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Old 17th March 2011, 07:30 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Don't Give Money To Japan

TLR: I know this is extremely controversial, but I happen to chance upon this on the net and decided to put it up here for people to read and discuss. I am not entirely supportive of the author's views, but I thought this is a good read.

Don't Give Money To Japan
Felix Salmon, Reuters Blogs

Individuals are doing it, banks are doing it — faced with the horrific news and pictures from Japan, everybody wants to do something, and the obvious thing to do is to donate money to some relief fund or other.

Please don’t.

We went through this after the Haiti earthquake, and all of the arguments which applied there apply to Japan as well. Earmarking funds is a really good way of hobbling relief organizations and ensuring that they have to leave large piles of money unspent in one place while facing urgent needs in other places. And as Matthew Bishop and Michael Green said last year, we are all better at responding to human suffering caused by dramatic, telegenic emergencies than to the much greater loss of life from ongoing hunger, disease and conflict. That often results in a mess of uncoordinated NGOs parachuting in to emergency areas with lots of good intentions, where a strategic official sector response would be much more effective. Meanwhile, the smaller and less visible emergencies where NGOs can do the most good are left unfunded.

In the specific case of Japan, there’s all the more reason not to donate money. Japan is a wealthy country which is responding to the disaster, among other things, by printing hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of new money. Money is not the bottleneck here: if money is needed, Japan can raise it. On top of that, it’s still extremely unclear how or where organizations like globalgiving intend on spending the money that they’re currently raising for Japan — so far we’re just told that the money “will help survivors and victims get necessary services,” which is basically code for “we have no idea what we’re going to do with the money, but we’ll probably think of something.”

Globalgiving, it’s worth pointing out, was created to support “projects in the developing world,” where lack of money is much more of a problem than it is in Japan. I’m not at all convinced that the globalgiving model can or should be applied directly to Japan, without much if any thought about whether it’s the best way to address the issues there.

That said, it’s entirely possible that organizations like the Red Cross or Save the Children will find themselves with important and useful roles to play in Japan. It’s also certain that they have important and useful roles to play elsewhere. So do give money to them — and give generously! And give money to other NGOs, too, like Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which don’t jump on natural disasters and use them as opportunistic marketing devices. Just make sure it’s unrestricted. The official MSF position is exactly right:

The ability of MSF teams to provide rapid and targeted medical care to those most in need in more than 60 countries around the world – whether in the media spotlight or not – depends on the generous general contributions of our donors worldwide. For this reason, MSF does not issue appeals for support for specific emergencies and this is why we do not include an area to specify a donation purpose on our on-line donation form. MSF would not have been able to act so swiftly in response to the emergency in Haiti, as an example, if not for the ongoing general support from our donors. So we always ask our supporters to consider making an unrestricted contribution.

I’ve just donated $400 in unrestricted funds to MSF. Some of it might go to Japan; all of it will go to areas where it’s sorely needed. I’d urge you to do the same, rather than try to target money at whichever disaster might be in the news today.

Update: Some bright spark has set up a “Socks for Japan” drive. I’m not making this up. I trust that none of my readers are silly enough to send socks to Japan, but this is a great indication of how wasteful a lot of well-intentioned giving can be.

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Old 17th March 2011, 08:43 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

If I have to explain my main reason for donating so speedily to Japan...it is my perception of the authorities and the people who are handling my money. Because this quake-tsunami is a highly publicized event, should any misuse of funds occur there is a higher chance of it being dug out and exposed.

*Of course there is always the chance that it will occur without my knowledge, and without being exposed for years to come- by then the misuse of funds will be a moot point when the funds are no longer in "existence" and I'll have no one to blame but my own naivety and foolishness.

I've become skeptical of the concept of charities and good causes, no matter how saintly they seem even renowned and well-established causes have fallen to the charge of corruption and greed... I've become hesitant in donating unless I can see for myself that their need and their grief is truly genuine. In the case of Japan, the media plays the greatest role in my desire to donate, when I see the earthquake rock houses on their very foundations, when I see the tsunami sweep away everything... I see, I feel, I believe in their despair and their grief.

But there is also a secondary reason: the reliability of the authorities/beneficiaries. While I wouldn't say that Japan is the cleanest country in regards to corruption, I believe in their sensibility and honor when it comes to times of need, further proven by their much documented/commented resilience and integrity when it comes to living in the wake of chaos.

Unlike some other countries which I'd prefer not to name, I believe Japan would not let their people suffer and die wallowing in their own filth, while their government greedily swallows up the bulk of the relief efforts- and I can't do anything but watch helplessly as it happens.

