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Overcoming Misconceptions and Stigmas about People with Disabilities

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How can we overcome stigmas and misconceptions of one another?

Each week we take you on a journey in perspectives to understand a different side of what we have been taught to understand. This interview is with Msaferi Msedi of Tanzania who is part of the Tusaidiane in Tanzania

Let us start with your field of expertise.

My field of expertise is on human rights issues however I am also passionate about disabilities related issues as a part and parcel of human rights, my interest in disability rights work emerged because of being exposed to stigmatization and marginalization of PWD. I have decided to choose a disability field a life time career.

Please tell us something about yourself and your path to your present situation.

As a graduate of Masters of Arts in Applied Community Change, I have experience of practicing what I have leant through the process of working direct with my community. At present, I recognize myself as a person who is passionate about peacebuilding and human rights related issues. To large extent as I refer my previous path, I see the way education has always been an important aspect in my life, because of being educated that is why I have reached this stage of being an advocate of myself and my community.

Basically, I have a background in sociology; after completing my BA degree in 2009; I applied for a job at the national human rights institution; the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG). Until now; I am still working at CHRAGG, my area of expertise at human rights commission office is to deal with duties of a human rights officer; moreover,

Mostly, I have an experience of working and serving a Community of Persons living with disabilities. As a Person with disability myself; I am well grounded in the realities which face Persons living with disabilities in my Country; for instance there are some challenges on translating the disability related policy to action: “since what is written in policy does not correspond with the ‘on the ground’ reality.” this has contributed to disrespectful behavior towards Persons living with disabilities in Tanzania and to large extent have negatively affected their ability to move socially and economically.

Where were you when you made the choice to persue this?

I had made the choice to persue this when I was exposed to be interacted with my community, before that as a young boy aged 12-year-old in 1988 I lived an isolated kind of life and I had no idea about peacebuilding, human rights or Persons with disability (PWD) related issues; I was just Msafiri a disabled and I was stuck in an ableism society. Then in 1999 some NGOs started to operate in my home city, by advocating for the rights of PWD. I was stimulated by these initiatives; as I started to get realization concerning the rights of PWD.

Therefore, at the beginning of 2000 I started working with a community of People with disability to present moment. Moreover, in 2001, I volunteered to work with an NGOs which involved itself in a work of lobbying and advocating for the rights of Elderly people who are being killed because of witchcraft false beliefs. Additional to that when I was at university taking my BA I majored in the subject of human rights and I used to involve myself in Pro-life movement. As a proponent of Pro-life ideology; I do believe that life is a gift from God; therefore, it should be cherished. Although in practice I am aware with the existing debate and argument about issues like euthanasia (mercy killing), abortion, legal killing and others issues which present an ethical dilemma between the Pro-life and Pro-choice campaigners. In my Masters Practicum from the year 2013 to 2016 I developed an opportunity to discover a lot about Peacebuilding and stigma elimination. Moreover, I have learned that majority of People with disability are not educated hence unable to advocate for themselves. In nutshell, I have decided of choosing disability field a life time career.

What were the steps you took?

After observing challenges facing PWD I decided to use existing initiatives; that is local initiative of mobilizing people with disabilities in the area where I had been living I did this as I was aware with the fact that there is power in unity, further more when I was doing my masters research I conducted research on information technology after being aware with the fact that information is power. My main interest was to discover the role of information technology in promoting empowerment among persons with disability especially with a reference to members of Self Help Groups in Mwanza city. My research was a requirement of the master’s degree (called the Practicum) at Future Generations University. I decided to focus on that as I noted it is a successful way to empower persons with disability. The research participants included persons with disability and the dependents of disabled persons. This study focused on self-help groups and application of information technology such as mobile phones, computers, internet and use open source software like FrontlineSMS an SMS management platform that lets a person control and manage 2-way SMS engagement with anyone in the world. Considering that in Tanzania, the personal use of Mobile phone plays an important role in the empowerment process that is why I had a preference to integrate these ideas in my peacebuilding practicum using self-help groups and digital program to mobilize my community.

