Sunday, 2 March 2008

CHARITY SIMPLY LEGITIMISES THE CAUSE OF THE PROBLEMS IT ATTEMPTS TO BATTLE

Until very recently I have been working as a charity fundraiser. I took the job wanting to do something moral in order to support myself before going to study Philosophy at university.

Unfortunately, life always seems to be a lot harder when you start thinking, and as fundraising is a pretty boring job, I found myself doing quite a bit of Philosophising on company time, (it was a company, as I worked for an agency), and came to the following conclusions:

Charity merely legitimises the cause of the problems it attempts to battle, while only reducing the severity and effect of these problems by a minor amount, causing much more harm in the long run by supporting the framework that will allow these problems to continue to exist in the future (the framework being corporate greed.)

It is important here to note the difference between a “charity” and a “pressure group”.

Christian Aid is a “charity”, as it does not address the cause of the situation it attempts to right. Christian Aid merely brings a small amount of relief to those being crushed by a huge Third World Debt, unwillingly forced on them through dealings between Western-backed dictators and Western businessmen. The effect (but possibly not the intention) of this small amount of relief is to appease public opinion; images of starving families gratefully drinking clean water from a well that Christian Aid has set up for them are sent back to the West and people feel good about themselves: they contributed to a charity that helped these terribly impoverished people. The reasons for these people being in such a dire situation are never addressed by Christian Aid, and there are no calls for boycott of certain goods or protests outside any government buildings. Therefore, Christian Aid gains charitable status, and can apply for gift aid and other comfortable benefits.

Greenpeace, however, is a “Pressure Group” and is not recognised as a charity, and therefore receives no government funding - not that any serious pressure group would ever accept funding (and the resulting dependence) from any governmental organisation – and has no access to any kind of charitable benefit (whereas Eton enjoys all of these). The reason being that Greenpeace makes itself a problem for the government, criticising environmental policies, staging protests and chasing whaling ships through the Arctic. In other words, Greenpeace aims to
prevent the problems it attempts to battle, instead of meagrely lessening them, and it does this by making trouble for those directly responsible for them.

Taking cue from Plato, I have developed an analogy for the two approaches:

If a man climbs over a barbed wire fence everyday and scratches himself each time, he can take two approaches: the first being to put a plaster over his scratches, meaning the severity of the cut is reduced, but the cut is still there, causing pain, and more cuts will come. The other option is to take the fence down.

The first course of action falsely accepts the fence (read here: massive and disgusting inequalities in life) as an unavoidable and unfortunate fact that we can do nothing about. This is a fallacy that all charities are guilty of. Mild apoligism.

Obviously this is a very simple analogy that fails to point out the fact that there are certain people who benefit from the inequalities that the “fence” represents: those that are already hugely rich - heads of business, debt collectors and land owners. You could expand the analogy to include a fence making company who has a vested interest in keeping the fence there. Needless to say, if these people were not in a profitable position from other people's misery and hardship these problems would never have come about in the first place.

Charity workers are just another tool (albeit, most likely, an inadvertently crafted tool, as I don't believe many people realise what charity is) to appease public opinion and mask the cause of the problem. Once people give a donation their conscience will leave them alone, and they can, ironically, feel good about the world.

11 comments:

Bella said...

The best thing is to take the fence down, of course, but we live in the real world: that isn't going to happen soon but lots of children will die soon if they don't get drinking water etc. Christian Aid does a lot of good out in the field and - if it stopped what it was doing - the lives of the people it helps would deteriorate right now. So CA is doing that - it doesn't stop us pressuring government and big business and doing all the rest while they do apply what help (plasters) they can while the rest of us lobby for the fence to be pulled down. People don't feel the problem is sorted just because they set up a direct debit for a couple of quid a month or donated to a tin - that has just raised their consciousness that something needs doing and someone - at least - is doing something. But they know that the bigger problem continues: arguably the best time for pressure groups to pile on the pressure...

Nearer home charity can take the place of government action that maybe should be funded by tax. For instance there should be the resources for all children to be looked after properly, to be not abused, for awareness to be raised and help given on good parenting and for child poverty to be eradicated - and the NSPCC shouldn't have to be relying on charity to help it do some of this vital work.

As for independent schools - is everyone aware they have charity status? That should go for there is no excuse and they don't help those less fortunate in if they can help it and are all about the kind of elitism that builds the 'fence' and feeling you have a right to have it there with you on the right side of it. This isn't changed because so many MPs send their children to independent schools.

I think the bigger challenge is: what can we each do to put pressure on to tear down the fence whilst charities that deserve to be charities (ie that do some good) help out as they can. If you get rid of them - that leaves a lot of people so much worse off and, unless you can ride in and put it right straight away, that just means a lot more death, disease and so on for the unfortunate victims of greed etc.

Wilf said...