Furthermore thanks to the good reputation the Japanese have built up as hardworking and resourceful people, I feel even more reassured that my money would go to capable hands. It is this belief in Japan that swings my skepticism into actual action, and unless I have a better idea about who (not just the charity organization, but the people who will benefit) my money will help, I'll be a lot more hesitant in giving.

But despite all these skepticism and cynicism I still believe we should always put aside a certain amount of money to give to those who need it more. Whether from natural disasters or from vicious fate, I believe that trying a little is still better than withholding completely. Of course I'd advise anyone who plans on donating to do their homework on the organization and the beneficiaries before donating- Never Ever Donate blindly.


Last edited by poopeeka; 17th March 2011 at 08:44 PM.
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Old 17th March 2011, 08:48 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

You will never know how your donations will be spent.

Will the money be spent 100% fully on the reconstruction efforts and stuff like that ?

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Old 17th March 2011, 08:53 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

Originally Posted by christmas_ View Post
You will never know how your donations will be spent.

Will the money be spent 100% fully on the reconstruction efforts and stuff like that ?
The same can be said for almost any charity. Which is why for me it comes down to factors like visibility and reputation of both the organization AND beneficiaries. While most organization can easily create an illusion of integrity, their "beneficiaries" will often tell a different story- and to mask that truth is not an easy feat.

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Old 17th March 2011, 09:01 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

Originally Posted by poopeeka View Post
The same can be said for almost any charity. Which is why for me it comes down to factors like visibility and reputation of both the organization AND beneficiaries. While most organization can easily create an illusion of integrity, their "beneficiaries" will often tell a different story- and to mask that truth is not an easy feat.
True, I remember the Gold Taps scandal.
Heh, that really made me sceptical to all these "charities"

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Old 17th March 2011, 09:04 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

Originally Posted by poopeeka View Post
The same can be said for almost any charity. Which is why for me it comes down to factors like visibility and reputation of both the organization AND beneficiaries. While most organization can easily create an illusion of integrity, their "beneficiaries" will often tell a different story- and to mask that truth is not an easy feat.
Agreed.

Originally Posted by theliverevoluti View Post
True, I remember the Gold Taps scandal.
Heh, that really made me sceptical to all these "charities"
I believe many of us stopped donating to charities already

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Old 17th March 2011, 09:21 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

Somehow the author's views make sense. Japan themselves would appreciate the money, but whether they really need it, nobody knows. As the author said, "Japan is a wealthy country which is responding to the disaster, among other things, by printing hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of new money. Money is not the bottleneck here: if money is needed, Japan can raise it." For now, money can't buy many things. The lives lost cannot be bought back. As are the supplies of goods on the shelves of the department stores in North-Eastern Japan - they are running low and those stuffs are what they may need urgently. Food, water, and other necessities - things that money cannot buy now in Japan. They will need more resources, volunteers in rescue operations and nuclear experts for their problems right now more than hard cash. But I'm sure they'll be thankful though, for any donations.

But think long term - they need lots of money to rebuild the area and of course, renovate and repair the nuclear plants. These are not cheap. While Japan may be a wealthy country, they cannot just continue to print money to sponsor their reconstructions. Their money will soon become banana notes. The rebuilding later will definitely bring a economic boost, but to do so the government needs tonnes of money and they cannot just increase tax to fund the reconstruction. So imo, in the long term they may need the money.

Donations to Red Cross, and other organisations etc, may help more than directly donating. They can buy stuffs like food, blankets here, then send them to Japan. The funds can be used to sponsor the rescue missions and first-aid missions in Japan. Although we may not know if somemore golden taps are bought this time, but all we can do is to donate and hope Japan recovers ASAP. Don't lose faith because we donate for a good cause.

I just donated $400. That's the very least I could have done in helping since I'm stuck at Singapore and there's nothing else I can do.

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Old 17th March 2011, 09:23 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

For the most part, I do agree with the author.

As I've mentioned before in a different thread, I believe that the positive impact of donations will be rather low in the case of Japan and that they really don't need (or want) money:

a) Japan is a very wealthy country and so on and so forth.
b) The Japanese government (not 'Japan'/'Japanese'!) has, once again, tried to deal with the problem on their own and allowing only as little external support as possible. Effectively, they don't want our help. There has been so many news about rescue teams offering help but not being asked to help, a lot of rescue teams being in Japan not being allowed to enter the crisis areas and others asked to leave the country. Sure, it's an organisational nightmare, but it would have done more good in the first few days than not accepting their help. Now it's basically too late anyway. The best example, however, is the nuclear plant situation - once again, companies as well as the government tries to hide every fact as much as they can which is an inherent part of the Japanese culture. This is just not reasonable in any possible way.