My practicum succeeded to highlight the importance of making changes in both mindset and practice away from charity/economic dependence on others among persons with disability and the community in general to an independent living paradigm. Basically, my focus was on the socioeconomic self-reliance and independence of Persons with disabilities however even the non-disabled were involved this comprised parents of children with disabilities for a purpose of building a sense of inclusiveness. Mostly my study investigated the advantage of using Information Technology and Self-help groups and what benefits are available for PWD as among the forgotten peacebuilders.

 


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What were some of the obstacles you faced?

The obstacles are in three level firs in Lower Developing Countries like Tanzania there are few or basically there is no person who is ready and willing to support human rights or disability rights issues using their own resources including money, therefore when I promote human rights or disability rights I can find myself dying poor economically as I do not have access to finance to enable me to do my work of promoting human rights properly. Second, according to my personal experience I have noted that the major violator of human rights is the government, therefore when I am fulfilling my duties I found being brought in tension with the government, third the community members they do not know human rights the meaning of human rights.

On the other side as I refer to disability rights promotion and protection since previous times to present I have used to face four major challenges in my career, first negative community attitudes about disability as disability is looked in charity model, second illiterate in a community of persons with disability, third poverty among persons with disability and fourth is the challenges to accessing public facilities like public transport and other public services like ATM machines among others.

Additional to that as I refer to the community I work with in general I can say I face another challenge of practicing peacebuilding and human rights issues in action, since Tanzania is one of the developing countries, it is known to be one of the most peaceful and hospitable country among African countries. However, you will never miss stranger practices which threaten human rights existence. The issue is that, many events of human rights violations are likely to be reported in responsible authority; however, it is sad to note that sometime no appropriate measures are being taken against perpetrators or victims of human rights violation. Because of that many people in the community have loosed faith with those in authority, so once they are confronted with violent actions or words for instance, they would prefer to respond by “taking revenge”. The people’s response through revenge illustrates that Tanzanian people continue to struggle with a perceived lack of options for responding to the violation of their human rights; for that reason, I developed a sense that it is better for me as a public servant to persue peacebuilding career as I have noticed that there is a high demand for qualified professional in both private and public sectors in promoting and protecting human rights using information technology.

Did you know, in advance of taking the journey, that these obstacles could show up?

I did know not that human rights work which concern human dignity has some obstacles, I did not expect obstacles, I joined without expecting opposition however when I joined it I started to realize the reality and I was aware that I have to be working with a community that is affected with poverty, specifically when I refer to people with disabilities majority of them they don’t have access to advanced technology like possessing smartphone.

Since my intention was to connect them through technology at local level while I am doing my practicum, I noted it could be hard for me to connect them through smartphones; however, I noted that even if I remain silent nothing can change, that is why I had thought that it could be a wise idea to initiate change process by using resources that I had been possessing in my surrounding. At the sometimes practicing a creativity initiatives of changing obstacles into opportunity by utilizing available success. That is why I had to take initiatives to build a network that is likely going to connect People with disabilities by using cheap method of employing ICT using MOBILE Phone, FrontlineSMS especially application of short messages (SMS) as a starting point. To certain point it worked and I keep on looking for other available opportunities of building a strong network, for instance in recent days I have been connected with an NGO which produce and distribute MP3 player’s devices known as URIDU and we are giving for free to self-help groups of women and persons with disabilities and we use available information and initiated activities like visiting hospital and participating in making environmental cleanness to strengthen our network.

How did you overcome these obstacles? What did you do?

On the side of personal obstacles, I have used education as my weapon and shield of overcoming these obstacles. Through my life experience; I have come to realize that education never only secure better future, it also increases one’s self confidence and gives ones the strength to face the difficulties of life. That is the reason why I invested my time in learning new knowledge and skills so as to overcome some obstacles.

