Wednesday, July 23

tithing for social and environmental change

I am currently reading 'Giving' by Bill Clinton. As a literary work, well...its crap. The word 'friend' gets used a little too much for my liking and makes the text appear a little too much like a 'look who i know' fest, but it is an interesting compilation of the different approaches and examples of people from all backgrounds trying to make a difference in the lives and communities of fellow global citizens. No impact man has linked an article by ethicist peter singer which is an interesting read on the subject. Now by all accounts, the Rising Family are '10%+ givers' but it doesnt sit 100% happily with me, it smacks a little of paternalism and offsetting a bad conscience for 'immoral' living. I was raised a marxist-atheist (i know, do such things still happen!) seriously, i was, we even used to sing 'keep the red flag flying here' as a christmas carol (not that we celebrated Christmas per se) I digress. What does being raised a Marxist have to do with 'giving' and the issues i have? Well, philanthropy by its very nature can be viewed as a very capitalist/christian based concept (is it any wonder that its a huge part of American culture?). Someone who has some (whatever it may be) to spare gives to someone/something in need. In the Marxist paradigm of providing for/ recieving for each according to their need, philanthropy becomes obsolete. So, when confronted with someone from the Salvos asking for a donation, my family justified their refusal on the grounds that 'the state' should be responsible, is in fact morally obliged to provide for its citizens. So to donate to the Salvos would be akin to approving of the system as it stood and sending a message of 'letting them', the government, off the moral hook to look after all its citizens well. Citizens individually choosing whether or not to assist others in the community (whether it be individuals or a cause)should not be condoned. All citizens should be responsible for looking after each other and their environment by way of organising society in a very different manner.

Now essentially, i still agree with the essence of these arguments and it has taken me a long time to get to a more balanced place in regard to such matters. However, i have also come to the conclusion that whilst I must do all i can to make our government a more socially just and environmentally responsible one through the process of choosing to participate actively in the democratic process (which I believe is a responsibility for us all), agitating and voting for change, if i wait for the enviro-socialist paradigm to be expressed in our organisation of society, then the good i can do, the possible difference i can make whilst I wait will be an opportunity squandered. So, now i try to embrace the concept of giving as the least i can do, its all about compassion i guess, while waiting for governments to 'get it' but i still have some leftover issues around the bougeoise nature of it all.

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