What a difference a million could make

This year has helped Horace Camp see that the majority of his fellow islanders are actually nice people – so do we really want to slash our already meagre Overseas Aid budget while the world is experiencing a global catastrophe?

Overseas Aid president Chris Blin, and 'chancellor' Mark Helyar. (Picture by Sophie Rabey) (28973600)
Overseas Aid president Chris Blin, and 'chancellor' Mark Helyar. (Picture by Sophie Rabey) (28973600)

I DON’T know what has come over me but I’ve struggled to find a subject which has outraged me enough to present itself as the subject of this column. This is most unusual because normally I have a veritable plethora of outrages to choose from and my usual problem is determining which one to be my muse.

But this week I am really struggling. Possibly it’s because there isn’t much going on, Covid crisis and financial ruin excepting, or possibly it’s because I have taken a social media holiday, which has turned off the tap of outrage.

Anyhow, the result is pretty much the same and I am therefore forced, much against my nature, to focus on the good things that are happening around us. Such as the Covid vaccine, which will restore lives back to normal (more on that below), being almost with us and despite inconveniencing some sporting types the States seems to have a mass vaccination plan well in hand. It will be voluntary, but I feel confident that our resident population of flat earthers and conspiracy theorists is far too small to compromise our herd protection.

Even I, with my needle phobia, will summon the courage needed to take my place in the line and take both of my shots. Honest.

Cleared of the fog of outrage, what I can see clearly now is just how well we are doing as a community. I really get the vibe that folk now are thinking about others more and in a good way. Pre-Covid I mostly read and watched news full of man’s (other genders are available) inhumanity to man. Persecution, discrimination and a host of other things which challenged my personal life experience that the majority of people are nice and caring.

Based on the evidence (or possibly ‘evidence’) I was being fed by the media I’m sure I was coming to the conclusion that human beings are basically horrible. Which, as I say, was totally the opposite of the personal evidence I have collected over more decades than I like to remember.

And this media flow of new facts was ramped up by the previous Assembly of the States of Guernsey, which was constantly telling us how awful we are and proposing legislation to force us to be nice people.

What 2020 has taught me is that here on Guernsey we are mostly nice people. Like Mary Poppins, we are only practically perfect and evil doers do lurk amongst us but they are, thankfully, the minority. However, the constant focus on minorities has led us to overlook the good in our community.

I don’t get out much these days, but I have lost count of the number of offers of assistance I have received from in some cases complete strangers who all want to make my life easier.

When I was still engaging in Facebook outrage discussions, quite often the posts would be interrupted by irrelevant topics such as ‘credit card found’, ‘purse found’ or ‘dog seen running on road’. Annoying at the time, but these people were acting as good neighbours and showing community spirit. My media-fed take on life naturally assumes people are more likely to steal from the purse than try to find its owner.

But now my Covid 2020 view of the world makes me remember that most people are honest and honest people don’t steal.

I was a little taken aback when I read that our Overseas Aid was to be cut back by £1m. I know that’s a lot of money, which could pay for demolishing a short length of anti-tank wall or pay our public servants for a day and a half, but with money flying out everywhere else do we as a community really want to cut back on helping others?

Yes, charity begins at home and £1m. is about £15 per head for each of us, but I don’t think it will make a hill of beans difference to any of us here if that £1m. is gifted by us to a world which needs it far more now than ever before.

Imagine at the end of 2021 when we have a huge deficit of £XXm. Will we be truly thankful that it wasn’t £XXm. +1?

I fully support a smaller and cheaper government and I fully understand the trials and tribulations facing our chancellor, Deputy Mark Helyar. But come on, in a truly unprecedented global catastrophe caused by a combination of Covid and world governments’ response to Covid, can’t we, the good people of Guernsey, find the £1m. and give it to some deserving causes?

There will be naysayers, but as a community that benefited greatly from aid just 75 years ago we know just what it means to be helped by others. We give very little in the best of times, a tad over £3m., which we trimmed back this year, but the global level of hardship must have increased in 2020 and I feel bad that we can’t do a little more for others in 2021.

Any amount we give will be seen as virtue signalling by some and you may know that I’m not a fan of virtue signalling. But virtue signalling which puts food on the table for those who have no food, or funds schooling for those who have no schools, or provides life-saving medicine to communities which have none beats virtue signalling by Extinction Rebellion campaigners in my book.

I previously mentioned post-Covid normal times being just around the corner. Perhaps, though, we can preserve some of our new normal where it comes to helping others. We are a very fortunate community, but there are others out there with very different challenges to ours. We were helped when we were in dire need and it can’t do us much harm to send an extra £1m. to help them get through 2021.

It would barely pay for a couple of good English consultants, but it could change the lives of many, many more for the better.

If you agree, perhaps a quick email to the deputies before the budget debate on the 15th could prove my point that most Guernsey people are nice and caring.

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