OPINION

Relief effort

The media telethon launched today by State Radio and Television in cooperation with the Greek Foreign Ministry and three private radio stations (including Skai radio) to help the victims of the Southeast Asia quake and tsunamis on December 26 is, without doubt, a welcome initiative. Most importantly, however, the campaign is not intended to boost people’s sense of solidarity but instead to channel the population’s strong desire to help the countries that were hit by the calamity. Indeed, even before the first telethon was staged, before any official calls for donations were made, people were already seeking ways to help the victims, many giving part of their hard-earned savings. A large number of non-governmental organizations have already raised a considerable amount of money. And should we add the funds pledged by the Foreign Ministry, the amount should hover at around 1 million euros. Now, with the help of the media marathons and the mobile phone text message pledges (anyone can easily donate money, contributing 1 euro for each message), those who wish to take part in the relief effort can easily do so – a factor that is expected to increase funding. Popular participation in the relief campaign is hardly exclusive to Greece. People in other countries, shocked by the size of the catastrophe, are doing their best to help the tsunami-hit countries. The British public is said to have so far donated 85 million euros, while the United Nations reported it had received $1.5 billion in one week after the killer tidal waves – the average size of all its annual humanitarian aid. The response by the Greek populace has been moving. The collected amount is proportionally bigger than that of the larger and wealthier states in what is known as the developed world. The reaction of the Greek public is reminiscent of the spontaneous assistance to the quake victims in Turkey, when Greek support to our eastern neighbors eclipsed any political or national misgivings. The Greek public has over the past week displayed a very strong sense of humanism and concern for «the other.» People here reacted in a fashion that contradicts those who describe (in condemnation or sometimes praise) Greeks as selfish consumers who are deaf to the common good or misfortune. These attributes are a strength, a sensitivity that must be encouraged and exploited with the aim of bolstering our social bonds, not only at times of crisis but on an everyday basis too.