Monday, February 6, 2012

Republicans and the Poor

Indonesia battles train "rail surfers" with goop

Commuters ride on the roof of a Jakarta state rail train at Cawang train station on Jan. 27, 2012 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Jakarta is plagued by transport problems due to the lack of alternative public transport options - with private vehicles having priority on the road networks. The number of train passengers greatly exceeds the capacity of the rail network and roof travelers are common, despite the city's best efforts to eradicate this dangerous, and illegal, method of travel. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Indonesia has another bizarre way to keep commuters off the roofs of trains: swat them with brooms drenched in putrid goop.
"For anyone who is still up there, it'll be like a whip," said Ahmad Sujadi, of the state-run railway, PT Kereta Api Indonesia. The contraptions will be installed at select crossings this week.
The Practical Buddhist Responds
Many roof-riders are killed each year by falls or electrocution. They ride up there because there's no room inside. The Indonesian government wants safety. They've installed swinging concrete balls above the tracks, shot riders with paint balls, and sprayed them with smelly goop. 
What to do? People need to get to work safely. The government seems helpless. Maybe the swats and the stink will work, but then how can the people get by?
You know the tale of the compassionate monk who pulled dead bodies out of the river as they floated past his hut and gave them a dignified cremation, with lengthy prayers.  It went on 'til a smarter monk took one look at the bodies and started walking upriver. The first monk asked the second "where are you going?" The second monk replied "I'm going to go upstream and find out what's killing these people."
I'm not picking on Djakarta; it's just a good example of a local failure that causes suffering for people. Buddhism has always had high expectations of governments and kings, including care for the poor. Christianity is no different.

One popular message in the Republican debates is that the free market can settle everything, and that churches and NGO's should take care of the poor. Above all, no citizen (particularly no super-rich citizen) should put more into the tax pot to help. If they did, that would be "socialism" which would lead to all kinds of unspecified evils.