My past accomplishments are good indicators of my anticipated future success in this field. I have decided to work with the community as well as learning from the community by using the SEED-SCALE theory, in nutshell SEED-SCALE is about people helping themselves by using the resources they posses, it describes a comprehensive theory of social change and it is an approach which consider that all human being possess human energy and it is led by four principle: – 1. Build from Success (look on the existing success to move forward) 2. 3-way Partnership (Top-down, Bottom-up, and Outside-in) 3. Decision making by basing on evidence (Decide from Evidence—The use of Power Money Dogma is not reliable answers. 4. Behavior Change- This is the Goal

By using SEED-SCALE knowledge and skills now I know well to deal with the issue of creating awareness to experts, government officials and community members is building a just and lasting change through respect of all human rights, although some people are criticizing human rights as something from western we deal with that issue through education, for an issue of finance we proceed to solicit funds from donors and different sponsors although we have failed to succeeds as it is supposed to be, therefore we are trying our best to be creative in the long run.

How would you recommend to others to persue a field similar to this?

In pursuing this filed I would recommend other to understand human rights and its importance in the development process if there is no realization of Human Rights it means everything is in vain. I should argue people to remember that in any kind of career which they are going to pursue they are supposed to realize and respect human rights in their daily routine because without human rights there is no peace and there is no development, when people or a government work in environment which is hostile even friends and investors can avoid to collaborate, as people are not certain if those in power can observe law human rights or not. Additional, I would recommend to expert and government when they deal with a certain community let us say a community of people with disability, consultation is important as they are not object but they are subject and they are the first expert, we should avoid to focus always on external expert to solve our local problem, we are the change agents ourselves we must act. This can be possible when People in local setting show initiatives of using what they have to promote changes

Do you feel there is a better way to education people on the persuit of this field
and if so, what would it be?

Yes, there is a better way through community participation and community theatre and arts like music which originate from community itself, it can be a better way to education while people are in pursuit on this field it can be perfect as it is done through practice rather than theory. As to my understanding action speak louder than word, community action are possible if people work in collaboration and avoid a tendency of competition, as competition bring antagonistic mind set while collaboration increase creativity and sustainability.

May we ask what were some of the mistakes you made and what you learned from these mistakes?

I know as human being we are not perfect, I know I have made a lot of mistake as a community member as a leader however from those mistake I noted there was a failure, therefore that experience have helped me to learn to appreciate the words of wisdom by Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) a Politician and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955, he said “Success is not final, failure is not the end, but the courage to continue is what matters”. That is the reason why I do not lose hope because of my past mistake or failure. Furthermore; mistake or failure have forced me to make a comparison by looking on the creation of God, when I look on the existing living organisms, for instance I get motivated by an ant, it is just a small insect but as human being we can learn many things from an ant. It searches for an alternate way when it meets an obstacle and it never turn back. It has discipline and fore-sight; it knows that it won’t get food in the rainy season, so it collects the food in advance in summer. Last but not the least, it feels mistake or failure is the first step of success. It won’t give up until it leaches its goals. Implying Mistake and Challenges are as essential to the human spirit as air. Without them, we never know the greatness of which we are all capable.

Were your family and friends supportive? How did you deal with this?

My plans sometimes were not accepted as I planned, I have used to receive criticism from friends and family members, to deal with them I have developed a tendency of being a focused person since I know there is no perfect ideas, even my ideas are not perfect, therefore in case I meet with a constructive criticism I have developed a tendency of using my ideas and others peoples ideas by merging those ideas from two sides so as to come with correct ideas, but for the ideas which intend to intimidate me or make me as useless, inferior and nothing or nobody person I have got a tendency or ignoring them discarding them and keep on moving by focusing on my vision.

What is different now about the field you are in?

My field is human rights as a person with disability working with a community of persons with disabilities, I see some different in my field, first the institution including my fellow staff are respecting me as a human and I seen realization of human rights for PWD is growing additional to that it has provided me with different knowledge and skills and has prepared me for the career I want. I anticipate to increase my knowledge and to strengthen my advocacy skills. I believe that this field will enable me to put into practices the ideas I have of helping people in our community to respect human rights majority of human rights violations which are happening in Africa happen because people do not respect human rights, using my expertise in peacebuilding I hope to make a different in my field of human rights as well as disability activist. Since the knowledge and skills, I possess I see they are helping me a lot in acquiring not only the technical know-how but also the mindset and interpersonal skills that are essential for a successful professional.

What are some of the misconceptions of what you do?

