It is fortuitous that ’tis the season we dust off Dickens’ most beloved villain, Ebenezer Scrooge.
I say fortuitous because Scrooge reminds us to choose between our conflicting natures: we can be cynical and selfish or we can realize we are our brother’s keeper. It is my Christmas wish that Canada would choose the latter, because we have been notoriously cynical lately.
I wonder how many Canadians are aware that CIDA is the only federal department with a frozen budget? Millions of dollars of aid to the world’s poorest are being withheld in the name of austerity, although Canada’s aid commitment is far below that of nations who are struggling with much greater fiscal troubles. You can almost hear Scrooge saying: “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” Such appears to be Canada’s attitude to the world’s poor.
This is not just a wishful, Tiny-Tim thinking of a unique Christmas goose. Several programs that Canada has fully supported in the past have proven to be accountable, cost- effective and show proven results. Programs such as the Global Partnership for Education and the Global Fund to fight TB, AIDS and malaria. But it is easy to turn from the world’s poor, as they have no voice in Canada.
We like to think we are being financially pragmatic, but as Dickens reminds us, “mankind is our business,” and we don’t know the length of burdensome chain we carry, forged of the bones of the silent legions that are passing beyond help.
Scrooge had a glimpse of a future where children die because of his inaction and his own name is cursed, and this is the path we are on.
The entire world is watching us; which Scrooge shall we be?