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Humanitarian Assistance To Syria? Poles Say They Have Their Own Problems

Other stuff on our mind
Other stuff on our mind


WARSAW – When a group of Polish intellectuals, priests and politicians signed a petition for Polish humanitarian assistance to Syria, all hell broke loose on the Internet.

The Polska Akcja Humanitarna (Polish Humanitarian Aid) petition -- signed by former presidents Lech Walesa and Aleksander Kwasniewski; former Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski and Archbishop of Krakow Stanislaw Dziwisz -- called for action to help provide shelter, food and medicine to Syria.

“Polish Humanitarian Aid should deal with humanitarian problems in Poland – we have plenty of them. There are starving children who cannot count on a hot meal at home, seniors who have to choose between buying medicine or food…” wrote one Internet user.

Another wrote: “These elites should use the money that they have stored away in offshore banks for all kinds of foreign aid. In Poland, the unemployment is huge, young people are fleeing from the country; there is no money to buy medicine for our sick children. Services, rents, energy and food are more and more expensive.”

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Polish working-class housing ( Kamil Porembiński)

There are too many of these kinds of posts on the Internet to ignore them. Their authors believe vehemently that Poland is very poor – much too poor to help other countries, and that people and organizations that help these countries cannot be trusted.

Poland does not spend much money on foreign aid. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wants to allocate 2 million zloty ($612,223) for Syria but no one knows how much money the Polish Humanitarian Aid will be able to collect. Perhaps twice as much? This is not even a drop in the ocean, crumbs for a country with 38 million citizens – a pathetic handout.

Happy to receive, not so happy to give

There are many urgent social problems in Poland but the truth is, we cannot compare mass unemployment or malnutrition in children to the suffering of million refugees who have had to flee the civil war, where 80,000 people have already been killed.

Polish people were happy to receive foreign aid in the 1980s. Who can forget the packages that were distributed in churches, during Poland’s martial law, from Dec. 1981 to July 1983. We were so happy to get these care packages, which were not necessarily from rich people. Today Poland is four times richer than it was in the 1980s, yet Poles still believe that they are standing on the verge on a humanitarian catastrophe.

This schizophrenia obviously finds its roots in political grandstanding. During a vote of no confidence at the Polish Parliament on March 7, conservative MP Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a former primer minister, said that there was huge poverty in Poland, and that the country was threatened by depopulation. In the same speech, he also said that Poland deserved a spot in the G20 – the group of 20 finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 major economies.

Reluctance to help Syria or any other poor country is a side effect of Polish politics. There may be wars and starvation in the world but Polish people will continue to be convinced that they are the most miserable and disadvantaged country in the world and that they deserve a little bit more of attention.

Meanwhile a first plane has already left Poland to give assistance to Syria. It’s a good start.

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What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.

Image of a kid wearing a blue striped sweater, using an ipad.

Children exposed to technology at a very young age are prominent today.

Julián de Zubiría Samper


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

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