Home » Culture, Evolution, Off Topic » Brand new finding in evolutionary psychology!: When the Selfish Gene is apparently on holiday, the Unselfish Gene kicks in …

Brand new finding in evolutionary psychology!: When the Selfish Gene is apparently on holiday, the Unselfish Gene kicks in …

Recently, commentator Dinesh D’Souza came up with an aid package for a most unlikely – though doubtless deserving – recipient. He considered it a scandal that George Obama, half-brother to the American Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama, lives in Third World poverty in a shack in Kenya:

Here are the facts about George Obama. He’s in his twenties. He lives in a slum in a hut. He wants to become a mechanic but doesn’t have the money. He reports that he gets by on a dollar a month. He met George Obama in 2006 for a few minutes and said it was like talking to a “total stranger.” He said when people notice he has the same name as Barack Obama, he denies they are related because he is “ashamed.”

According to D’Souza, the famous brother has done nothing to help George (who has himself become semi-famous as a result).

In “George Obama, start packing”, D’Souza explains (September 22, 2008) what he himself decided to do to help:

My modest campaign to assist George Obama has been coming nicely. Sean Hannity mentioned it on his show on the Fox News Channel, and I appeared on a handful of radio shows to talk about the idea. Interestingly the George Obama Compassion Fund was reported on by Kenya’s leading newspaper “The Nation.” So far I have received more than $1,000 in small contributions. With my kickoff contribution of $1,000, that’s upwards of $2,000 for George Obama.

This is not a huge sum, but I specifically asked people to send gifts of $5, $10 and $25. The reason is that even a relatively modest sum by American standards is a considerable sum by Kenyan standards. George Obama has said that he is living on a dollar a month. This seems an impossible sum to survive on, so I checked the poverty line in Kenya. According to United Nations estimates, it’s around $100 a year. By this measure, our little fund has provided for George for 20 years. Alternatively, George can move out of his 6 foot-by-10-foot hut and into a more comfortable dwelling. He can also get the training he needs to become a mechanic.

Indian-born D’Souza, who does philanthropy in India, wasn’t standing for any nonsense about his motives either:

The reporter for “The Nation” thought he had me cornered when he asked, “Are you doing this to embarrass Barack Obama?” To which I answered, “Absolutely. He deserves to be embarrassed.”

Of course the Dem hopeful would hardly be the first person to hit the big time and forget about the folks back on the farm. But I do hope D’Souza’s enterprise catches on and becomes a regular feature of political campaigns. Instead of just looking for sex scandals, media everywhere should do far more digging around the subject of who got left behind at the bus station while Our Nation’s Answer to Poverty stumps for the party in tickertape parades.

And I bet they will net some elephants as well as donkeys. But the good news will be that instead of just wondering whether a deserted lover can come back to cause trouble, the wealthy politician will need to rethink impoverished relatives. When advocating spreading the wealth, it is wise to begin with people we know – or should know.

Now let me take this opportunity to mention Save a Family Plan, an organization I have supported since 1966 (yes, I was sixteen at the time). Founded by an Indian Catholic priest, it was based on the simple principle that many poor people in India were highly motivated to rise from poverty by getting technical training or starting a small business – but they had absolutely no money and had no friends or relatives who did either.

Picture a man with a game leg who is dying of thirst, five kilometres from water. He doesn’t need someone to put him on welfare or run his life, he just needs a lift to the water. So families received a gift of money for specific purposes, and then it ceased as they became self-sufficient – which they did. I should know because I have been privileged to work with many such families over the past forty-two years- often widow-led. Anyway, I urge you to consider Save-a-Family Plan or similar plans for your charitable giving.

Also just up at The Mindful Hack

Near death experiences: Respectful interview with near death researcher in Time Magazine

The Spiritual Brain: A “great primer” on the mind-body debate, says reviewer (= how does the mind control the body when the mind is immaterial and the body is material)

Does religion protect us againstpseudoscience?

Neuroscience: Getting beyond the mind-body problem

Neuroscience: Where materialism misleads us

Evolutionary psychology: Misunderstanding superstition

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6 Responses to Brand new finding in evolutionary psychology!: When the Selfish Gene is apparently on holiday, the Unselfish Gene kicks in …

  1. Another great way to solve poverty is microcredit. A friend of mine wrote a book on it called A Billion Bootstraps. It is worth your read.

  2. Thanks, Johnny! Grameen Bank-type microcredit is indeed another great way. It is based on the same principle: In the early stages of the technological development of an area, cash is king and many capable, hardworking people do not have any. Small, strategic injections of cash do NOT upset the local economy, but they do enable more people to escape absolute poverty sooner.

  3. Yes, but we’ve also got to teach them right—as in the motto of a little town downriver from here, “Ask not what Dufur can do for you; ask you can do for Dufur.”

  4. Good point, Rude. But many people in developing countries DO know how to get ahead.

    They are trapped in poverty simply because one way that some systems keep productive people poor – to the benefit of other people – is by depriving them of *cash* money. So they cannot go anywhere for a better deal.

    Giving them a small amount of cash money without exorbitant interest is like opening a prison gate.

    The microcredit banks helped many poor women by giving them credit (not usually done in many traditional cultures).

    Many such women had viable business ideas. One of my favourites was: Buy a cell phone, stand in the street, and rent out time to people who just need to make a quick call.

    Call it a micro communications business if you like.

    Granted, some poor people in developing countries will stay poor no matter what, just as in the developed world, and yes, we DO need to keep that in mind. But right now, tens of millions today would quickly exit poverty because they have everything but a bit of cash to succeed.

  5. You’re right, of course. I’d read about microfinance years ago and the good it does. Typically it was made to women, and in that sense bypassed some of the impoverishing ways inherent in certain cultures (i.e., the men carouse and gamble). Additionally it is not from the government which we shouldn’t empower. In so many so-called third world countries it is socialism, lack of property rights, and corruption that impoverishes. The people from such countries often prosper here more easily than the homeborn—they are not lazy and they recognize opportunity.

    No, above I was just being silly—I do live a hundred and fifty miles upriver from Dufur—but I didn’t even get it right above—here it is again: “Ask not what Dufur can do for you; ask what you can do for Dufur.”

  6. I think it would be great if more private organizations that promote micro-finance took the lead in reducing poverty throughout the world. Too many times citizens, mostly referring to Americans, rely on the government to solve their own problems as well as the problem of several countries around the globe. It is easy to take responsibility and place it on the government’s shoulders, but in reality individuals should be taking on a financial and physical burden to relieve poverty and injustices in other countries. Since when are we devoid of all moral and humane responsibility to fellow humans?

    Of course there are restrictions to individuals and private organizations taking on this task, but with time I believe that responsibility can be passed to the people. Economically, it could relieve unnecessary taxes. Organizationally, it would jettison all the complications of being part of a bureaucracy that steps onto foreign lands. Politically, there would be fewer problems for a private organization to enter than another foreign government. Individually, it would be an investment in the lives of those that give and sacrifice as well as the lives of those that receive the help.

    Overall, when individuals take responsibility to help those in need it produces more effective and beneficial results. The effects of personal relationships can last longer than the relationship itself.

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