The Dark Side of Charity

(Something I wrote in 2nd year college when a teacher asked us to give relief goods to the victims of typhoon Ondoy. No, I have good relations with the teacher, it’s the thought I’m Vol-tearing against here, haha pun)

On certainly more than one occasion, I have vehemently refused to give any form of charity to any number of victims of any instance of natural or man-made calamity whatsoever. In a nation so obsessed with the emotions and so preoccupied with the superficial moralities put forth by the two-millennium old doctrines of the Christian faith, it is unsurprising that this constant rejection of mine of charity has been met with both reproach and criticism. My parents would accuse me of selfishness. My classmates would sarcastically insinuate that my deviance is a sign of wanting to get attention. My teachers would constantly ask why I don’t give, completely ignoring Occam’s razor. And so, in defense of my already notorious dignity and in fulfillment of the alternative requirement Sir Lunar Fayloga had set upon me (for not giving to the victims of Ondoy), I write this apologetic (to the unaware, there is nothing repentant about the “apologetic.” It is a form of refute to an argument). I do not aim to convince you, good reader, when I write this discourse. Oh no. I care not about what you think. I am but presenting my side of the argument and in doing so am hoping to broaden your unfortunately narrow understanding of the world in which you were born.

Why don’t I give to the victims of the typhoon Ondoy? Why don’t I give to the poor? Why do I constantly discourage my acquaintances from giving? Why am I always so critical of those below the poverty line? Allow these questions to serve as our guide in this our discourse.

To start off, we shall, because this was intended to be submitted to sir Lunar, use one particular instance of my uncharitable personality, particularly to the victims of the typhoon Ondoy. A little background on this: on September 2009, the National Capital Region of the Philippines was devastated with the arrival of a typhoon named Ondoy, rendering over a hundred people dead and even more injured and homeless. At worst, the flood water was three storeys high and, as of the writing of this discourse, the water still hasn’t gone down. The President had already declared a Nationwide State of Calamity (the capitals should make it seem important). On the minor details like what signal the typhoon was or how many people were rendered homeless or how much water fell or where Kris Aquino was during the worst of the calamity, I have neither an idea nor the motivation to do research.

In response to this, many institutions, including the AdDU endeavoured to provide relief goods to the victims of the flooding. In many subjects in the University, relief goods were asked for in exchange for bonus points. In some (like sir Lunar’s Theo 121) it was actually required. Of course, in accordance to the principle I had already revealed above, I responded not a cent for these calls for charity.

Now, why didn’t I give to the victims of Ondoy? Well, I found the declaration of the State of Calamity to be a sign of Capital Centralism, I think the victims deserved their plight and I fear that the garbage generated from the relief goods will make the situation worse.

I think that President Arroyo’s declaration of a Nationwide State of Calamity is a sign of Centralism in the NCR. Please take note of the word “Nationwide.” Basing on this word, one would assume that it was the whole country that was devastated by the typhoon. But is this true? Obviously not. I feel that this act of declaration is a sign of regionalism and a manifestation of the high priority given to the National Capital Region over other regions and areas in our allegedly united but archipelagic nation. To feel this argument more, I would like to ask a (sarcastic) question: If a typhoon devastated Mindanao, would the Malacañang declare a nationwide state of calamity? I agree that this is my weakest and most selfish argument. But this is why I mentioned it first.

According to many sources, including national periodicals and common sense, the main cause of the devastating floods was the clogging of garbage in the canals. In other words: it was their fault. The people who were rendered victims by the floods: it was their fault. They produced all those garbage, happily going about their everyday lives, throwing away that plastic bag or that Oishi wrapper, and never considering that that very same plastic bag or wrapper would clog their canals, allow the rainwater to rise unnaturally high and take their families away from them. It was their fault. They cut down the trees to make roads, to process paper or just for the hell of it, never considering that doing so would make the soil loose and decrease the things that would absorb flood water. It was their fault. It’s a form of punishment for them, this calamity. And of course, it would be absurd to give help to someone being rightfully punished, for otherwise, that someone wouldn’t learn his/her lesson.

But my favourite reason for not giving any form of relief goods to the victims of the typhoon is that doing so would inevitably make the situation worse. Let us describe a scenario in order to understand this argument properly. Student A gives a sando bag full of instant noodles and sanitary napkins for the victims of the typhoon. This sando bag is, along with hundred of other given by other students, placed inside a large box. This box is sent to Manila where its contents, including Student A’s sando bag are segregated. After segregation, the goods are distributed to those in need. Questions: what happened to the sando bag? What happened to the box? What happened to the wrappers of the instant noodles and sanitary napkins? After they are used, what happens to the sanitary napkins themselves? All of these questions have one answer: they are floating in the flood water, waiting until the water goes down to clog the canals again. Sending relief goods will not only fail to bring the water down, it will even make the water go up because of the displacement the garbage brings.

