Does Australia have a problem with selfishness?

This month, I was lucky enough to travel to Southeast Asia with my work as a clinical nurse with some of my university students. It was an amazing experience, something I have done for several years now but this time there was a big difference – and it has made me rethink everything in the world.

While we visit a few countries, we conduct community health programs, educating and teaching the local people the basic things about health. When I say basic, I really mean basic. It’s the things like washing your hands, cleaning your teeth and basic hygiene behaviours that we’re teaching. So many of the people have never been told any of these things let alone showed them. The thousands of bars of soap and small toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes we took over were completely foreign items to these beautiful people.

I’ve lived in a few third would countries before after spending years living in Africa so I’m somewhat acclimatised to the different culture when it comes to health. However, there was something this time that completely blew me away, to be honest, it gobsmacked me.

These children and these families who had never seen a bar of soap or been told to use water to clean their hands after going to the bathroom, coughing or sneezing were so immersed in technology.

The children running around had mobile phones, iPhones, Nokias and any other phone brand. There was wireless internet everywhere we went and I could jump on to Facebook anytime. The young people in the villages even asked my students to add them on Facebook.

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It blew my mind to think that these poor, uneducated people are so removed from our western cultured world and lack so much knowledge that the average Australian takes for granted but in their hands they hold the devices, with the connections that are all they need to make a change.

If somehow we could provide online learning through smartphones through government initiatives or humanity outreach organisations, these people would have the ability to learn. They would have the access to the knowledge that could save a life and change so many lives.

Across the world in the UK, USA, Australia and others we are creating self-driving cars, flying robots with cameras, people are trying to electronically send scents and so many other bizarre things that don’t have the capacity to make a dramatic change to the lives of others. Sure self-driving cars give vision impaired and physically impaired people transport, robots could be used to prevent crime or to help monitor people and I’m sure there is some obscure benefit to sending smells online, but nothing has the capacity to make mass change.

Why do we make the choice to focus on the “fun” things, the things that could possibly make our lives easier instead of the things that could make someone’s life better?

Is it the money? Is there no profit in this? I fail to understand how we can provide military intervention in countries continents away, we can provide disaster relief to countries when they need it in a hurry but we can’t use the brainpower, good will and technology we already have to do this. Right now, the only thing I can fully see is that we’re selfish. Not each individual, but as a nation. While we squander over the pension amount and whether or not we can buy the premium mince or the cheap mince this week, there is someone – a pregnant woman or a child perhaps, who is falling fatally ill because they didn’t know to wash their hands.

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I wish I better understood how to leverage the technology we have to make a change in these countries for the better. I wish I could do it myself! But for now, I’ll continue to do my small part every year and pray that the difference is significant enough.


Do you think that as a nation we have a problem with selfishness? Have you had a similar experience to me? Share your thoughts in the comments below….