With regard to the author's view about unspent money: as far as I know, this is the dominant view in academia about disaster relief theories and it is not the first time that is has been mentioned.

So, what can be done?
Not much, I suppose... If you have friends or family staying in Japan, invite them to come over for the next weeks. If you're a hardcore supporter and don't fear the risks, donate bone marrow which is likely to be needed in large quantities soon. Last but not least, buy Japanese products. Their economy is going down and going down hard in the next months and years and this would not only give you a treat but also probably do more good than donating the money directly*.


* I admit, this is most likely not entirely true, but I do believe that there's some truth to it if many donors started acting this way in the next year or so.

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Old 18th March 2011, 04:31 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

basically, the article wants us to donate to MSF.

hmm...referring to jpn relief efforts, it's easier to donate money than in kind cos how many tents, blankets etc can each of us buy? n then we have to ship them over. the logistics will be a huge hassle n normal ordinary people don't know the procedure. so better give money to reputable n trustworthy organisations n they decide how best to use it for japan.

even if japan is rich n can print money as they like (which will devalue their yen if too much), it's nice to be the one giving. u can never know when u'll need help. so best to help others n later they'll help u. just like how japan had always send help to many places in emergencies/disasters. it's not surprising to me that a lot of countries n people send help n donations. it's cos of their gd karma.

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Old 18th March 2011, 05:05 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

Originally Posted by 2x2e2n View Post
so best to help others n later they'll help u. just like how japan had always send help to many places in emergencies/disasters. it's not surprising to me that a lot of countries n people send help n donations. it's cos of their gd karma.
That's based on the fact that they're not allowed to have a proper military, though. I would be cautious in considering their humanitarian activities (which is all they are allowed to do and are therefore more or less forced to do it due to external pressures) as a sign of their altruism or kindness.

As to their currency: printing some money would actually not be a bad idea right now as the yen continues to appreciate due to the expected repatriation of large amounts by Japanese companies.

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Old 18th March 2011, 10:47 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

good controversial read. makes one think - means testing in donations! sounds like the guy friend of msf or from msf. msf rival to red cross in some ways

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Old 18th March 2011, 11:23 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

I would still rather give money to Japan.

Sure, the Africans need it more. But what benefit do I get from Africans living instead of dying?

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Old 18th March 2011, 11:47 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

oooh... harsh.... but deep down, i kinda agree... lol...

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Old 18th March 2011, 12:24 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

this is not a very good arguement, the government is rich but it does not means that they could have all the available resource when a crisis happen, this is why NGO and countries would join to help.

money could be given to buy humanitarian logistic like food, water, blanket but they are also used to hired people or experts to help out like search party, high tech equipment for finding people, etc

if they are rich but are could they get all the resources so quickly? the article says about how the money is misappropriate from a history lesson from haiti but take a look again at haiti now, i could tell u its the politicans that is in efficient. this is not something normal ppl we can do. when disaster happen no people would want to say what they country to do or that japan is rich enough to take care of they own problems but to every NORMAL person they would selflessly want to do anything in their own power to help NOT the government but the people who are suffering.

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Old 18th March 2011, 01:10 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

The government of Japan is not rich, it owes like 795.9 trillion yen which is around 10 trillion usd(tentatively).

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Old 18th March 2011, 04:57 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

Originally Posted by xiaoming01 View Post
this is not a very good arguement, the government is rich but it does not means that they could have all the available resource when a crisis happen, this is why NGO and countries would join to help.

money could be given to buy humanitarian logistic like food, water, blanket but they are also used to hired people or experts to help out like search party, high tech equipment for finding people, etc

if they are rich but are could they get all the resources so quickly? the article says about how the money is misappropriate from a history lesson from haiti but take a look again at haiti now, i could tell u its the politicans that is in efficient. this is not something normal ppl we can do. when disaster happen no people would want to say what they country to do or that japan is rich enough to take care of they own problems but to every NORMAL person they would selflessly want to do anything in their own power to help NOT the government but the people who are suffering.
I agree with this. Just like Singapore, even assuming the govt is rich, that does not mean every singaporeans are rich. And printing money is not THAT easy, it must reflect on the economy of the country, in which Japan has been in recession for the past few years. If they just print without regards, they will just have inflation which will be worst in the long run.

While I agree a bit on which organization to donate is very impt (I also don't trust singapore charity due to the fact that the admin 'cost' sometimes take a big chunk of the actual fund), I donated directly to red cross japan (via google japan). And comparing haiti to japan is so wrong. haiti = earthquake. japan = earthquake + tsunami + nuclear accident. Even the richest country will need all the help it can get since this is a VERY long term problem on a GLOBAL scale.

