“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring.”
– Martin Luther King
Around Christmas time you see various charity organizations asking for money on the streets. Whenever there’s a big natural disaster somewhere in the world new charities sprout up from the ground and people fling their money at them. It should come as no surprise that I am not a fan of such charities.
We can look at charities from various viewpoints. For of all, the conspiratorial one questions where the money goes in the first place. People donate millions to charities each year yet the nothing ever seems to get fixed. I’m be willing to wager that some of that money is used to perpetuate the problem it espouses to fix, and some of it simply goes to the deep pockets of fatcats with lots of money to begin with. A tiny amount the of funds go to alleviating the problem the charity claims to be combating, but this is mostly for PR purposes. After all, they need to have something to show for their relief efforts.
If we look at charities from a contemporary realist perspective we can compare it to the medical industry. It’s all about treating the symptoms, and not getting rid of the cause of the disease, since then they’d be out a job. So a charity that claims to want to eradicate hunger needs hungry people to survive. It is the nature of the beast.
Many millionaires give a lot of money to charities, but it does not mean they are good people. They can do that for PR reasons, tax deductions and for more nefarious purposes such as Bill Gates funding vaccination programs to poison children in third world countries. Furthermore if a millionaire donates a million Euros per year to a charity and I donate one Euro, my donation is probably bigger in percentage in comparison to the rest of my monetary assets.
However, I cannot say anything definite about the money trails of charities. I haven’t done the research, I’m merely very skeptical of their effectiveness and genuity. You’d really have to give me a good reason to have faith in charities. Let’s look at giving money to charity from the perspective of Joe Average. It’s not really about being a good person or helping the needy, it is a way shutting off your guilty conscience for a while by flinging money at something. Joe lives his dreary life and works in his dreary company and spends time with his dreary wife and friends. But still he’s aware there are people poorer and worse off than him, so he feels guilty about it. So he gives money to charity and feels like he made a difference, which he did not. You don’t solve problems by throwing money at something. If you wanna escape problems by spending money on something, I’d recommend buying a bottle of vodka instead.
In a lot of ways giving money to charity is like voting; a symbolical act with the pretension of affecting the world in some way, but being utterly pointless. It merely gives you the excuse to say “I voted/ donated money yet the problem persists. I’ve done all I can.” I have a suggestion: instead of living in the box of your emotional comfort zone, you should go out more. I don’t mean this literally, but internally. You should think, research, explore, question. Understand why the problems exist in the first place so you might have idea to the possible solution. Flinging money at it is an excuse, not a solution.
The older meaning of charity is one of the medieval heavenly virtues. Even Wikipedia describes it as “Generosity, charity, self-sacrifice; the term should not be confused with the more restricted modern use of the word charity to mean benevolent giving.” Which basically can be interpreted to say donating money to charity organizations have nothing to do with actual charity. Dispelling false beliefs is much more charitable than throwing your money at something.
All that being said, I flung a few coins at the Salvation Army yesterday, but that is more due to reverence for my grandfather who used to donate money to it every year around Xmas time than any pretensions of charity.