Those are my particular reasons on why I did not give to the typhoon victims. But by no means are they my only reasons for rejecting charity in general. I also believe in the futility of charity in the face of poverty’s inevitability, its infectivity in solving the actual problem, its contradiction to the Social Darwinism I subscribe to and its dangerous potential of making this problem worse.

Poverty in a democratic nation is inevitable. Because in a democratic nation everything is up for grabs, the supply is definitely not enough to satisfy the demand. According to Thomas Malthus “Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio.” This means that, since population increase is something inevitable in a technologically and medically advanced society, the scenario of many being unable to get their basic needs is bound to happen. Considering this, one can say that poor people are bound to exist, and helping them would be futile. Acts such as charity will are futile in decreasing the poverty and will only serve to decrease the charitable individual’s share of the supply. If you give, you are not lifting those at the bottom up, you are only pulling yourself down.

Charity, if one analyzes to thoroughly, is actually ineffective in solving the actual problem of poverty. Since it is with example that a point is best made, we shall again return to Student A. every morning, he walks along Claveria to enter the Ateneo. As he does so, he sees a pathetic looking old lady stretching out her hand like a chimera begging to be murdered. Moved by the pitiful sight, our student takes out a five peso coin and gives it to the old lady. Now, I ask this: what do you think will the old lady do to the money? Well, let us continue our narrative. She stands up and pays it to the buko juice seller and haves a cup. Afterwards, she resumes her picturesque pose and proceeds to begging. If this is what we continue to do in response to poverty, nothing will happen. Giving immediate relief will not solve the problem.

And why should it solve the problem? The British Naturalist Charles Darwin is controversial for his postulating the theory (or scientific fact) of Natural Selection. According to this idea, the only organisms that survive are those that are fit enough to. Many economists and sociologists of his era and after used this idea (originally for biology) and applied it to society. In doing so, Social Darwinism was developed. This theory postulates that poverty and social inequality are brought about by the competition between members of the society, with the better equipped at the top and the poorly equipped at the bottom. In simpler terms, they are saying that it is a good thing that there is social inequality because it promotes a sense of competition, which gives the best to the deserving. Herbert Spencer, a notable Social Darwinist, described the wealthy as the crème de la crème of society, manifesting the best that man has achieved. Conversely, the poor are poor, according to this theory, because they have failed in the arms race. They are the losers of the game. It is thus saying that poverty is not a problem at all, but merely a consequence of weakness. To make it more concrete, it would be good to point out that the Filipino Tycoon John Gokongwei, whose family fell to shambles after his father died, sold soap and candles in a supermarket in Cebu. Now, he is one of the richest men in the country. If someone like him could rise to such a lofty height from such a low origin, why can’t others who are currently below the poverty line do likewise?

The controversial German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche points out that pity “preserves what is ripe for destruction; it defends those who have been disinherited and condemned by life.” According to him, pity, the core emotion of charity, only serves to extend the long overdue expiration dates of the spoiled poor. In doing so, the supposedly healthy sector of society are compromised, losing much time and resources in order to preserve what should long ago have been allowed to rot away. Instead of spending time to do business or write works of intellectual discourse (such as this one), they are preoccupied with trying to help the poor. Millions, if not billions are also wasted in providing futile help when this very millions or billions could have been used to make schools or provide capital for those in need (the latter being a more productive form of charity). In the words of Nietzsche, “Pity makes suffering contagious.” But it not only cripples the well off, it also cripples the needy even more. By providing them “help”, one is actually making them rely on immediate relief, preventing them from trying to solve their own problems. Returning to that old lady Student A just “helped,” because she understood that she could live by simply begging, she’ll just continue to beg despite that “help wanted” poster behind her. Who wants to work when you can beg, anyway? In the long run, therefore, we can see that charity is not only futile in solving the problem, it also prevents those with the capacity to solve the problem from solving it as well. It is not only useless, it is also dangerous.

I have tried to provide a simple overview of my own points, but I am sure that, if given more time, I could make a more substantial discourse than this. But nevertheless this paper is, in my opinion, developed well enough to prove my point. If there be any reactions to these statements, I (unlike most people) am very much open to hearing them.

To conclude this discourse, I would like to explicitly state that I oppose and will continue to oppose charity because of its uselessness and danger. I instead call for more effective and more long-term solutions to the problem. What is the use of giving painkillers when the disease itself goes uncured?

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