Finally, about japanese not wanting help from others... (a) not everyone can speak Japanese. (b) it is a NUCLEAR DISASTER... even the american military were commanded not to be anywhere nearer than 50mi. They can only provide logistics assistance but japanese has to do the part (driving the trucks donated by US).

And lastly... socks... only people on the ground will know what is really needed. I am not sure the real reason.. but it is now snowing. I can imagine socks will be helpful to keep your hands and feet warm. But that is just my imagination.

Anyway... the title itself seems like the author is either selfish or just enjoy shock value.

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Old 18th March 2011, 06:31 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

I donated blood. I don't think corruption can do anything with blood.

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Old 18th March 2011, 07:59 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

Originally Posted by flee0308 View Post
I would still rather give money to Japan.

Sure, the Africans need it more. But what benefit do I get from Africans living instead of dying?
What benefit do you get from Japanese living in stead of dying? Seriously, as much as China is considered to be a threat to Southeast Asia nowadays, Japan has been (and in a way still is) the/a major concern.


Originally Posted by xiaoming01 View Post
this is not a very good arguement, the government is rich but it does not means that they could have all the available resource when a crisis happen, this is why NGO and countries would join to help.

money could be given to buy humanitarian logistic like food, water, blanket but they are also used to hired people or experts to help out like search party, high tech equipment for finding people, etc
Whom do you want to hire? The government didn't want external search parties and only agreed on relatively few being allowed to enter. Are you aware of the costs of food, water and blankets? We're not talking billions of USD here, not even about hundreds of millions. The problem in the crisis areas is about the logistic part, not about the stuff people would need. And high tech equipment? As stated before, Japan has significant experience in disaster relief projects, due to their participation abroad and due to Kobe 95 etc. They do have the equipment they need and if they don't (as partially in case of the nuclear plant situation), they've got plenty of offers of other countries to help them out - which they constantly reject for the most part. Money really isn't an issue now. It will be an issue when the rebuilding process begins, but, then again, why should a foreigner donate money to a Japanese rebuilding his house (which any reputable charity wouldn't support anyway)?

Originally Posted by xiaoming01 View Post
if they are rich but are could they get all the resources so quickly?
Once again, we're talking about a very developed country of a significant size. Whatever they're missing could be, would be and most likely has been ordered and delivered from abroad. And even then, again, it's a matter of the logistics part.

Originally Posted by xiaoming01 View Post
the article says about how the money is misappropriate from a history lesson from haiti but take a look again at haiti now, i could tell u its the politicans that is in efficient. this is not something normal ppl we can do. when disaster happen no people would want to say what they country to do or that japan is rich enough to take care of they own problems but to every NORMAL person they would selflessly want to do anything in their own power to help NOT the government but the people who are suffering.
I agree about the first part and I think the day is not long enough to criticise the Japanese government for their behaviour and actions to the extent it should be criticised. As much as I dislike the situation many Japanese have to live in right now and as much as I hope for them being able to return to a normal life as soon as possible (which will probably take years for most), as little I can do to help them without getting involved in a personal way (as written before: e.g. offering shelter for a few of them).


Originally Posted by LycosaEx View Post
The government of Japan is not rich, it owes like 795.9 trillion yen which is around 10 trillion usd(tentatively).
Debt levels do not matter the slightest for the current efforts that are needed.

Originally Posted by dawgbyte View Post
I agree with this. Just like Singapore, even assuming the govt is rich, that does not mean every singaporeans are rich. And printing money is not THAT easy, it must reflect on the economy of the country, in which Japan has been in recession for the past few years. If they just print without regards, they will just have inflation which will be worst in the long run.
a) printing money right now is the best way to deal with the actual and economic situation
b) generally speaking, inflation isn't as bad as some conservative economists make it out to be
c) what counts is not how rich the individuals are but how rich the country is in such a situation (except for the few Japanese who just flew to their holiday home on Hawaii).

Originally Posted by dawgbyte View Post
And comparing haiti to japan is so wrong. haiti = earthquake. japan = earthquake + tsunami + nuclear accident. Even the richest country will need all the help it can get since this is a VERY long term problem on a GLOBAL scale.
Exactly. Haiti was affected so much more than Japan right now is. Just look at the casualties... 10.000... so what? 5.000 Japanese die in car accidents each year. Half of the people who 'just' lost their homes in Japan in the last week died in Haiti: more than 250.000.