Because human rights are a cross cutting issue sometime people in my community see and define human rights is issue is a place of protecting criminals once you address the rights of criminals as human being, it seems we protect criminal’s offenders at the sometimes we consider the offender despite of being seen as a criminal but still is a human with the rights he/she deserve protection

Now that you have come this far, if you knew back then what you know right now, what would you change, if anything?

Change the legal system by reviewing the existing laws to strengthen and expedite the protection and promotion of human rights

Changing people’s mindset on human rights issues and this is possible through awareness raising campaign.

Changing the prevailing human rights education system to human rights defenders

How would you like to see people work better together?

If the community will build a culture of realizing respect, observing human rights we can make a just society with a culture of respecting human rights then it could be easy for people to walking together and working together as a team

What are some of the big challenges you see ahead in the coming months or years?

Challenges are inevitable, major challenges I see is that majority of people are fed up in relation to their rights violation, even issues of people desire to go to court to demand for their rights will diminish, If we will not receive fund from donors to create human rights the human rights issues will fail, donors have to make a mechanism of funding because human right promotion now is not the priority of the state that can cause people to lose hope, as a result people can adopt the cultural of silence as they consider violence is part of their life

Thank you.

Msafiri

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As the Golden Globes lose their luster, can we create a better version of Hollywood?

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Something interesting is happening in Hollywood. People are walking away from the Golden Globe Awards.

And for good reason.

Anyone who has ever worked in the filthy abyss of Hollywood, New York, or any major entertainment city will know first hand how these systems work. Sycophants, parasites and moguls and talent agents willing to step all over each other just for the sake of another prize. Some will even kill for a shot at the brass ring.  And industry divided cannot succeed.

The only good thing I found in the Golden Globes was watching Ricky Gervais lampoon the stars and their handlers from the stage. Bravo to Gervais, it doesn’t make a difference what you think of him, afterall, he had something that most of Hollywood doesn’t have. Balls. Guts. And a way of delivering amusing reality dosed insults to their face only to find he’s been re-instated as the show host for the next years showing.

 

The annual Golden Globes ceremony has been unable to find a broadcasting partner or any celebrities willing to present or collect its awards after a Hollywood boycott over its diversity and ethics scandal, resulting in a pared-down event with the emphasis on philanthropy.

According to Variety, the Globes’ talent bookers have failed to persuade any big Hollywood figures to attend the 2022 edition of the awards ceremony, a hitherto glittering annual event that traditionally kicked off the lucrative awards season. In March 2021 more than 100 public relations firms announced they would withdraw cooperation with the Globes, a series of high-profile Hollywood figures, including Tom Cruise and Scarlett Johansson, made stinging public criticisms, and TV network NBC cancelled its broadcast of the 2022 edition. (-The Guardian)

 
eguardian.com/film/2022/jan/09/golden-globes-lose-their-shine-as-a-listers-shun-unethical-ceremony

But this years showing not only lacked the luster of Hollywood today, but doesn’t even have a Network or Livestream to cover it.  I guess we’ll have to rely on celeb Twitter Feeds.

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How The Pentagon and CIA Have Shaped Thousands of Hollywood Movies into Super Effective Propaganda

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By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, January 5, 2022

Propaganda is most impactful when people don’t think it’s propaganda, and most decisive when it’s censorship you never knew happened.

 

When we imagine that the U.S. military only occasionally and slightly influences U.S. movies, we are extremely badly deceived. The actual impact is on thousands of movies made, and thousands of others never made. And television shows of every variety.

The military guests and celebrations of the U.S. military on game shows and cooking shows are no more spontaneous or civilian in origin than the ceremonies glorifying members of the U.S. military at professional sports games — ceremonies that have been paid for and choreographed by U.S. tax dollars and the U.S. military. The “entertainment” content carefully shaped by the “entertainment” offices of the Pentagon and the CIA doesn’t just insidiously prepare people to react differently to news about war and peace in the world. To a huge extent it substitutes a different reality for people who learn very little actual news about the world at all.

