Shimoniac Jones

I didn't lose my mind – it fled in terror.

Donor Fatigue

I’m tired of natural and man-made disasters happening and someone coming on the radio, television, or whatever begging, pleading, or trying to guilt me out of my money. If that makes me sound uncaring, so be it. My sympathy gland has dried up.

What sparks this particular tirade is a local event that probably didn’t make the papers outside the area, but encapsulates the whole situation. A local family was burned out of their house, they had no content insurance on the house, and they are now being housed in a motel by a local charity until more permanent quarters can be arranged. They might be able to move back into their house, depends on what the fire investigators and the building inspector find. Hurry up and wait; now you’re in limbo.

The fact that they had no content insurance is only one of the things that stick in my throat. My mother, bless her, has always been a fanatic about making sure that you have insurance. She gave my sister a hard time until my sister got content insurance for her apartment. In fact, as I recall, my parents paid her first few premiums. My mother said, “Budget the insurance with the necessities, because insurance is a necessity.” Later Mom was proved correct as sis was burgled and had insurance to help replace the pilfered items.

A closer look at the family shows that the family doesn’t bear closer examination. It’s a single mother family; I read that with absolute neutrality, I’ve known single mothers where that’s the best choice. Mom is 34 years old, and her three sons are 17, 15, and 13; I raised an eyebrow at this. Of the four people living in that house, no two shared a last name. That final fact turned me off. I’m sorry, as shallow as that makes me, this woman’s lifestyle choices have succeeded in alienating me. The mother works part-time, as does her oldest; kudos to her and him, but too little, too late.

The kicker is that the embers from the fire were barely cool when some local philanthropist-type was bleating about helping this poor underprivileged, deserving woman. To that end he/she/it had already opened a trust account to defray expenses and pay for moving, cleaning, or whatever. I hardly dare to think of what ‘whatever’ might encompass.

All of this is in microcosm, what I rail against in macrocosm.

When I was younger, I was the most credulous kid you could imagine as far as helping the `less fortunate’. It was about the first time the Ethiopian famine got world-wide airplay and we had celebrities flogging their particular pet charities. I collected my pennies and believed with all my heart that I was making a difference, after all adults were telling me so; and adults would never lie to a child.

Then, two years later, there was another famine in Africa and I gave again with my whole heart remembering the warm satisfied feeling I had gotten before. By the time the fourth famine came around, I was older and jaded; I felt guilty and bigoted for wondering if famines were some sort of African tribal ritual. I later found out that mockery aside, it is. Famines, plagues, earthquakes, civil wars, and inter tribal rivalries decimate and devastate populations and the usual suspects come out crying for aid, for assistance, for more and more money to solve the problem. The peoples of Africa seem determined to follow the same path as their ancestors, no matter that the path leads right over a cliff to extinction. All they seem to know about is handouts, shifting for themselves is something they’ve apparently become unfamiliar with.

This is actually the West’s fault. For decades, the rich West has felt vaguely guilty over its wealth as compared to other parts of the world. Especially a part they exploited vigorously and with great abandon; read `slavery’ and `colonialism’. So, what do you do about that vague feeling of guilt? Simple; throw money at it, get a warm satisfied feeling and go on with your life uninterrupted.

What we have forgotten is that money is not wealth. Money is a concept inherited from the ancients as a method of disposing of a surplus now and gaining a want or need later. Wealth is potable water, food, and shelter. By throwing money at the problem, we’re actually making the problem worse because when more money is available for the same limited amount of goods, the price of those goods goes up. This is called inflation. When you print more and more money to chase the same limited amount of goods because the price has gone up, this is called hyper-inflation. See Zimbabwe as a recent example.

By forcing our solutions onto other peoples’ problems, we make the situation worse and the people we’re trying to help either helpless, or resentful, or both. How do we address the problem? We do that by acknowledging that there is a problem. How do we fix the problem? Can the problem even be fixed? I don’t know, but I do know that you can’t just keep on doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. That’s the classic definition of insanity.

When you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always got.

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2 thoughts on “Donor Fatigue

  1. I can see why you think Aid money is not the answer, and i agree it isn’t. For too long people like Bono and Geldof and other charities raised loads of money for foreign aid, “throwing money at the situation”.

    On the whole this is hugely ineffective but in a lot of cases Aid is still necessary but as I said not the answer. The answer lies not in the giving of money or food but in education, training and resourcing ‘Africa’ to be able to change the future for themselves (as opposed to us westerners changing it for them).

    The biggest charity working in micro-finance is a charity called Kiva (www.kiva.org). Unbelievable charity doing extraordinary things for people. I shouldn’t actually say FOR people, I mean supporting, encouraging people to be able to live their lives for themselves.

    Below is a link to the latest Bono Ted talk describing how for a long time he got it wrong with Aid but how Micro-finance is a better solution. http://www.ted.com/talks/bono_the_good_news_on_poverty_yes_there_s_good_news.html

    But this isn’t to say that your donations as a kid towards aid was a bad thing, because it wasn’t… I’m sure it saved thousands of peoples lives, it just wasn’t followed up by other charities saying, “now your alive, lets support you in staying alive”.

    Thanks for your post, don’t give up on charity.

  2. I feel your pain.
    We have leaders who have forced us to pay increasingly-exorbitant taxes, let them sort these messes out.

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