18 November 2005

Thought In Progress

BirdyChirp did a great post a while back about crass and thoughtless Charity organisers - there are evidently still a few of those about. Until I read that, I confess I hadn't thought much about it, so the following is my own learning curve. Fire away.

It is marketing genius, I think, when people are used to running the gamut of rattling cans for this, that and the other charity, to offer would-be contributors a huge payback in terms of kudos and self approval. Its why Children In Need and Red Nose Day are so popular - people get into the spirit of it as if its an annual holiday - some get their faces on the telly for having picked something 'whacky' to do and drummed up sufficient sponsorship. People team up at work or in their street and all congratulate each other.

I have to wonder how third world kids would feel, if they were expected to show gratitude for Red Nose Day by watching clips of, say, people sitting in baths of baked beans, to raise money. Hey kids, a whole bath full of food, and oh look at the big hairy man. And now its unfit to eat, isn't it? And listen, everybody's laughing. Tough luck! Ooh look, that whole school class is having a party with cake and ice cream to raise money for you, aren't you pleased? And there's a person who bought their fat kid six pairs of shoes because the shoeshop is donating some of the profits. Aww aren't they kind.

I get the feeling that a lot of people would stop playing or paying altogether, if scenes of the fun were used to torture the children. The system as it exists benefits everybody, but our idea of a lovely day to remember would be the third world idea of horrendous waste, or possibly an undreamed of heaven on earth.

Still, that's similar to how it must be for wheelchair users to attend a gala function (in their honour) and be regaled with self approving tales by the jammy gits who climbed a mountain and took beautiful shots of the views, to raise some money. Talk about rubbing it in. Take a knife and twist it, why don't you. "Oh Lordy Massa, thank you Massa, that's me in my place (just behind your pet Labrador that cost you more in Vets fees last year) and ever so grateful. You wanker."

The thing is, the kind and clueless don't actually see what they are doing. They continue to get a great deal of personal satisfaction and warm fuzzy feelings out of 'helping the less fortunate' and we as a society encourage this psychologically unhealthy leaning towards smother love. We bump up the egos of those that 'help', to encourage more money out of them, irrespective that it grinds into them the concept of difference as a victim state, as somehow being 'less.'

If hardly any of us had functioning legs, for example, there would be:
  • no steps,
  • no heavy doors,
  • no slim doors,
  • no silly thin supermarket aisles made more hazardous by special offer build-outs.
  • No huge gaps between trains and platforms,
  • no high handles or bolts
  • better parking regulations around kerb ramps,
  • wider, better maintained pavements.
You name it. The requirements would be the norm. As to doors (and even ceilings,) there probably wouldn't be any that were 6' tall. For the majority, for the wheelchair 'normals', there would be no point.

There would be precious little money put into research for things like hip replacements or even fallen arches and the poor sods who were born with functioning legs would be the ones being subjected to sympathy and pity because they couldn't keep up, couldn't play wheelchair basketball, never developed such strong arms, kept hitting their heads; or later in life had to shuffle painfully up slopes (when anyone who's had one dodgy leg knows that short steps would be much easier.)

The walkers would probably be complaining to government that the push buttons to open doors were too low down the wall, and too far from the door to get there before it slammed on your nose. That they were bullied at school, with their toes always run over, and quips about whether the air was thin up there. There, there, poor dears.

The thing that got me about the book I read yesterday, which was only 100 years old, was the way that difference was absolutely accepted as a victim state. The lesson that we are all human was dressed as being kind to the less fortunate. It was apologetic. It blatantly aimed to turn disgusted condescension into warm hearted condescension that would be rewarded by God; indifference or loathing into deigning to administer a pat on the head in exchange for those ubiquitous warm fuzzy feelings. In its defence, it had to work from a real starting point of ignorance and self interest, societal expectation and 'the done thing.'

If you look at people with a difference from you and come over all warm and fairy-godmother-ish, then good for you. Yes, pat yourself on the back, you are way better than the self interested types who have no time for egalitarian concepts. Just stop and check whether you also feel superior to the people you help. You're not. You're just different, and being in the majority is the only thing providing you with this false blanket of security.

