Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Pernicious Ideology of Charity (Polemic) by Alison Ross

The Pernicious Ideology of Charity
by Alison Ross

In a monolithically capitalistic society, where just about everything is driven not just by profit, but by uber-mega-profits, charitable institutions are a natural if unfortunate byproduct.

Charity, of course, is the concept of helping people who have been afflicted somehow, and comes in many guises. One can act in a charitable way, but institutionally speaking, there are charities to help women with breast cancer, charities to help children with leukemia, charities to help the homeless, and so on. Granted, some of these are perhaps necessary in any society, but I propose that generally, in the United States, the ideology that propels the existence of most charities is pernicious to the core, and counteractively constricting of our humanity.

To be blunt and to the point: charities should not need to exist. The fact that they exist in great abundance bespeaks grave failure on behalf of society. Now to be clear, I am focusing specifically on charities that help the economically disadvantaged.

I am not impugning the actions of the charities themselves so much as I am impugning the toxic complacency that fuels the idea that things are just how they are, and since poverty and homelessness “will always be with us,” charities are there to compensate.

This is benighted bullshit. Things do not have to be as they are currently; in some cultures progress toward economic parity is not such a distant dream. Furthermore, poverty does not have to always be with us, not to mention so pervasive. To cling to such thinking is to imbibe delusion and embrace defeat. Indeed, such a mindset is the cynical antithesis of thought, the refuge for the lazy and unimaginative.

Real capitalism was not meant to be so rampantly ruthless. Real capitalism actually has a humanitarian heart, and does not allow for large-scale poverty, or even poverty at all. In fact, Adam Smith, capitalism’s so-called “founder,” believed in progressive taxation (taxation proportional to income) and wealth re-distribution (which would leaven the burden on the poor). He also advocated taxpayer-funded education and was against big business monopolies.

Clearly, if the United States follows, as it purports to do, Adam Smith’s economic template, then tax cuts for the wealthy, egregious disparities between rich and poor, and underfunded public schools are transgressions of the ethics of “true” capitalism.

The American economic system is choked by corporate monopolies, too, yet another violation of “true” capitalist tenets.

If we wanted, we could eradicate or come close to eradicating poverty in the United States, through rigorous application of social capitalism.

Social capitalism is a theory that intertwines the two economic systems of socialism and capitalism, and is already practiced to varying degrees in parts of Europe and other areas of the world, like Australia. Social capitalism posits government regulation of markets, and sets in place strong protections for the economically disadvantaged. Indeed, if applied constructively, social capitalism can narrow the gap between rich and poor to the point where pretty much everyone resides in the realm of the middle class.

Because, really, there is no NEED for such flamboyant affluence as we see on disgusting display in the United States, while others are scrounging for their sustenance in garbage cans. Affordable housing, guaranteed access to jobs or protection in the case of lost employment, government funded healthcare, free education: we have an innate right to these things. When we are not granted our inherent claim to our rights, we are being tyrannized.

So yeah… many people who have never experienced poverty or tapped into their natural sympathy toward the impoverished believe that poverty is just a sad reality of life, and that it’s likely the “fault” of the poor, rather than deeply discerning that it’s our crassly capitalistic society that engenders such economic despair. And so, they think the only way to “solve” such issues is to create charities.

Fuck charity. Charity is a band-aid on a gaping wound that could easily be prevented through vigilance and diligence.

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