Imagine if the Cayman Islands had not endured a near-miss by a category 4 hurricane last September, but instead suffered a direct hit by a category 5 storm. Imagine if we had awakened the next day to a country soaked in the blood of 10,000 dead. It could have happened. What would we have asked of the world if all Grand Cayman’s people were left homeless. Undoubtedly we would have hoped for (expected?) help from countries big and small, near and far.
Critics are now charging that the United States is not giving enough to the Asian and African victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami. They point out that, as a percentage of GDP, the US pledge is small compared to some other wealthy nations. That is an interesting point to consider, but what about us?
What percentage of our GDP should the Cayman Islands government give to the tsunami victims? Is zero percent acceptable to us? Individuals in the Cayman Islands are giving already but a pledge of aid from our government would be a loud statement about Caymanian generosity. It would immediately elevate the stature of our country both here and abroad. We can be the little country with a big heart.
If we need inspiration, consider the impoverished nation of East Timor. Despite a per capita income of around US$500, one of the world’s lowest, their government has promised US$50,000 for tsunami victims. Cayman’s per capita income is the world’s fifth highest at US$35,000.
Yes, we are recovering from our own disaster. Ivan’s visit in 2004 cost us millions of dollars and has left us fatigued. One might argue, however, that the experience should make us more compassionate, not less so.
Right now there are more than 150,000 dead and five million left homeless by the Indian Ocean tsunami. No matter how small, an official pledge of aid from our government would be the right thing to do.
‘Charity begins at home’, is the quick response from those who don’t want to help people in faraway lands.
I agree, charity does begin at home. But isn’t the Earth our home and all people our people? Distance and the imaginary lines that separate nations should never shorten the reach of our compassion.
World news editor Guy P. Harrison is at [email protected]