Monday, February 21, 2011

Random Thoughts - VIII

I believe, apart from aid by government agencies, charities done through religious organizations are the only acceptable way of helping the needy. In both cases, the self-image of the recipients won't be dented. In the case of government, people think it's the duty of the state to support them. Charities in the name of god make people humble before a non-existing entity, so in practical terms they won't lose their self-respect. Any humiliation would be purely imaginary. Philanthropy or charity in any other form is bound to kill the recipients' self-respect.

7 comments:

Seeker of Truth said...

There is at least one secular non-governmental alternative I can think of.
Visit Rang De (rangde.org). The self-image of recipients will not be dented as the small loans they get eventually make them independent. Also, the donors can't waive the interest from their beneficiaries, and so their relationship is like that between a venture capitalist and entrepreneur and not like that between an alms-giver and a beggar.

anilkurup said...

Self respect!!!

I do not know if that makes any sense to someone who cannot even partake one square meal .Debatable indeed.

And as for religious outfits indulging in charitable activities and philanthropy - well again they are the "holy cows" and will have a free run . Their philanthropy cannot be questioned and dissected.

In the present times not a great idea either.

manju said...

I suppose I need to list out all types of charities and discuss case by case basis.

Seeker of Truth said...

Case studies are an excellent idea.
Here's one case I encountered yesterday when I received a forward mail about this:
http://jagriti.seeyourimpact.org/2011/01/09/138/

When our beneficiaries are children, toddlers who are yet to acquire the notions of 'self-respect' and 'humiliation', then considerations about 'denting self-image' become irrelevant.

Also, if beneficiaries are more willing to consider getting help from the State which they think is duty-bound to help them, this can be gotten around through public-private partnership with the State manning the 'front-end'. This way the beneficiaries don't exactly come to face-to-face with the benefactors causing awkward moments of hurt pride. Akshaya Patra seems to be a successful initiative which has many of the elements discussed above: its beneficiaries are children, it is funded by public-private partnership, is associated with a religious group but is registered as a 'secular charitable trust'. This example itself shows that case studies will face a challenge of classifying aid organizations that don't neatly fit into categories.

manju said...

I'm most likely unidimensional in my characterization of human nature. Self-image even after it's broken can be redeemed in so many ways in the case of productive or productive-able people. I'm of course imagining denting self-image of recipients with boosting self-image of donors. Probably unwanted over reaction on all those individuals who go and serve children in schools.

I suppose only governments and religious groups can bring about any real change in the society because of their reach and their ability to mobilize money and man power. Mid-day meal scheme was basically a government initiative.

I'm not sure about microcredit bringing about any real change in the society. At least Wikipedia article on it doesn't give me any confidence. And as the article says, we shouldn't make the mistake of associating measure of success with repayment rate. You can't fault me for being sceptical about this as I live in Andhra Pradesh. But it hasn't stopped me from being a money lender-lite for RangDe.

But the idea behind charity with long term implications is that government is incompetent to carry out any reforms and it's easier for people to take up an alternate path than force the government, I suppose the movement should be single NGO to whole country. That way impact would be maximum and the measurement of success would be easier.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Your conclusion is contrary to my impressions. Dignity destroying government programs are not uncommon. Secular charities for the poor can build self-respect, particularly in cases where beneficiaries are given work rather than handouts (the models of charities like Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity in the United States). Religious charity often demeans and promotes insincerity as well.

manju said...

Andrew:
You are probably arguing from case by case basis (though it's unclear what those cases are when it comes to government). I guess your impression is that, be it government policies, secular or religious charities, some are bound to kill dignity and some build up self-respect.

My argument only considers self-image of a receivers when they meet donors. In my opinion, government policies or religious charities are faceless (though there are godmen/godwomen exceptions in India ...but I was thinking about organized religions).

I'm still thinking about the following section of the Communist Manifesto.

A part of the bourgeoisie is desirous of redressing social grievances, in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society.

To this section belong economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working class, organisers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, temperance fanatics, hole-and-corner reformers of every imaginable kind. This form of Socialism has, moreover, been worked out into complete systems.