Helping or hindering?

Helping or hindering?

Yesterday I took part in a conference call with folks in the US on the topic of scarcity. For one participant that triggered thoughts about how to help those at the bottom of the economic pile. Their comments reminded me of a radio programme about a food bank in Newcastle in which one of the recipients became emotional while explaining that the biggest difference his visits made was not the food so much as being treated with respect as a fellow human being by the volunteers and not as a victim or a statistic.

I am currently reading Carne Ross's book [The Leaderless Revolution][2]. In it he has just referred to the common assumption that "most people don't want to take responsibility", the idea that we are meant to leave change to politicians, to simply vote and then trust them to get on with it. He contrasts this with the power each of us has to change the world with relatively small actions that trigger huge change - Rosa Parks on the bus, the first person who boo'd Ceaușescu at his rally, and others.

Both of these incidents reminded me of the quote "to rescue someone is to oppress them". They made me wonder, yet again, about the assumptions we make about "other people" and whether they really need our help or not. In our instincts to help do we take away their agency and reduce their ability to help themselves? Are we merely doing it to increase our own sense of importance at their expense?

How do we avoid this and intervene in a way that genuinely increases collective capability rather than reduces it? How do we help each other in ways that increase mutual respect and at the same time reduce dependency? How do we do this in our own spheres of influence—within our families or places of work?