The U.S. military knows that few people watch boring and non-credible news programs, much less read boring and non-credible newspapers, but that great masses will eagerly watch long movies and TV shows without too much worrying about whether anything makes sense. We know that the Pentagon knows this, and what military officials scheme and plot as a result of knowing this, because of the work of relentless researchers making use of the Freedom of Information Act. These researchers have obtained many thousands of pages of memos, notes, and script re-writes. I don’t know whether they’ve put all of these documents online — I certainly hope they do and that they make the link widely available. I wish such a link were in giant font at the end of a fantastic new film. The film is called Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood. The Director, Editor, and Narrator is Roger Stahl. The Co-Producers are Matthew Alford, Tom Secker, Sebastian Kaempf. They’ve provided an important public service.

In the film we see copies of and hear quotations from and analysis of much of what has been uncovered, and learn that thousands of pages exist that nobody has yet seen because the military has refused to produce them. Film producers sign contracts with the U.S. military or CIA. They agree to “weave in key talking points.” While unknown quantities of this sort of thing remain unknown, we do know that nearly 3,000 films and many thousands of TV episodes have been given the Pentagon treatment, and many others have been handled by the CIA. In many film productions, the military effectively becomes a co-producer with veto power, in exchange for allowing the use of military bases, weapons, experts, and troops. The alternative is the denial of those things.

But the military is not as passive as this might suggest. It actively pitches new story ideas to movie and TV producers. It seeks out new ideas and new collaborators who might bring them to a theater or laptop near you. Act of Valor actually began life as a recruitment advertisement.

Of course, many movies are made without military assistance. Many of the best never wanted it. Many that wanted it and were denied, managed to get made anyway, sometimes at much greater expense without the U.S. tax dollars paying for the props. But a huge number of movies are made with the military. Sometimes the initial movie in a series is made with the military, and the remaining episodes voluntarily follow the military’s line. Practices are normalized. The military sees huge value in this work, including for recruitment purposes.

The alliance between the military and Hollywood is the main reason that we have lots of big blockbuster movies on certain topics and few if any on others. Studios have written scripts and hired top actors for movies on things like Iran-Contra that have never seen the light of day because of a Pentagon rejection. So, nobody watches Iran-Contra movies for fun the way they might watch a Watergate movie for fun. So, very few people have any notions about Iran-Contra.

But with the reality of what the U.S. military does being so awful, what, you might wonder, are the good topics that do get lots of movies made about them? A lot are fantasy or distortion. Black Hawk Down turned reality (and a book it was “based on”) on its head, as did Clear and Present Danger. Some, like Argo, hunt for small stories within large ones. Scripts explicitly tell audiences that it doesn’t matter who started a war for what, that the only thing that matters is the heroism of troops trying to survive or to rescue a soldier.

Yet, actual U.S. military veterans are often shut out and not consulted They often find movies rejected by the Pentagon as “unrealistic” to be very realistic, and those created with Pentagon collaboration to be highly unrealistic. Of course, a huge number of military-influenced films are made about the U.S. military fighting space aliens and magical creatures — not, clearly, because it’s believable but because it avoids reality. On the other hand, other military-influenced films shape people’s views of targeted nations and dehumanize the humans living in certain places.

Don’t Look Up is not mentioned in Theaters of War, and presumably had no military involvement (who knows?, certainly not the movie-watching public), yet it uses a standard military-culture idea (the need to blow up something coming from outerspace, which in reality the U.S. government would simply love to do and you could hardly stop them) as an analogy for the need to stop destroying the planet’s climate (which you cannot easily get the U.S. government to remotely consider) and not one reviewer notices that the film is an equally good or bad analogy for the need to stop building nuclear weapons — because U.S. culture has had that need effectively excised.

The military has written policies on what it approves and disapproves. It disapproves depictions of failures and crimes, which eliminates much of reality. It rejects films about veteran suicide, racism in the military, sexual harassment and assault in the military. But it pretends to refuse to collaborate on films because they’re not “realistic.”

