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From: Herder Korrespondenz, 2/2014, P. 59.
webmaster's own, not authorized translation


    A "strenuous" annual campaign of the German Caritas Association


The mood alternates between bad conscience and feelings of powerlessness. It reaches to sheer resignation and sometimes even to irritated, annoyed resignation. A little reading in daily newspapers and now and then the "Tagesschau" in the evening are already enough to understand that we live in a highly cross-linked, increasingly shrinking world. That's why everything that is done by any individual has somehow effects also on others - especially on those who live far away from me, and who I have never met and will never meet in life.

First and foremost, the average lifestyle in a rich country like Germany - from the produced waste up to an unrestrained consumption of resources - has negative consequences for the lives of the poor and poorest people in the world: as for instance the impact of the man-made climate change - as it says here in a rather covering up and generalizing way. Above all the residents of countries which have no ability preventively to adapt themselves to climate change and the associated disasters suffer from this misconduct.

And this means, even more concrete and tangible, the coltan in my mobile phone or smartphone is naturally mined in Africa - often under inhumane conditions in an environment of violence and corruption. Maybe that the purchasing agents of the Western sporting goods manufacturer even made sure that there are emergency exits in the windowless room where hundreds of seamstresses work ten to twelve hours. And, of course, also the nurse from Eastern Europe whom we finally were able to employ for our frail parents has her family, parents and children. They live for hundreds of kilometers away from their mother, who is trying to earn her livelihood in the wealthy Germany and perhaps is even vilified as "Armutsmigrantin" [poverty migrant].

Are all these circumstances still too little known? Or are they "only" simply suppressed in everyday life? After all, you are not able to care for all ... "Far away is closer than you think" - with this plausible and catchy sentence, also the German Caritas Association is now probing into the matter. With its this year's topical campaign, the Caritas wants to draw attention to the global networking of everybody with everybody - especially to the responsibility which each individual has, e.g. as (energy) consumer.

"What you buy, how you live and with whom you come into contact - all this has an impact on how people are living elsewhere," it says, for instance, in the comprehensive campaign materials - connected with the invitation, "Discover your global neighbors!" After all, I will only be interested in the life and fate of "people elsewhere," if they have a specific face.

It is not the aim of campaigns of the Catholic Welfare Association to spread harmony, to arouse feelings of well-being, or perhaps even to encourage self-righteous contentment. "Family can only be built together" was the motto of last year's Caritas campaign. What mattered here for Caritas was to point out what families do for their members and society - but also to call for support for families.

The year before, the motto was "Poverty is Sickening." The aim of this campaign was to draw attention to the vicious circle of disease, poor health care, lack of prevention and poverty. And there are not just a few people who are almost hopelessly caught in such a vicious circle - even in a rich country like Germany.

However, as with hardly any of the former campaigns, this year Caritas apparently takes the risk to touch sore spots, and possibly to get on its contemporaries' nerves. This, too, is its task. And the reverse is also true: If every individual bears such a great responsibility, also the small steps of an individual have an impact, as e.g. little alterations in energy consumption or in consumer behavior. First and foremost, however, such small changes in behavior - and Caritas offers plenty of suggestions - may help to overcome that diffuse mood: this fatal combination of bad conscience and feelings of powerlessness up to sheer hopelessness.


Link to 'Public Con-Spiration for-with-of the Poor'