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The Charity Bind

I cannot pontificate about charity. I think philanthropy is becoming a tool for hedge fund-types. More interested in metrics than helping someone get straight. I am aware of what seems to me a considerable level of individual generosity in America if one goes by household contributions.

My impression is that overall about two percent of everything goes back into charity or philanthropy or whatever you call it.

I have coined the phrase benign genocide — something that occurred to me when I worked for UNICEF — to describe the difference between allowing everyone to live above the cracks and the number we consciously allow to fall through the cracks each year.

Girls, women, dead-at-birth sorts and so forth.

I am also aware of the vast differentials that result from the degrees of poverty and wealth from place to place.

All told, it leaves me ungenerous. I feel that by helping I am supporting a lie. The lie is that my whatever $$ a month will make a difference. I detest such appeals. They enrage me. They get all my guilt going and guilt jousts with my mind and it is a stand-off.

So I simply continue my annual gift to my church knowing that it may well help some homeless sorts and seeing that as a tiny purchase on a reality that is in its own way comforting.

But not for long.

Because I know that all it would take to repair all the cracks and give everyone a reasonable floor would be a modest percentage of what we give annually to the armaments people and those who are said to protect us and whose service we are to be thankful for. I pity those whose service we should be thankful for. They are only a pawn in the game, to coin a phrase.

If you don’t want to turn the dial on military expenses, turn it on tax write-offs for the rich. I do not care.

The huge changes we need in the world are not huge at all. They are adjustments. They are a turn of the dial. But we do not do it. And we get the Genet Charity Show and the hypocrisy of tying what passes for “society” to what passes for “generosity” with their annual balls and disgusting fashions. It is a grim and cruel charade. It twists aesthetics into a parody. It is ugly at the core.

Anyone who wants to pontificate about charity, be my guest. I will loudly celebrate my sense of powerlessness in a world where the idea that even a hedge fund mogul makes a difference is as phony as what Holden Caulfield saw when he tried to limn reality.

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