Saturday, December 20, 2008

On Charity and Guilt

In one of my posts I had a commenter state we should boycott the Japanese auto makers.

Here's the quote:

How about, All the Japanese owned manufacturers, plus BMW and Mercedes? My reason for this suggestion is: They gave absolutely ZERO, to help out after 9-11. The American car companies, donated MILLIONS.

This got me to thinking on the nature of charity.

It seems to me that charity should be something that you get a good feeling out of doing. The act itself is its own reward. But that seems to be an obsolete mentality. Now-a-days people are made to feel guilty about everything. It goes along with the criminalization of life, I guess.

You didn't give to charity? Well, shame on you. We're going to tar and feather you and run you out of town on the nearest rail.

That's a scary attitude. At least to me. If you gave or didn't, what difference does that make. Yes, yes, yes, I know all the poor charities will suffer just that bit more, but that's not the point. What we're talking about here is punishing someone, a company in this instance, for not doing something that is in reality a OPTIONAL act. (Unless you're catholic, than you're tithing anyway.) The second you start imposing penalties, you are compelling the performance of the act. Or, in smaller words, when you start whacking me for not doing something, it ain't my choice anymore. Charity then becomes a duty, an onus, the failure bringing penalties and punishment. It's ultimately not charity anymore, but a form of robbery.

Maybe that's the point. Taking all the enjoyment out of living life. Do people believe that since they aren't happy, they must take away any enjoyment from others. But I digress.

Looking up the definition of charity I came across an interesting reference.

often Charity Christianity The theological virtue defined as love directed first toward God but also toward oneself and one's neighbors as objects of God's love.
Is that the crux of it? By attaching punishment are we trying to remove love (Greek agape and philia, as opposed to eros) from society? Remove that and is there such a thing as community left? Again I digress.

During this season of giving, what are our motives? When I was growing up we used to give our dad a gag gift every Christmas. One year it was ties. I mean the most gawd awful, blaring, ties we could find. One year, it was bags of shelled nuts (my dad loves those) and we hid all the nutcrackers. We gave real presents too, but we got the biggest laughs out of trying to figure out what the gag theme would be for that year. What's my point? Giving was fun, we gave and felt good inside. It was an expression of our love for each other. We didn't feel relieved that we were off the hook for another year, we felt excitement for this year's fun and anticipation for how to top it next year. Strange, I know. But, hey, normal families are boring. When you walk by that guy ringing the bell outside of the grocery store, do you drop the buck in because you feel guilty if you don't? If you don't, do you feel eaten up inside all the time you're shopping?

And what about the rest of the year. When you write that check to $CHARITY, do you feel better for doing it, or relieved? If all you feel is a weight being lifted off your shoulder, then maybe you should take a minute and think about why you're doing it.

Charity (to paraphrase an old saw) is as charity does. If you donate for it's own sake, it's true charity. If you're giving to relieve a burden, than you're being robbed and it's not charity. Calling to boycott a business because they didn't give to your pet charity is in essence a form of strong arm robbery.

And before you get all "What about Cooper" on me, giving to a politician is nothing like giving to a charity. Giving to a politician is an act designed to get the guy who'll do what you want into a position to do it. Pretty self centered if you ask me.

1 comment:

Easily Lost said...

I stopped donating to the big organizations a long time ago. When I found out they keep more than they use for their cause. I prefer giving directly to someone who gets full benefits out of it. Whether it be food, money or my time. Or, in the case of Christmas, pulling a child's name off a tree at the store, and shopping directly for that child. I also like toys for tots.
I would never boycott a business because they refused to be pressured into giving money.
I also don't believe in having to "donate" x% of your income to a church, but that's just me.