Glad I got that off my chest.


doris said...

Well said. We all need to look at our attitudes and the whys and wherefores of our actions. No need to tie ourselves in knots, nor to stop having fun. But there IS something deeply wrong with a hairy bloke in a bath of baked beans raising money for the hungry of this world. So many contradictions.

And then ultimately, what is the attitude we have. You put it well in saying we (and our situations) are just different.

Milt Bogs said...

I bet that you are feeling a lot better now Cheryl. I am amazed that you ever find time to sleep. You do sleep sometimes don't you? :)

Billy said...

Is a human being superior to a bacterium or just 'different'? I agree with you that they are of equal worth, just like the legged and the legless.

Cheryl said...

From you, whom I know to be extremely charitable and big hearted as well as practical and realistic, this is all the back up I need. Thank you.

Sarcasm will get you (almost) everywhere. See disclaimer - passing thought. Its why I never got good at meditation - its like Piccadilly Circus in here. But cheer up - not much sticks.

Back to the bard. The ability to think. Perhaps I should have stipulated that human sensibilities are all equal. I like that new kleenex advert where the buddhist saves a little spider then blows his nose into an anti viral tissue.

zilla said...

You were kidding, weren't you, about the guy bathing in beans?

This time of year, before the eucharist at mass (I'm not going again, tell you why later), the priest invites kids to bring nonperishable foods up to the altar for the needy.

Fine. Last Saturday, one boy took up one tin of vegetables or soup or something.

One boy

One tin

a congregation of hundreds

a church with more in tax-exempt real estate holdings than you or I can imagine...

That, to me, is a spectacle.

Tis the season!

Cheryl said...

Oh Zilla thats awful!

Maybe that begins to explain his old habit of spouting fire and brimstone and being 'all about the money'?

You can lead a horse to water........but you have to drag a mule.

Library Lady said...

Well said. I had my crawful of smug folks contributing to relieve Katrina victims while there were needy people in their old hometowns. And the donation bracelet jerks.

They give and feel good and then go right back to their "not in my backyard" attitudes. Pathetic, really....

I should add that I am extra cranky today because "Toys For Tots" has set up a drive outside my neighborhood supermarket. To me, the Xmas season doesn't begin until after Thanksgiving. The begathon at that point is bad enough, but jumping the gun holiday wise really irked me. I will be happy to give to a toy drive--in fact we do one at the library. But each thing to its own season....

Badaunt said...

My false security blanket vanished suddenly when I had a traffic accident a few years ago and a head injury made it hard to get around without passing out. I also needed to stop often, and rest until my head stopped hurting so much. I was terrified of stairs - they took forever to climb and I was constantly frightened that I'd pass out and fall.

I learned very quickly that I do not live in a place that is friendly to disabled or old people. There are stairs EVERYWHERE, and not enough escalators or lifts, and almost nowhere to sit down and rest when you're out and about. A trip into Osaka, which I think nothing of now, required extensive planning based on where escalators and lifts were, and where it would be possible to rest for a while. Mostly I just didn't bother, and stayed home.

I wonder how many disabled and old people stay home because the effort to get anywhere is just too much? When you get to your destination and there are sixty stairs to climb to get above ground, and no lifts, it can be discouraging.

Also, I became far less impatient with the wheelchair maniacs around my area. These guys ride their wheelchairs right down the middle of the road, at high speed, often looking aggressive. I understand why they do it, now. They can't easily get around, and there is no pavement, so the safest place for them is the most visible - right in the middle of the road. They are asserting their right to live in the community - and good for them!

Cheryl said...

Libraray Lady - its annoying, but looking at Zilla's local church in her comment, I wonder if the hard sell is just a sign that fewer people even care?

BadAunt - HUGE HUGS! Thank you for a wonderful comment!

fineartist said...

Powerful and truthful post Cheryl. Thorough job expressing some of the insanity in our world.

Dignity for all humans. Right... on.

And a good healthy dose of the mentality of helping each other, because it is the thing to do, and yes, there but by the grace of God, go I...

birdychirp said...

what a great post - completely agree!