Whatever is happening at Fukushima... well, we don't know because of - hey, what a surprise - the Japanese government. In the best case it will not be much of a problem, in a more realistic case it will be but there's not much to be done but to avoid the area in the next years, in the worst case a large area including Tokyo will be uninhabitable which is probably not that likely, though. I wouldn't say it's a problem on a global scale but that it has global consequences. Nevertheless... how are donations supposed to help against nuclear fallout? I'm curious about your suggestions which would make a significant difference.


Originally Posted by dawgbyte View Post
Finally, about japanese not wanting help from others... (a) not everyone can speak Japanese. (b) it is a NUCLEAR DISASTER... even the american military were commanded not to be anywhere nearer than 50mi. They can only provide logistics assistance but japanese has to do the part (driving the trucks donated by US).

And lastly... socks... only people on the ground will know what is really needed. I am not sure the real reason.. but it is now snowing. I can imagine socks will be helpful to keep your hands and feet warm. But that is just my imagination.

Anyway... the title itself seems like the author is either selfish or just enjoy shock value.
I seriously don't get the first part's point.

As for the socks: you're kidding, right? We're not talking about Singaporean bras for people in developing and least developed countries who literally don't have money to buy anything but food and very basic clothing. How much do you think is a pair of socks going to cost if you buy a million of them? I can tell you: probably not more than the Singaporean President can spend on his personal entertainment each year. Bringing them into the areas where they might be needed is a different matter, though. - But you can be certain that (un-)used socks from Singaporeans are neither what the people would like to get nor what the helpers would prioritise to deliver to them.

The author makes a valid point and is one of the few who are approaching the situation from a more rational and distant point of view. I'm not saying that he's right about everything and even my postings in this thread are not exactly conveying my personal opinion but they're both trying to do the same: to bring a bit more objectivity to a discussion which has been highly emotional and highly irrational.

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Old 19th March 2011, 02:58 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

Originally Posted by grt View Post
That's based on the fact that they're not allowed to have a proper military, though. I would be cautious in considering their humanitarian activities (which is all they are allowed to do and are therefore more or less forced to do it due to external pressures) as a sign of their altruism or kindness.

As to their currency: printing some money would actually not be a bad idea right now as the yen continues to appreciate due to the expected repatriation of large amounts by Japanese companies.
i don't think it's a gd idea to question others' intention to do good.
plus even if their altruism may be an "act" or "forced upon" to some people, it's not like they behave half-heartedly or carelessly when helping others. actions speaks louder than words. as with everything, they have a choice. they can always quit or scale back their humanitarian activities but don't think they have done so.

i leave the decision on how to tackle the yen's appreciation to their central bank.
they blame speculators.

i get ur point about not donating to jpn.
u make it sound that jpn is able to fend for itself no matter what.
guess asian values are different from the west.
no man is an island.

n if money is the only thing that we can give, can't stop us, can u?


anyway, if jpn feels that they have no need for the money, they can always start a refund program together with the various charity organisations. i believe with those big n reputable one, there'll be records.

about others going to jpn to actually help out, is gd for experience.
that's how jpn got theirs -- by going to other countries when disasters hit.

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Old 19th March 2011, 03:32 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Re: Don't Give Money To Japan

Originally Posted by 2x2e2n View Post
i don't think it's a gd idea to question others' intention to do good.
It's always a good idea to question other's intentions, whether they're doing good or bad. How else could you analyse a situation properly?

Originally Posted by 2x2e2n View Post
plus even if their altruism may be an "act" or "forced upon" to some people, it's not like they behave half-heartedly or carelessly when helping others. actions speaks louder than words. as with everything, they have a choice. they can always quit or scale back their humanitarian activities but don't think they have done so.
I could argue now that they do it for what they've been striving for for a long time (and, admittedly, for partially good reasons, although their means were often questionable): influence. Japan, whether they are an American puppet or not, needs Asian partners as well as global ones. Especially now, as they're trying to become more independent from the US. That's why they have been giving lots of foreign aid money to Asian countries in the last decades and that's one of the reasons why they join/lead disaster relief and humanitarian interventions projects. Don't forget: It's politics we're talking about here - it has nothing to do with what individuals might want/think/do.

Originally Posted by 2x2e2n View Post
i get ur point about not donating to jpn.
u make it sound that jpn is able to fend for itself no matter what.
guess asian values are different from the west.
no man is an island.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying you shouldn't. Furthermore, I'm indignant over the fact that you're trying to make this a western vs asian value thing.

The relevant point I'm making is that you should be aware of the situation and that donating money might/will not have as much of an impact as you might think. If you can afford it and think that doing something is better than nothing, feel free to donate as much money as you'd like.

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