Yoaz Hendel

Words won't help the poor

Op-ed: Social protestors' bogus solidarity with man who set himself on fire helps no one

It hurts to see a man setting himself on fire, fed up with his life because of the despair. The tragedy grows when it appears that it could have been different. That the signs of distress were there all along the way. That the State, society, and family could have noticed him, stopped him, reached out to him and possibly changed the course of history for one very lonely man.


Compassion is a commodity that does not appear in the law books and in the procedures of government offices. One cannot order public servants to show compassion. One cannot apply it to ministers and attach it to bureaucratic apparatuses. Those who possess this compassion will know how to help someone early on; those who do not possess it will ignore such people.


At the end of the day, decisions are made on a personal basis and tragedies ore created or prevented on a personal basis. The life of Moshe Silman is a personal tragedy, and so is the way he tried to end his life. The State is not at fault for his act and neither are its leaders, ministers and advisors.


A despaired man has the right to point fingers in every direction. Looking up at the prime minister is a natural right; one has the right to blame nameless institutions that one feels made his life difficult on purpose. However, it's our duty to look into these accusations very carefully.


Reality is complex: Mistakes happen and there are cases that slip through the cracks. Every society has its margins, and some people face misfortune even though they did everything right and were decent citizens. It doesn't matter whether Silman dug his own pothole or whether others helped him dig it. At the end of the day, he's alone.


Don't speak, volunteer

Moshe Silman is not Tel Aviv's social protest, and the protest is not Silman's. This lonely, suffering man was not among the young people who hit the streets because rental prices in central Tel Aviv are too expensive for them. He apparently also did not identify with the mothers who hit the streets with their expensive strollers to protest the cost of living.


Silman was not part of the middle class, the white tribe that came to make a revolution. He could not complain that he does not have enough money to make ends meet, because unlike most protestors he did not have enough money to even start trying. Silman was not a devout socialist. He merely wanted to survive, and when he discovered that the bourgeoisie revolution did not provide him with a lifesaver, he grew despaired and gave up.


The solidarity shown to him by members of the social protest the day after is bogus and disturbing. Those who want to help people like Silman don't do it via rallies and speeches or with the help of strategic advisors and skilled spokespeople. Those who wish to help the despaired should get up and leave central Tel Aviv, head to neighborhoods in distress, raise money for NGOs that hand out food and clothing to the needy, volunteer.


There are so many non-profit organizations out there run by good people; there are so many people out there who need help.


Can the State treat the weak and oppressed differently? Most certainly. The large number of non-profit groups attests to the privatization of many values. It is possible to make it easier for the needy, revive the tradition of public housing and show social sensitivity.


It is possible to improve, but there is no perfect product. At the end of the day, there will always be one lonely and despaired person. There will always be bureaucrats, the dry letter of the law and a State – and the personal role of compassion will never be replaced by rhetoric.



פרסום ראשון: 07.17.12, 20:20
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