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Old 02-11-2019, 01:54 AM
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Corona688 Corona688 is offline
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Default Charity

I was looking at the empty food-bank donation box at the local mega grocery, specifically, the items they were asking for. Primarily pasta, sauce, and canned meat. I thought to myself, "holy shit, I eat like I'm homeless."

Don't expect a lot of sense in this self-indulgent stream of consciousness. You've been warned. I know why I'm posting in the playpen.

Voluntary and Involuntary Charity

I don't talk about this much. I don't usually need to, and besides -- I'm one of those things despised by both rich and poor; a content cog in society. The wealthy dislike my lack of ambition. The poor dislike me not being poor. I could do more than I do. I could also do a whole lot less. As far as society's concerned, my function is moving money along the chain.

A lot of that happens automatically. As a Canadian, I've got a fair bit going for me by default, and give a fair bit back by default. I know the deal. Taxes. Roads, hospitals, disability, welfare. Stuff. It's never perfect, sometimes mis-allocated, sometimes stolen, shaved to the bone, abused. I grumble at the problems, but don't grudge it. Any heterotroph is one crisis away from homelessness or starvation, me included.

Not everyone agrees. My friend in the states is a poor, outspoken libertarian. He refuses to benefit from the safety net, something we vigorously disagree about. He won't accept any help "via violence", i.e. taxes, only charitable help from friends, family, and anything else freely offered. I suspect he benefits more from it than he wants to admit, but it's not something he likes to think about. Needless to say he loathes every cent of taxes.

I never met my great-grandfather, but have heard a lot about him. He built a homestead out of wild sod; cultivated grain and horses; witnessed the dawn of industrialized agriculture; then the dirty thirties. All that inside one lifetime.

I think I inherited my attitude to charity from those times. It's a set of instructions for helping people too stubborn to accept help:
  • Contribute opportunistically, anonymously, and without fanfare.
  • It's expected to do so occasionally when you can.
  • Don't linger or shame anyone.
  • Never ask for anything back.

This isn't far from the libertarian utopia my friend imagines could exist.

It's also not far from the situation we have right now, I feel, with the difference it's accounted for in cash. Is it "forced"? No more than it was forced on the prairie. It wasn't utopia, it was survival - abandon your neighbors and they'll abandon you.
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Last edited by Corona688; 02-11-2019 at 02:39 AM. Reason: typo
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  #2  
Old 02-11-2019, 05:56 AM
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Qingdai Qingdai is offline
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Default Re: Charity

My undergrad degree was sociology, there is considerable manufactored shame about charity, it should only go to the deserving poor and that metric is devised by those who don't want to share the gains they made. In reality we all deserve a measure of support and contribute to the continuation of the species in some fashion. And yes, you're right, it's survival, any one of us could fall in to hard times because of a myriad of situations either within or out of our control.
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Old 02-11-2019, 05:49 PM
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Corona688 Corona688 is offline
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Default Re: Charity

Compassion is such a loaded word, I know. I've listened, for an hour, to a freshly converted Buddhist telling me how much more compassionate and aware of people they now feel. A bit like a newly minted Christian telling me about their spiritual connection with God. All good in theory, but a bit over-the-top, self-indulgent, and sometimes doesn't bear close scrutiny. How you feel is less important, to others, than how you act.

Anyway, I only said a quarter what I wanted before I ran out of steam.

Private vs Public Charity

It's now closer to 2030 than 1930, and the old attitude to charity has become eroded.

Public perception slipping from "give and take" to "give and give".

Especially among the poor, who never like being told they're poor, and feel they have nothing to lose. Sky-high housing costs are squeezing people out while economists toil to keep the problem rolling, because high housing [s]inflation[/s] values are good for everyone. In theory. Eventually. Right?

I'm not sure how this problem can be solved without letting the financial market crash back to sensible values - which wouldn't cost a lot of real money but would cost enough imaginary money it'd instigate a serious drop in spending followed by a serious recession. Perhaps a hell of a lot of band-aid subsidized housing? Correcting a disparity this big is going to hurt, by whatever means.

Charity misused as opportunity to sandbox and self-promote.

Everyone has a camera, why not film yourself to promote doing good things? This is a vicious argument across the internet right now, one side calling it crass self-interested virtue signalling, the other pointing out the good it ultimately does for promoting whatever cause.

I think reducing the argument to this is a net loss in compassion. What's more important, the person recording themselves, or the people they're helping? And do they even want that manner of help? They won't have a choice about taking it, beggars can't be choosers, but stop to consider if anyone's being robbed of their dignity. This includes yourself.

Besides, you can't demand appreciation. We're not all Mr Rogers and no good deed goes unpunished. Anonymous charity is a lot harder to criticize.

Shaming of the poor.
...Not that these things never happened before, but imagine how bad the 30's could have been - civil war, genocide. People were thinking about it. Some of our craziest crazies have roots in that era.

People are thinking about it now, too.

