Saturday, August 7, 2010

Public Service Appeals and Charity

Something which has puzzled me on and off for some time now is the whole structure of the charity/ enlightenment game. Having spent far too much time in the underbelly of a city or two, I often find myself reacting unfavorably to guilt based efforts to encourage people here to send their wealth over there--usually to a region most people have never seen, for purposes that sometimes don't add up, and sometimes do.

Why are problems in distant regions, in cultures far different from our own, of more importance than some serious issues within subcultures right here? And why is there tax incentive to cast your lot with organizations you know nothing about, yet none for merely helping those you see who need it? Personally I am for no tax incentives, and a flat rate tax at most. It appears those who run many non-profit organizations profit plenty. Why should being non-profit be considered more noble than for-profit?

We've got situations in large cities in which people growing up in many neighborhoods are receiving more education in how to use weapons against one another than they are learning useful skills like reading, using language effectively, basic math, basic history, basic human decency, or any other constructive thing. It is a culture of crime, violence, and disrespect for life. It does not have to be that way. I'd argue that government policies and practices, the prison system, and refusal to really look at the problem contribute a great deal to the mess. You always hear about how hard it is for a kid to escape it, to distance himself from gang life. I believe that is fairly true.

So, instead of concerted efforts to eliminate the hierarchy within these places that keeps the problem going, we send money all over the world for who knows what. We build new schools in Pakistan and other regions, imagining that this will somehow "stabilize the region" and everyone will like us.

If school districts are complaining about condition of school buildings and funds, why are we building schools elsewhere? If you can't take care of your own, you really don't need to assume you can fix everyone else. It may be useful to realize that the general goals and aspirations of the people in various cultures are not necessarily the same. Thinking they are is idiotic if not suicidal.

I'd feel better if various actors and such people would give away all their money, leaving themselves the same amount I live on, then see if they enjoy being asked to donate $10 here, 7 there, 20 somewhere else. If they care so much they will buy up millions of dollars worth of mosquito nets, sponsor thousands of children, and put their money where their mouths are.

It is all part of the big pretense, the ubiquitous blind eye. To anyone who pays attention you see it in public schools where non offensive kids are terrorized by riffraff, and in prisons where many of the idiots in normal life think it is cool that there is a jungle hierarchy in which people are brutalized, mini gangs develop based on race, etc. That is dumb. With all the people incarcerated in this country, there has to be a huge number who should not be there. Well, that is obvious just from the things that land some people behind bars.

Whether it is the church, our own government, or some Hollywood hack, I do not get the drive to take up causes abroad while ignoring the problems at home. A good many problems in other places are the direct result of self righteous idiots insisting on bringing them the Word in one form or another.

It is hard to rise to the top in America, so I guess it soothes the ego to find places that have yet to discover the wheel and go play God.

Our system indirectly penalizes those who simply help a neighbor in need. No, the only way to a lower tax bracket is to throw money at huge, government approved organizations, whose top admin people make far more than most of us, and often the percentage of money that actually goes toward directly dealing with whatever problem is shockingly low.

They've done a good job of using peer pressure to maximize the profits of the non-profit game. You can buy your way to positive reinforcement and recognition without ever personally doing any thing for a person who needs it, one on one. Unless, of course, there's a photo op in it.

1 comment:

  1. As you so often do, you have brilliantly summarized many of my thoughts on this subject.

    Even more basic to the problem of spending billions for famine relief in Chad or aids in Ghana or earthquake in Haiti or or or, is the fact that this country is dead broke.

    We have a crumbling infrastructure, invasions across our border, dysfunctional politicians and government officials at every level and are hopelesly in debt to foreign countries, many Communist. As you said, our educational system at many levels is a very expensive shambles.


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