Charity is a good thing, but…

We were watching The Secret Millionaire on TV last night, and it got me thinking about charity. I know I’ve criticised certain charities in the past, here and elsewhere, but, in and of itself, charity must be a good thing. It’s all about giving for no reward, caring about others, and selflessness. I have been the recipient of such kindness in the past, and I know it is something special to be praised.

I guess the thing about charity is that it isn’t forced – it’s entirely voluntary. That’s why it’s special, but it’s also it’s flaw. Right-wingers want charity to be used as an alternative to the wealth fare state, but that relies on people being personally altruistic, which I can’t see happening enough. in a way, the wealth fare state is similarly altruistic, but on a social rather than personal level. As I see it, it is based on the communal consensus that we should help others, rather than a personal ethic. It is therefore more effective. There is also less of an obligation to feel grateful for it – being the recipient of charity carries with it overtones of inadequacy and failure, which is why I and most disabled people object so strongly to it.

I suppose it’s a complex issue, and one I need to think through. Charity is a good thing, but if we care about all people in our community, we must care for them as a community rather than as individuals.

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