Bella:

I'm arguing that charity presents itself as a solution, when in fact it prolongs the life of the problem. You've stated that charity doesn't stop us from pressuring the government - and obviously charity doesn't physically stop us from doing anything - but it does present itself as a solution, and appeases and calms public opinion on important matters. Public opinion is one of the most important forces in global politics, and most governments seem to understand that. Public opinion is the reason George Bush dresses up like an airplane pilot to make a speech, Prince Harry goes to a foreign land to kill Arabs defending their towns from an invading army and David Cameron cycles to work while his entourage escort him in two separate cars.

By appeasing public opinion charity takes away the only hope that people in need actually have. Charities do this by purposely not mentioning the cause of a problem. They do this because if they do they will lose their charitable status and a third of their income.

As a result of this people do not realise what the cause is, or that the cause can be taken away. To illustrate my point I only need to point to the world - if public opinion thought that we needed to cancel the 3rd World Debt something would be done - but obviously this hasn't happened and most people are completely ignorant about the causes of poverty.

Obviously, a pressure group does not need to ignore the people who need instant relief - an organisation can provide immediate, short term help in the form of aid - but unless that organisation also publicises the cause of the problem, and makes it clear that one goat being given to a remote village is not good enough, they are stunting the development of the situation for good.

Bella said...

Do you have evidence to show that charities working on the ground doing a lot of good purposely don't keep educating people about the causes of these problems so that they don't lose some income? When you're firefighting, you don't have time to educate and teach. You say yourself that instant relief has to be given - that is what worthwhile charities such as CA are doing. They are out there helping - surely they're doing as much as they can. The question is - what can the rest of us do and what are we all - personally - doing? Criticising people who do this dedicated and hard work is not helpful or appropriate - and also justifies those that think 'No point in giving - charity is wrong...' We've got to all find out what is really keeping this third world debt going and individually fight that with pressure: publicise it, write to your MP, boycott stores that sell goods that profit and so on. That's the solution - not to do down charities that do more than I have been willing to do - or most people, come to that... Will cancelling Third World Debt affect the money in our pocket? Are we willing to accept that? What can we do about corrupt third world dictators who pocket aid and so on? If you want to go to the root cause, find out all the complex arguments and tackle them - but denying the tiny bit of help people in extremis get is NOT the solution at all.

Matt J. McLaren said...

I'm with Bella on this.

There are two things that must be done in response to any problem:

1. Treat the problem as it presents itself in the immediate situation.

2. Take action to prevent future instances of the problem.

So, when a doctor is faced with someone dying of lung cancer who did not smoke themself but went to the pub rather frequently and inhaled everybody else's cigarette smoke, he will treat the patient with whatever medical courses of action are available. Then, many doctors having treated patients in similar circumstances and the evidence of the dangers of passive smoking being backed up by further medical research, the British Medical Association will lobby the government for a ban on smoking in public places.

This is how problems are dealt with. Ignoring the immediate devasting effects of a particular problem does nothing to help the long term situation, it just condemns those that are suffering right now. I think it perfectly reasonable to have two different types of organisations as recognised by British law: charities which fight the particular devasting effects that present themselves now, and pressure groups and other political organisations (such as political parties) that argue for change in the long run to prevent such devasting effects in the future.

The fact that the charities get funding from the government does not in any way present itself as some kind of 'benefit' to the charity in and of itself since the charity is legally a not-for-profit organisation and every new penny given to it will be spent in some way towards dealing with the problems that it was set up for.

Furthermore, the raising of public awareness by charities through fundraising campaigns does much to lend pressure groups more support through educating the public about the state of things far aware from their sphere of knowledge and experience.

Therefore, I think it is both necessary and desirable to have the two different types of organisation and I will continue to lend financial support to both.

芭樂 said...

0951成人頻道下載,免費視訊聊天,成人網站,色情守門員,成人貼圖區,成人視訊,自拍美女,0204貼圖區,聊天室ut,ec成人,成人視訊,哈啦聊天室,dodo豆豆聊天室,台灣情色網,69成人,小高聊天室,免費交友,咆哮成人繁體,貼圖片區,正妹百人斬,正妹走光,正妹桌布,免費視訊聊天,1069交友,美女交友,080視訊聊天室,6k聊天館,巨乳,失落的世界聊天,色聊天室,成人視訊,玩美女人,嘟嘟成人網,情色交友網,成人電影,影音視訊聊天室,一葉情貼圖片區,情色視訊,交友聯誼,av美女,

lettyrburrage said...

hello~nice to meet u..............................

KurtSnell said...

很好啊..................................................

美麗新世界 said...

與人相處不妨多用眼睛說話,多用嘴巴思考,..................................................

發燙 said...

我們唯一需要恐懼的事,是恐懼本身........................................

健康保寶 said...

Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.............................................

過期的 said...

笑口常開~~天天開心........................................