Whence Charity? From “Open Source Individuals”
Under the influence of Charles Sanders Peirce, I launched an idea called Triadic Philosophy. It is summarized in the Kindle book Triadic Philosophy 100 Aphorisms . A free sample can be accessed by clicking Look Inside. Triadic Philosophy grew into several more books outlining specific methods of triadic meditation and thinking. “Open Source Individuals” is among several follow-up texts that examine expressions of, and propose actions related to, triadic thought. Relevant Peirce quotes are appended.
We are semi-conscious these days. We know change is happening and rolling in. But we are not sure what it is or what it will be or where it will end. Stability in such a time is difficult. Even language becomes unstable.
The word charity was, to the authors of the King James Version of the Bible, near contemporaries of Shakespeare, the apt translation of agape, which means self-giving love, patient, kind. Not erotic love. Not “brotherly” love.
You can readily see that charity has no such meaning now. Now it is a term of near-derision, a post-Nietzschean rap on the sort of thoughtless giving that humiliates recipients.
Because I count myself a recipient of agape in my daily life I would be more charitable in my estimation of charity. One is massively fortunate to have a help meet, someone with the strength of an Atlas, the resourcefulness of Huck Finn and the generosity of Kris Kringle. Subservience has little to do with a robust notion of agape.
But charity still does not cut it as a common term. This is a sign of the indeterminate nature of our time. We are casting about for what works. Each day is a quest for something on which we can depend.
My proposal is:
Instead of trying to rescue charity as a term is almost impossible to explain, call charity what believe it is — an organized effort to help those in need.
Call charity helping the needy. This has multiple forms. And it is a questionable enterprise that most likely needs to be altered in the direction of reducing harm.
Virtually the entire philanthropic enterprise globally is a failing effort to hold back. This is because our foundations are crumbling.
Work in any traditional sense is becoming a fiction.
Love is a quandary.
And governance is largely occupied with discouraging human responsibility.
We have a system that is clearly unable to roll back harm. We are more or less like pinballs, an infinite number of pinballs, in a game where there is no contact save with the flippers. And the flippers are being controlled somewhere. We don’t know where. Or why. Of by whom. We call everyone they and them.
So when we are told that our few cents a day will save lives, this is true under certain fictional premises, but it is a lie just the same, because the life I am saving does not address the problem the charity claims to be solving. The only thing it saves for sure is, maybe, our conscience.
Charity is largely a charade, sometimes beautiful, for it always has ecidence brought forth to show how effective it is. But as UNICEF’s annual stats show, it is a drop in a bucket. Governments rule the roosts. And is all that need be said.
Big data may contradict this grim articulation of benign genocide. Maybe the slaughter of this or that species, including our own, is receding. Maybe the oil spilling from exploding trains is a fiction. Maybe the Kochs poisoning a river in Florida is just propaganda.
The general reduction of harm is perhaps the case.
But it does not erase the need for critical thought to propose some subjects that should be considered in the harm reduction department..
My favorite subjects of the moment are:
> The achievement of basic income for all
> The experimental move to design and create models of car-free communities to reduce sprawl and enable sustainable economies
> Reduction of the capacity of states to frustrate the democratic desires of all persons for full human rights
I am suggesting that to agape we bring notions of evolution, continuity and community in the widest sense.
It cannot remain the parody that the New York Times persists in representing as the blissful trail which wealth trods as it cottons to the publicity requirements of today’s haves. Those who have today appear to be failing in anything that might suggest agape, choosing instead to go incognito in a quest for forms of latter-day royalty. It is a shabby and distinctly un-aesthetic display. It would be shameful were it not so pathetic.
“294. Here, then, is the issue. The gospel of Christ says that progress comes from every individual merging his individuality in sympathy with his neighbors. On the other side, the conviction of the nineteenth century is that progress takes place by virtue of every individual’s striving for himself with all his might and trampling his neighbor under foot whenever he gets a chance to do so. This may accurately be called the Gospel of Greed.” (Peirce: CP 6.295)
“295. Much is to be said on both sides. I have not concealed, I could not conceal, my own passionate predilection. Such a confession will probably shock my scientific brethren. Yet the strong feeling is in itself, I think, an argument of some weight in favor of the agapastic theory of evolution — so far as it may be presumed to bespeak the normal judgment of the Sensible Heart. Certainly, if it were possible to believe in agapasm without believing it warmly, that fact would be an argument against the truth of the doctrine. At any rate, since the warmth of feeling exists, it should on every account be candidly confessed; especially since it creates a liability to one-sidedness on my part against which it behooves my readers and me to be severally on our guard.” (Peirce: CP 6.296)
§2. SECOND THOUGHTS. IRENICA 296. “Let us try to define the logical affinities of the different theories of evolution.†1 Natural selection, as conceived by Darwin, is a mode of evolution in which the only positive agent of change in the whole passage from moner to man is fortuitous variation. To secure advance in a definite direction chance has to be seconded by some action that shall hinder the propagation of some varieties or stimulate that of others. In natural selection, strictly so called, it is the crowding out of the weak. In sexual selection, it is the attraction of beauty, mainly.” (Peirce: CP 6.297)