For God’s Sake, Stop Being Thoughtlessly Charitable | Avneet Singh
Thoughtless charity serves no purpose except moral self-indulgence. We feel we have done our part to do something good, but such charity is dangerous.
Maimonides, the Jewish philosopher, lists his Eight Levels of Giving. The highest form of giving ‘results in the person no longer living by relying upon others’ and the lowest form is ‘Giving “in sadness” (giving out of pity)’.
It is trivial for governments to send a dozen train/plane/ship load of relief supplies in response to a crisis. All the charities working together will struggle to do that. So, the focus should be on ensuring the government does the right thing.
As an example, the excellent, efficient, well-meaning, well-managed, high profile charity Elephant Family founded by Mark Shand Esq. raised GBP 1.8 million to protect wildlife corridors in India. The Government of India allocated GBP 335 million for Wildlife and Forests. Therefore, the focus should be in ensuring the GBP 335 million is well spent, rather than contributing more to the GBP 1.8 million fund.
Another example is the excellent, efficient, well-meaning, well-managed charity Khalsa Aid with annual revenue of GBP 3.9 million. The Government of Punjab spends Rs 9000 crore (GBP 973 million) on ‘Social Welfare and Nutrition’ and ‘Health and Family Welfare’. Therefore, the focus should be on ensuring the GBP 973 million is well spent, rather than contributing more to the GBP 3.9 million fund.
Charities tend to amplify their minor achievements whereas government’s achievements are relatively bigger but heavily scrutinized and criticized.
Why would tiny charities and your tiny personal vanity projects succeed with 1% of the funds and under-resourced volunteers, where governments with unlimited funds and professionals failed?
Doing something random is not better than doing nothing. Doing something random creates a false sense of accomplishment which prevents further effective action.
Our moral self-indulgence of donating to charity is downright dangerous as it creates a false impression of something being done. Billions of dollars are wasted globally, gazillions of thoughts and prayers sent, and candles lit.
Yet the doomsday clock ticks closer to Armageddon with every passing year due to ‘sophisticated, technology-propelled propaganda’, climate crisis, increasing threat of nuclear wars etc.
“Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board today moves the Doomsday Clock 20 seconds closer to midnight—closer to apocalypse than ever. In so doing, board members are explicitly warning leaders and citizens around the world that the international security situation is now more dangerous than it has ever been, even at the height of the Cold War”- Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
Our donations, clever memes on social media, thoughts and prayers, are not going to stop ‘sophisticated, technology-propelled propaganda’, climate crisis, increasing threat of nuclear wars etc. We have tried these for 25 years to no avail.
What To Do?
It is good governance and technology that is going to solve our problems. It is not millions of well-meaning people donating billions to Mickey Mouse charities.
Smartphones and wireless internet have done more to lift people out of poverty than all the charities and non-profits of the world combined.
Don’t donate to those who try and do the government’s job. Donate to those who lobby and litigate the government to do its job. The ACLU, Institute for Justice, and the EFF are prominent non-profits that do this.
Let us stop wasting our money on insignificant and ineffective charities, and personal vanity projects. They are dangerous distractions. Lobby and litigate the government to do its job instead.
‘Traditional Jews commonly practice ma’sar kesafim, tithing 10% of their income to support those in need’. Sikh religion also has the concept of Dasvand (tenth): donating a tenth of your income. Most people in Westernized nations already pay 50% or more of their income as direct and indirect taxes. We already pay very high taxes. Ensure they are put to good use.
For God’s sake, stop being thoughtlessly charitable.
Voice of Mankind is a non-profit Think Tank working to influence public opinion on issues that affect us all. We are here to make sense of this changing world.
Photo by ravi on Flickr.