When I give to charity, I don’t feel good – I feel guilty. Charities help us believe that we have only individual, rather than collective, responsibility for operating Children’s Hospitals, Food Banks, or programmes to help the starving.
I’m not against “charity”, the biblical concept – few could be considered more charitable towards their fellow man. What I question are “charities”; the private gathering of money and material through the Herculean efforts of religious and secular groups in an attempt to offset hunger, disease, or pestilence.
That the less fortunate among us should depend on individual acts of heroism by Warren Buffet, Bill Gates , my colleague ,or me , in order to eat, drink water, or survive, should not be acceptable to us. In these days of technological advancement, when we can produce so much more, in so much less time, surely we can do better than adopting a single child from among the multitudes, many of whom will die if they aren’t chosen in the haphazard lottery of private charity.
There are peripheral reasons why “charities” are counterproductive. A donation of a can of garbanzo beans to the Vancouver Food Bank may help salve our conscience, but it also helps perpetuate an increasingly skewed economic status quo. Giving to the food bank, although altruistic, helps absolve us of our portion of culpability for the plight of the starving in our community.
Most charities serve up religious or political dogma with any powdered milk that actually makes it to the target group, after the fifty percent or more “administrative costs” are skimmed off. Few of the millions of charitable dollars donated have reached the Haitian people. Self gratification seems as important as is allaying the suffering of others.
But these are just the minor indictments of charities. The real problem with charities is that they depend on individual conscience rather than on collective responsibility to help the worlds’ downtrodden.
Collective, extensive, and coordinated plans for helping the needy should be the minimum requirement of all political jurisdictions. We should demand it of the governments we entrust with organizing our world.
For us to rely on myriad private charities to panhandle individual consciences for donations is an ineffective and insensitive way to help our needy.