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Charity in Kleptocracy

“Faith, hope, and charity …” wrote St. Paul: “And the greatest of these is charity.”

A good percentage of the tele-marketing calls I get are “for the disadvantages kids,” for this or that hospital … If I cough up a buck or two, am I being charitable? Would Paul approve? Jesus? God?

What are the chances that the meaning of the word has changed? or that the social context has changed as well? What are the chances that words were already long accustomed to the task of mislabeling even two thousand years ago? If we’re corrupt, was Paul pure? Didn’t Jesus preach in a culture that was already 100% steeped in kleptocracy? And if he had preached to Adam and Eve, would the human language then have been semantically responsible? Would simile be distinct from metaphor? map from territory? Would the concept of map have been clear?

A sense of truth is gleaned from a lifetime of discarding lies.
It filters like sunlight through an old growth forest of dogma and misconception.

Jesus told of the Samaritan who had tended the wounds of the man fallen among thieves. (Since the Samaritans were enemies of Jesus’ audience, think of a Nazi helping a Jew) (or a Jew helping a Nazi.) If the Samaritan had passed the wounded Jew, rushed home, and messengered a talent to the Red Cross, would his charity have been the same?

How about your standard Republican or Democrat today? Doesn’t he pay taxes? Aren’t his taxes all a big give-away? Aren’t his taxes all wasted on poor Africans, and poor Haitians, and on welfare cheats? and on poor billionaire dictators of the Congo? the Phillipines? Why should he give to the disadvantaged kid when he’s already paid his taxes?

What happens if he does yield to the tele-marketer and writes a check for $10 for the disadvantaged kids? What happens to his $10?

Well, somebody had to make the phone call, didn’t they? Has some millionaire said that she’d pay for the phone calls and feed, clothe, and house the tele-marketer … oh, yes, and build a pension fund for him too! pay his social security, his medical plan …? What, and send his kid to Notre Dame as well? Out of $10 how much goes to how many disadvantaged kids?

I know of no better portrait of charity in a kleptocracy than Anthony Trollope’s The Warden. Rich guy with a big house and land wills his estate to the old men of the village so that they’d always have a little tobacco and a place to sit and smoke it. But of course the will has to be administered. And the administration insists that the charity must include spiritual counseling. So the house and almost all the money that doesn’t go to the lawyers and the bankers is given to some stumble-bum priest from the Church. The old men do get a little tobacco for a while, a very little: and a less than congenial place to sit: where, by now they’ll be told not to smoke.

The Warden
thanx tv-ark

Listen: if you want to help “disadvantaged kids,” go find one. Take him to the ball game. Buy him a boom box. Find his father: give his father a job. Or just send the kid himself to Exeter. (Send a ‘Vette after him or he’ll feel more disadvantaged than ever!)
Or just park your car where he can take the hub caps.

The Free Learning Exchange was incorporated to be not-for-profit under the laws of New York State. (I was assured by experts that declaring under the law was the way to go.) (Yet the State of New York came up with no seed money.) (The necessary lawyer charged me nothing; but not so the State of New York: I had to pay for the privilege of becoming a charity.) Offered a better internet c. 1970, the public kept its hands in its pockets. By 1974 I had lost my wife and son and was about to lose my apartment and phone: no apartment and phone, no Free Learning Exchange. I was going to have to get some kind of a normal job if I was to stay alive and try to keep FLEX operating. I pledged a week to fund raising. Monday to Wednesday I raised no more money than I and my crew had raised 1970 to 1974. On Thursday I made an appointment with a professional fund raiser. What did they know that I hadn’t figured out? First thing the guy told me that Friday was that he needed $10,000 up front to talk to me at all!

$10,000! Why, if I had $10,000, I wouldn’t need a fund raiser! note The guy saw me practically die. He wound up asking me what it was about, liked the idea, asked what I’d done on my own thus far … and told me that he didn’t see how anyone could have done more: that I’ve gotten FLEX about as far as could be expected without capital for expansion.

Capital! In a corporate world, that was the whole thing: spend money to make money. Charity was a business: a good business. Give him $10,000, he spends it to raise $40,000. He takes $20,000, gives me $20,000. He puts $10,000 in his pocket, spends the other $10,000 on FLEX … And I’ve doubled my money. One of these days he gets back more than $40,000 from one of the $10,000s, and puts $15,000 toward FLEX …

You give $10? Maybe $5 goes to the charity that the collection charity is working for. Of that $5, maybe $2.50 goes to the guy running the charity itself. Of the remaining $2.50 … what goes to the kid? A doughnut? A Koolaid? If the charity even knows any kids.

Mix some Koolaid, buy a box of doughnuts, go to the ghetto, find a kid. Ask the kid if he has any friends: and hand over the goodies.


Wouldn’t Need a Fund Raiser:
That reminds me of a time I was tempted by bankruptcy in business. The lawyer told me he needed $500 up front. Same answer: If I had $500 I wouldn’t need “bankruptcy”!


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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