Sunday, October 02, 2005

The complex act of giving

Why do people give? Are acts of giving truly selfless or is there a hidden motive that is more important to the giver than the cause the donation is made to. Is the donor conscious of the hidden motive or is the donor oblivious to it too. A very nice article in the NYTimes gives some scientific insight into the act of giving!

"And the altruistic impulse in humans is frequently absent in the face of need, which seems inconsistent with selfless goodness. Why does the generosity sparked by events like Katrina fail to appear when it comes to helping the 700,000 African children who die from diarrhea every year for lack of clean water?

Kathleen D. McCarthy, director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at the City University of New York, argued that Americans' response to Katrina had much to do with what she calls the "but for the grace of God factor." The devastation hit so close to home that they could imagine their own living rooms under water. It's harder for them to put themselves in the place of a dying African child."

Read the Entire article.

There are people who seem to think that the world depends on their charitable acts. The acts as a result are done more in a condescending manner and end up doing very little good to the purported beneficiaries. The beneficiaries are in fact the people who do the charity. It benefits different people differently. I guess it helps a few to suppress their guilt at their fellow beings suffering. Also, they are not sure as to what their own future holds for them and so feel a sense of security by giving. Others may derive some sort of mileage, political or in social circles out of the charity.

It is very common for people to worry about the donations that their sports team has made or the donations that a certain other celebrity has made. As if it is an obligation on part of the celebrity to make a donation. I guess the reasoning is that since the celebrity earns much more he should donate more. A celebrity who makes a donation is accused of having a hidden propaganda. Life is miserable whether or not you donate! People who raise fingers may have not done their bit though. In fact people are more worried about the charity the other person did than the charity they would be interested in doing.

I don't think that all charity should be done anonymously. No charitable organisation can run without funds and the only way one can extract funds is to advertise any charity that has been done. But if Mac Donalds tries to get attention for its donation for the Katrina cause then it is doing more charity to its own cause. They could have made donations anonymously. I guess all educated folks can see through donations of the Mac Donald kind. Unfortunately, most donations are of the Mac Donalds kind! Not to say that people and organisations should stop donating. Just that the act of giving is by no means noble.
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