Yet, if you watch enough of what is produced with military involvement you’ll imagine that using and surviving nuclear war is perfectly plausible. This goes back to the original Pentagon-Hollywood invention of myths about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and runs right up through military influence on The Day After, not to mention the transformation — paid for by people who throw a fit if their tax dollars help prevent someone freezing on the street — of Godzilla from a nuclear warning to the reverse. In the original script for the first Iron Man movie, the hero went up against the evil weapons dealers. The U.S. military rewrote it so that he was a heroic weapons dealer who explicitly argued for more military funding. Sequels stuck with that theme. The U.S. military advertised its weapons of choice in Hulk, Superman, Fast and Furious, and Transformers, the U.S. public effectively paying to push itself to support paying thousands of times more — for weapons it would otherwise have no interest in.

“Documentaries” on the Discovery, History, and National Geographic channels are military-made commercials for weapons. “Inside Combat Rescue” on National Geographic is recruitment propaganda. Captain Marvel exists to sell the Air Force to women. Actress Jennifer Garner has made recruitment ads to accompany movies she’s made that are themselves more effective recruitment ads. A movie called The Recruit was largely written by the head of the CIA’s entertainment office. Shows like NCIS push out the military’s line. But so do shows you wouldn’t expect: “reality” TV shows, game shows, talk shows (with endless reunifications of family members), cooking shows, competition shows, etc.

I’ve written before about how Eye in the Sky was openly and proudly both completely unrealistic nonsense and influenced by the U.S. military to shape people’s ideas about drone murders. A lot of people have some small idea of what goes on. But Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood helps us to grasp the scale of it. And once we’ve done that, we may gain some possible insights into why polling finds much of the world fearing the U.S. military as a threat to peace, but much of the U.S. public believing that U.S. wars benefit people who are grateful for them. We may begin to form some guesses as to how it is that people in the United States tolerate and even glorify endless mass-killing and destruction, support threatening to use or even using nuclear weapons, and suppose the U.S. to have major enemies out there threatening its “freedoms.” Viewers of Theaters of War may not all immediately react with “Holy shit! The world must think we’re lunatics!” But a few may ask themselves whether it’s possible that wars don’t look like they do in movies — and that would be a great start.

Theaters of War ends with a recommendation, that movies be required to disclose at the start any military or CIA collaboration. The film also notes that the United States has laws against propagandizing the U.S. public, which might make such a disclosure a confession of a crime. I would add that since 1976, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has required that “Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.”

To learn more about this film, view it, or host a screening of it, go here.

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The Grinch That Stole Christmas

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Back in the mid 70’s as my wife and I were starting our photography business Wally Miller, a successful local businessman, invited us to his office to offer help in the form of business advice. He asked only that we bring a financial statement and of course we complied.  The business startup process was new to us and after two years we were still losing money, and there it was in plain sight on the financial statement.  Wally welcomed us warmly and after a few minutes of careful study of our financials offered this observation, “You have no bad debts.”

Naturally I took this as a compliment.  I was proud that we had no bad debts, but that is not what Wally meant.  He elaborated, “If you have no bad debts that means that your credit is too tight and that translates into lost business.” His meaning was clear.  To be successful, really successful, you have to accept reasonable losses.  It’s the very nature of business.  If you want 100% certainty there can be no risk and without risk there can be no profits.

There’s a lesson in this thinking for Joe “McFuqwad” Manchin, the tight-ass, penny-pinching Grinch ruining Christmas for every American under the cover of “fiscal responsibility.”  His staffers gave us a look into his rationale, revealing two of the real reasons behind Joe’s decision to be the big NO.

Apparently Manchin believes that giving money to the poor in the form of a child tax credit is unwise because in his view, many will spend the extra dollars on drugs.  Likewise he is opposed to paid leave, stating that people will just call in sick and then go off deer hunting.

Now let’s all agree that in a free society, there are good and bad actors.  No law can legislate what is in the hearts of men.  No law can dictate integrity or honor.  If that were the case, there would be no GOP, no Jim Jordan, no Ted Cruz, no Matt Gaetz, No Marjorie Taylor Green, no Lauren Boebert. You get my drift, but I digress.

Once you agree to recognize that the actions of individuals are beyond your control, you must the adjust your decisions and subsequent actions to affect the greatest good for the majority.  Charity benefits the worthy and unworthy alike, without discrimination.  To withhold benefits from the worthy because there will always be unworthy recipients is to succumb to the devil’s play, a game of reduction that punishes all for the few.

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