Charities And Capitalism: Nice Try

June 17, 2013 7:12 pm

From our very first breath, we are wrapped in an environment that we cannot possibly make sense of. As we progress through our modern lives, we are given scraps of information regarding our surroundings, social structures and organization, and even our place in the setting. While these tiny pieces of information claim to portray a full painting, in reality we are only privy to a few random brush strokes, with most of the canvas left blank. This leads to an unconscious understanding of capitalism as an integral and irreplaceable part of our lives, taken for granted to an extent that is comparable with our assumption that the sun will rise tomorrow. We do not think about capitalism and an abhorrent amount of us don’t even recognize the word. This leads to the perpetuation of a being that, much like the infant, does not understand its environment and hardly understands why it might be crying.
capitalismAll but the wealthiest and most powerful of people have genuine grievances. Some may have more than others, but it is the poor or lower class individuals who suffer most as a result of the system. This leads to pseudo solutions, which are peddled like the latest games consoles: they come in different shapes, sizes, and colours and if you are prepared to splash a little extra cash, you can even get a PS tailored to your needs. All boxed up and nicely wrapped to provide you with enough short term satisfaction that will shut you up, but never the long term results brought by genuinely addressing the actual grievances. It may seem like a funny comparison but the reality is that these pseudo solutions can basically be treated like marketed goods. People buy into these solutions, many investing their time, effort and in many cases, their money, expecting a return in the form of a better lifestyle, whatever that may be. These PS’s can take the form of nationalism (especially in a bi or multinational state), social consciousness campaigns designed by governments to detract more than anything else, and even entertainment as a kind of morphine to numb any pains. However, the top seller of these pseudo solutions is undoubtedly charities.

Charities have proven to be dangerous institutions. They are expert trainers in the act of passivity and apathy as their very existence reminds us of how we don’t need to care for whatever the cause is; other people are doing that for us. All we need to do is toss our coinage into a bucket and graciously accept that pat on the back we give ourselves for giving a helping hand to the world. One may claim that this is not the doing of the charities themselves but they would be hard pressed to defend their argument, as the charities encourage no more than this. Their very existence is patronizing, not only to the people they claim to help, but also to the people they ask money from. Their attitude is to demote you to a blind donator, without offering you information as to how exactly your money is going to help and without actually showing you the results. This is not to say that the people who work in charities consciously act this way, it is simply that these are the kinds of organizations that have been allowed to survive by the system.

While we have always been presented with a picture that claims charities work outside and despite the framework of capitalism, the reality is that charities are an integral part of the system. One could go as far as to say that capitalism would not survive without charities, certainly not in this shrinking world (courtesy of the internet and other technologies). The reason is that charities allow governments and corporations to continue to regard human livelihood as a non-issue. Most people demand very little, if anything, from their governments when it comes to say, helping the poor for example, because, in their minds, there is already a body working to solve the problem. If governments truly served the needs of the population then what need would there be for charities? If people want to help reconstruct some war torn village in Africa then the government should theoretically act on that desire because, theoretically, the government is the people. In reality, the government is some ruling institution that we have no real power over that is able to do pretty much whatever it pleases. It also is assigned hardly any responsibility with regards to human livelihood precisely because charities fulfil that role. Think of charities raising money to fund cancer research or charities that take care of the disabled, shouldn’t the government be acting on this altruistic desire of the people?

In fact, the capitalist system even gives the population methods of being an active consumer whilst at the same time buying not only your guilt away, but also corporate or government responsibility to be altruistic away. This is achieved by claiming fair trade behaviour or by supplying shoes for some poor community somewhere after a number of sales have been reached. In a very real sense, the feeling of altruism has become a marketed good. It essentially glorifies apathy by saying that we need not care for other people in need because corporations can do that for us. We should just buy their products and put our head to rest about any problems there may be in the world. This is perceived as justification for our inaction when it comes to demanding socio-political change.

The whole practice of capitalism empowers a rich minority whilst completely disempowering the poor majority. Charities ensure that those receiving aid are not empowered in the long run. They remain dependants. There may be individual cases of empowerment through a charity but the fact remains that the basic strata of the global capitalist society remain intact, the poorer classes remain poor. It may seem like a lot to demand of a charity, or even charities in general, to empower an entire social class, but that is exactly the point: any body that would be able to do so would be rejected by the capitalist system. It simply would not survive.

This is not to say that we should not be charitable. On the contrary, we can only be charitable. It is an integral part of being human. We have evolved in close knit societies which could only survive through mutual aid and through cooperation; the difference now is that our societies are much larger. What proponents of the current structure (generally rich people), would have us believe is that we are not cooperative in nature and that in fact we are beings that look out solely for our own welfare. The truth is that other species may have evolved that way, humans have not. Capitalism breeds an attitude of general distrust when, in fact, we are a cooperative species to which collaboration comes naturally. We don’t need to build separate institutions to be charitable because we have the potential to simply be altruistic in our everyday lives. Capitalism does not allow this, so we become distortions of what we could potentially be, adjusting ourselves to a society that breeds contempt rather than compassion all in order to preserve power structures. We do not need charities to be charitable, we need a society that allows humanity’s altruism to flourish. This can only begin to happen with the complete removal of the current system.

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