Most of North America's cultural strife, at heart, is about poverty. There's a lot of good reasons to shut up and help people you might not like if you met them. Not because you want to be a knight of valor. Because it's normal and expected in hard times, which we are now in, and a way out of hard times which we've observed to work. Other places haven't been so lucky.
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Old 02-11-2019, 07:17 PM
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Default Re: Charity

Direct versus Distant Charity

Another big complaint about welfare, etc, is that your taxes pay for someone else's welfare on the other side of the continent while people are still hungry in your hometown. Why shouldn't you get more choice what charity you pay for?

I agree to an extent. Large government is blind to small problems, local government is too stretched, and the pioneering spirit of our grandfathers doesn't go far in a world where wood is finite. We're in a situation none of our governments were designed to cope with. So direct charity mostly comes down to our personal money.

And you can get a choice, sometimes. Charitable deductions, et cetera. These have a stigma - "he gave nothing, he wrote it all off". But you can also consider it taking control of where your taxes get spent.
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Old 02-11-2019, 08:15 PM
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Kamilah Hauptmann Kamilah Hauptmann is offline
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Default Re: Charity

Quote:
Originally Posted by Corona688 View Post
"he gave nothing, he wrote it all off"
When I encounter this (in person), I usually blink twice, then not explain tax code and % and graduated tax systems because I don't think I'd be able to get anything across, much less would it be welcome.
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Old 02-11-2019, 09:40 PM
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lisarea lisarea is offline
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Default Re: Charity

Quote:
Originally Posted by Corona688 View Post
Compassion is such a loaded word, I know. I've listened, for an hour, to a freshly converted Buddhist telling me how much more compassionate and aware of people they now feel. A bit like a newly minted Christian telling me about their spiritual connection with God. All good in theory, but a bit over-the-top, self-indulgent, and sometimes doesn't bear close scrutiny. How you feel is less important, to others, than how you act.
There is a particular school of western tech sector Buddhism, like the Steve Jobs variety, that's like some kind of prosperity sect, just like the prosperity Christians except madder at their parents. It's very big on privilege apologetics. It's probably why Jobs never donated to charitable causes, or maybe the cause and effect are flipped. I dunno. I have known a lot of these people. The enlightenment thing is all about eradicating any trace of guilt about their trust funds and their legacy admissions or even just the fact that they got lucky and made a bunch of money in some random economic boom. It's all a very Just World philosophy, and I have 100% heard wealthy trust fund Buddhists criticize poor people for focusing too much on material wealth.




Quote:
Originally Posted by Corona688 View Post
Direct versus Distant Charity

Another big complaint about welfare, etc, is that your taxes pay for someone else's welfare on the other side of the continent while people are still hungry in your hometown. Why shouldn't you get more choice what charity you pay for?

I agree to an extent. Large government is blind to small problems, local government is too stretched, and the pioneering spirit of our grandfathers doesn't go far in a world where wood is finite. We're in a situation none of our governments were designed to cope with. So direct charity mostly comes down to our personal money.

And you can get a choice, sometimes. Charitable deductions, et cetera. These have a stigma - "he gave nothing, he wrote it all off". But you can also consider it taking control of where your taxes get spent.
I'm certainly not opposed to people voluntarily donating to charitable causes of their choice, but I am against leaving too much of those decisions in the hands of the wealthy. Why should Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and god forbid Mark Zuckerberg be making decisions about public policy? Why are struggling communities depending on people on Twitter to goad Elon Musk into helping?

I get why they can write those donations off, but that's taking money from the things we as a society have decided are for the public good, and letting the wealthy decide to direct some of it elsewhere. And the wealthier they are, the more of those decisions they get to make. What are their qualifications? There aren't a whole lot of billionaires out there who made their fortunes in public policy? Hell, a lot of them barely even have much in the way of real world life experiences, either. Even when they are well meaning, they tend to be pretty sheltered and sometimes shockingly ignorant of anything outside their narrow little domains.
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Old 02-11-2019, 10:12 PM
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Corona688 Corona688 is offline
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Default Re: Charity

That's a good point. Part of the suspicion of "charitable deductions" is how often they're heard in the context of rich people and tax holes.

Quote:
In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.
The charitable option is available to all of us, but the whim of the rich can make or break whole movements. They don't even need the government's help. Writeoffs or no, the wealthy have more power, period.

Which is another reason charity is suffering. It's easy to believe it doesn't matter.

Except it still does. Put food in the box, and someone will eat. Don't, and they might not. The world hasn't changed that much.
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Old 02-12-2019, 03:42 AM
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lisarea lisarea is offline
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Default Re: Charity

There are different types of charities. There are immediate physical needs charity like food and shelter and medicine, there's civil rights type of charity, and then, there's these big, long term research based projects like those bullshit immortality schemes and space colonies and stuff. The food and shelter and basic medical care are low lying fruits, and it's fucked up we haven't figured that out yet. The social issues are a little more a "matter of opinion," but the super mega wealthy almost always focus on those big projects, because their priorities are fucked.

And it's that that's diverting wealth to wealthy people problems. Deductions are almost irrelevant, and some that aren't even officially charities. Some people just have too much money, and a lot of people have way too little.

So it's not a problem with a solution that's not too implausible, too complex, or too French, but it's a problem nonetheless.

(As is my keyboard problem. I'm having a hard time elaborating because I'm making do right now with a fucky keyboard I can't type on for shit.)
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