happened to our collective generous heart and to our famed and storied generosity and kind-heartedness? There is surely something awry-please tell me that this is just a blip on the landscape of our collective national conscience.  I am reminded of a quote from scripture that Bill Clinton used in his inauguration speech:  “And let us not be weary in well-doing , for in due season, we shall reap, if we faint not.”

We would all do well to remember that.

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