While I was in China, it seemed like almost every problem from education to healthcare could be traced back to a lack of money. And it seemed like every time there was a lack of money, the shadow of corruption was not far behind. Take, for example, the problem of expensive healthcare. The common people I talk to accuse the doctors of trying to steal their money. The doctors I talk to complain that they work long hours and don’t even make that much. So where does the money go? I ask in bewilderment. Apparently, into the hands of friends and relatives of hospital administration.
And then, people would turn around and ask me, how about corruption in the U.S.? Surely it happens just as often?
And I just didn’t know.
In a class I’m taking this year that’s looking like it will be amazing, I recently read an article about the history of Chester, PA—the “second most economically depressed city in the nation”. And you start to see an awful lot of similarities. After the loss of industry jobs, the local Republican machine started siphoning money from public funds awarded to Chester. $1,000,000 in housing rehab grants was used to pay the salaries of 20 policemen and 20 firemen. Funding for the school system is diverted into administration and not into educational programs. Chester has fallen from a thriving American city to a shithole.
And here, 10 miles away in the town with the highest educational level in the state, Swarthmore students are partying downstairs with loud music and alcohol. Makes you realize how sheltered you’ve really been. I’m grateful for the social awareness that Swarthmore supposedly nurtures in its students, but in the face of such widespread and heavily entrenched problems, I don’t think it’s enough.
Awareness is a good first step but we’re going to need some tools in our belts to help us face these problems.