Why Should We Give Back?
Lifetimes of work put in by economists, sociologists, doctors, historians, journalists, filmmakers and fieldworkers in all the continents for centuries have produced a proliferation of academic and creative material on the human condition. The people who have worked under difficult conditions to document truths about life and living have made interesting, diverse, and relevant observations, each significant unto itself. One finding is common to nearly everyone’s work- human suffering is a direct or indirect consequence of inequality.
This may sound like a banality, a cliche done to death, but the events and patterns of world history will corroborate it. Think of any uprising or rebellion, think of the great French revolution, the American War of Independence and later the American Civil War, consider the Holocaust and our own extended Nationalist struggle, even the contemporaneous feminist movement that involves no bloodshed, and you will see that each of these were crusades to eliminate inequality of class, race, gender, privilege, or freedom.
Why we are unequal
Numberless theorists of varying degrees of reputation and scholastic mettle have stated over the years that inequality exists not because the good earth has limited resources, but because these resources are badly distributed. Frequently, those who are in charge of distributing food and free services in healthcare, and of assigning jobs, deliberately manipulate systems to monetize free resources that should have been distributed among the low-income public. Thousands of jobs in developing nations, which are also some of the most corrupt, go to the well-connected rather than those who need them.
Therefore resources do not percolate to the poor. Established processes of nepotism and abuse of power see to it that there is no real development. In India, the poor and the marginalized and great sections of women remain uneducated, unhealthy, disempowered. Unequal.
Who will take action
The government cannot be bothered to enforce social change. The middle-class is struggling to answer the demands of progress. Who will respond to the call of the poor that they need to be lifted out of wretchedness?
If someone has to, it is businesses, large corporates, and philanthropists.
The wealth of societies is polarized- this is naked truth- and in the modern world vast holdings of money lie with businesses and MNCs. When they give back to their communities, they perform essentially acts of social service that have magnitude.and value. With each corporate social responsibility (CSR) venture, a business gives back some of its wealth accrued in profits to the community of poorer humans around it, and addresses a resource distribution problem over a sustained period of time. Each CSR activity engages the company’s employees either by accepting a cash contribution from them, or by letting them donate voluntary labor, or by receiving both. Communities benefit from direct aid actions organized by corporates- these are usually high-cost projects such as cleanliness drives, food drives, event sponsorships, or small business support.
Some corporates offer a system of payroll giving, where a part of every employee’s salary goes into a charity of their choice, usually in a partnership the corporate sets up with a non profit organization or fundraising body. This is not a CSR activity per se, but a corporate-enabled scheme of giving for individuals.
Aside from corporate initiatives to level statuses and alleviate poverty in general, philanthropists have made efforts in troubled times, always rising to the occasion to help people in need. Some of these endeavors have been ad hoc and purely charitable, seeking to solve urgent problems instead of uprooting the social evils that cause these problems in the first place. Other philanthropic missionaries, who are luminaries in their chosen fields (Bill Gates is a notable name, he is the motive force behind the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) have set up their own organizations to make more lasting difference in the lives of generations of humans in deprived circumstances. Their method is to effect structural change and reform, rather than simply meet in-the-moment needs.
Common people’s giving
On smaller scales the Everyman gives also out of pure good intent. Observation of middle-class giving trends around the world bring out the fact that this huge group donates sporadically, on impulse, and usually to direct-aid charities that do relief work following disasters. Many also return to the general causes of poverty and public education as online donors to crowdfunding campaigns.
How crowdfunding helps
Crowdfunding has empowered philanthropy. In the last two decades, millions of people have benefited from funds raised for humanitarian projects scattered across the globe. The process is carried out start to finish on the internet, with crowdfunders taking to the social media to promote their campaigns and causes. Large groups of donors contribute relatively small sums of money to reach goal amounts. The wonderful thing about crowdfunding is its democratic quality; every contribution matters equally, every share counts, and it is inclusive in essence. The success of the project is shared by everyone who participated. Crowdfunding celebrates giving, and not the giver.
Wealth-holders should give back because they can. The middle-class should give to the poor because by doing so they can write a positive story. Anyone who has a little to give away must give it away in order to make this positivism endure. In the times we live in, that is the least we can do for the world.
Written by Malini Bhattacharya.