Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Charity: Are you a lazy giver?

Students from most secondary schools have filled the last 2 saturdays to ask the public to give back to the community. Holding tin cans and "flag" stickers, they bear the symbols of Singaporean charitable attitude. I read somewhere before, that Singaporeans have the highest rate of giving. I've always passed the chance to buy tissue, buy "flags", give my change to passing musicians (unless they are really good) etc. Some might call me Mrs Scrooge and hurl eggs for my miser attitudes.

I have always held the view that anyone and everyone can perform charitable acts like dropping change in a tin can, or help out an old man selling tissue papers. As much as these little gestures matter, and they might temporarily help the demise of those less fortunate, I much prefer to engage in long term sustainable charitable causes. Such charity depends largely on mass numbers and runs along the theory that while you have a small part to play, it is enough if everyone also does it. However, it's my money, and I sometimes really wonder how much of that really goes into the organisations, and how much goes into the less fortunate. Charity is pity, and you give because you pity those less fortunate than you. It is a condescending attitude. Contrary, were I the less fortunate, I would prefer to earn my own living than live on the hand that might one day retract due to a decline in "altruistic" attitudes.

Furthermore, there are frauds everywhere.

Does it mean to withdraw your giving hand altogether? I guess it depends. Someone I respected once told me to "play to your strengths" and another person I don't really respect once chided me for "not being able to take the opportunities". So putting two and two together, I've decided that every time I want to do something selfish, it must have some sort of spill over effects that will benefit others as well. To use a term in arbitration, it's best to engage in integrative negotation (where the negotiation is based on interests, rather than position and authority). So for instance, for this master's project, I'm applying to use public money, to help the local start-up theatre performers/playwrights gain their portfolio by teaching/staging a play acted by youths for youths. I benefit by overseeing the play project and using valuable data to advance young people's scholarship, the public "donates" the excess wealth from economic growth to help a group of struggling artists and at the same time, the little ones have fun.

It's a lot of work, and it's not easy. But geez, we're talking about thousands of dollars here. Cents in a tin can? Singapore, we can do so much better if only we stop taking the easier way out. Charity involves effort and dedication - so what have you done today?

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