I know you think you’re helping but…

Often the hardest thing to do when you can see people suffering is to just get out of the way and let the experts do their job. Most of us, unless you’re a sociopath or Pat Robertson, see something like the earthquake in Haiti and want to help. The vast majority of us do this by giving money to worthy charities, relying on them to make sure the money goes where it is most needed, but for some this is not enough. They feel that they need to get out there, on the ground, and help directly. Or, at the very least, they want to make sure that the people in need get the things that they, the giver, thinks they need the most.


Now there is nothing wrong with this, in fact it is admirable, and in general the people who do go this extra mile are of great help and can save a lot of lives. Doctors, nurses, engineers, emergency workers, all these people are vital in an disaster situation. The more of them the better. Even people like plumbers and electricians are invaluable, as they can help to get desperately needed infrastructure back up and running. Also if you want to organise medical supplies, food and water, camping supplies, toiletries and other essentials and send them directly then that can only help as well. As I said there is nothing wrong with any of this and if fact this kind of response will mean the difference between life and death for many.


But if you are not one of these people or the things you are sending are not in immediate demand then I think the best thing you can do is stay out of the way and let the people who can help do their job. For example, as PZ Myers mentioned today, right now Haiti does not need a contingent of Scientologists flying in to administer “touch assists”, which just sounds a bit pervy to me, or to draw the victims attention to the things around them. These things do not help and when access to the situation is both difficult and limited it means that for every, undoubtedly well meaning, Scientologist that flies in, some where there is a doctor or emergency worker left on the tarmac.


But then even a Scientologist can bring someone a hot meal or a blanket and bodies on the ground are bodies on the ground. As such this doesn’t bother me as much as the people sending solar powered Bibles in the place of medical supplies. I mean seriously what on earth are they meant to do with these things? I suppose the solar cells could be take apart and used to power something useful but other than that I am sure that right now the people of Haiti don’t need instructions on the correct way to murder disobedient children or the best way to con someone out of some goats.

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