Charity

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture
Submitted by Kyrel Zantonavitch on Wed, 2017-04-26 21:16

"My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue." --Ayn Rand, 1964

Charity is evil. It's a violation of justice. It's an act of giving someone something he doesn't deserve. It's a transfer of value from the good to the evil.

Charity promotes evil. Charity rewards failure. Thus charity creates evil and failure. It makes the world a lesser place. People shouldn't give money or valuables to failed and evil persons. If you give to, and reward, successful and good persons then they will multiply in number and the world will be enhanced and uplifted.

Charity undercuts and betrays mankind. It sabotages and punishes hard and smart work, productive achievement, human genius, and mankind in general. Charity often tricks and seduces the weak. It traps people in poverty. It kills their all-important work ethic and indomitable human spirit. It frequently makes them dependent and pathetic.

Charity darkens people's souls and breaks their normally resistant and defiant hearts. It turns good people into bad people as it converts them into predators and parasites. The recipients of such undeserved gifts often become effectively addicted to charity and then enslaved to it.

When it comes to human social interaction, caring about and for your fellow man, and the act of "giving," it's almost always more beneficial to be generous and magnanimous -– not charitable and forgiving. It may even be better to be a cold bastard or outright thief to some poor or needy person, rather than becoming his lowly charity-donor. Such behavior almost invariably undermines him, and sneakily destroys him from within -– which is almost always the most destructive and deadly of acts. And this type of behavior almost invariably degrades and debauches the human relationship, causing both sides to feel contempt and disgust towards one other.

But if you have to be "charitable" –- and the recipient seems to be a somewhat innocent or unlucky sufferer -– then at least be generous and magnanimous to your family and friends first, or at worst to your colleagues and neighbors. And rather than giving a gift, it's better to offer a loan. And rather than offering a loan, it's better to help him get a new and superior job.

The fact is that when it comes to the social dynamics and spirituality involved, the person who gives to charity, secretly or implicitly, usually hates the recipient. And the recipient virtually always hates the charity-donor. So charity severely harms human relationships. Friendships die from it. It badly disrupts the social harmony, collective peace, natural love, and brotherhood of man. Giving to charity is almost always a monstrous and uber-destructive act.

For those who doubt or dispute this, can anyone remember a single instance in which they gave to charity and the recipient actually benefited overall or long-term? Can anyone remember a single instance in which they themself received charity and benefited overall and long-term? This is virtually unknown. Giving to charity occasionally "feels good," but it essentially never "does good". Rather, it advances the cause of injustice and evil, as it massively harms both giver and receiver.


Follow the money – forward

Mark Hunter's picture

Thoughtful and well-written post by Ed Powell (Charity 2017-05-01). He could make it a new essay on his website, Objective Dissent.

Kant, Comte, Hegel, and Marx

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Ed -- I think you're very close to exactly right that today's ideal of charity and self-sacrifice is due to Kant, Comte, Hegel, and Marx. Altho' I do think you give the early Christians too much credit. In my view, they knew what they were doing when they preached the nobility of the destruction of Self. Jesus and Cicero were philosophically and morally antithetical. However that may be, the monotheists of today seem to closely mirror the ethical ideals of Kant, Comte, Hegel, and Marx. Left and Right currently have false and evil notions of charity and self-sacrifice as social and personal ideals.

Mature view of Christianity

Doug Bandler The Second's picture

Bottom line, Christianity bears only a small fraction of the blame for the modern coerced "charity". Most blame goes to Kant, Comte, Hegel, and Marx. As far as uncoerced charity (alms) goes, there Christianity does have a role to play philosophically, but one that is not equal to self-sacrifice and not incompatible with "cooperation."

This is a mature view of Christianity. One I have moved towards over the years. The charity elements in Christianity are not irrelevant as they have provided a general disposition towards concern for the poor that has been with the West ever since. But that concern for the poor is not representative of an inhuman hatred of the successful the way most Objectivists think. In fact, there was such poverty at that time I can't see how a religion could achieve popularity without providing some solace for the poor. It was not a time of material abundance like the West enjoys today. The context of the ancient world needs to be appreciated when thinking about Christianity. Objectivists just never do this.

And I too think that modern collectivism, to use that term, is heavily influenced by the post Kantian philosophic developments of which Comte is indicative. I also think that Protestantism is involved as well but to what degree I am uncertain. And I am still researching for myself what I think Kant's complicity is. Was he "the most evil man in history"? I doubt it. But I wonder if his CI was the "software" that started to program the West's "operating system" down the path of the suicidal altruism that we see now. An altruism that now considers white people as de facto selfish and immoral; ie white male patriarchal culture as inherently anti-egalitarian and therefore immoral. I don't know if Kant is responsible for that or not. But I do think that is the way the Left is using modern altruism. And its extremely dangerous.

Charity

edpowell's picture

One must remember that when we think of Christian "charity" we are referencing back to the King James Bible, the famous 1 Corinthians 13, where "charity" was discussed extensively. The Original Greek for this chapter has the word "agape", which means love or goodwill rather than "giving stuff to the poor". Not being a philologist, my guess is that the word "charity" in English has morphed over the 400 years from its original meaning of "love and goodwill towards men" to the current "giving alms". The people who wrote the KJV were not idiots and knew both Greek and English better than any of us.

"Christian charity" means "goodwill towards men as fellow creatures of God". It does NOT mean "self-sacrifice." Self-sacrifice as a modern concept was invented by August Comte (altruism = live for others) and Comte was a secularist, not a religious philosopher.

Christianity preached a version of self-sacrifice, but it was one focused on sacrificing the temporary (material goods in this life) for the eternal (God and heaven). It's certainly true that Jesus preached that one should look after the poor, but he never said, as Comte, that you should "live for others;" he said one should live for God. Giving alms to the poor was a staple of the Jewish religion (though honored only rarely by the wealthy), and Jesus was not a radical in this regard, mainly preaching an anti-legalistic (anti-Pharisee) version of Judaism, not anything particularly revolutionary when it came to alms-giving. Other aspects of Jesus' teaching were revolutionary (his apocalyticism and view of himself as the Messiah), but these don't come into today's discussion.

When Jesus was replaced by "the church", one of the church's main purposes was to take care of the poor and the sick. Wealthy people were expected (but not forced) to give money and land to the church (in the beginning in exchange for prayers for their souls, but eventually for "get out of hell free" cards) so the church could perform its function. This type of "charity" was not considered self-sacrifice. The secular lords giving money to the church were doing so to help save their own souls (that is, for an ultimately selfish, though irrational, reason). They were never commanded to live for others.

As I wrote in the DIM essay, Christianity has very few unarguable tenets, those being more-or-less summed up in the Nicene and Apostle's Creeds. The rest of Christian philosophy has been appended by secular philosophers over the years. The modern Christian view of self-sacrifice is entirely due to Kant, Comte, Hegel, and Marx. It IS in modern Christianity, but it is NOT a historically Christian viewpoint, just as the neo-pagan environmentalism that is dominant in many main-line Christian churches today is not a product of Christianity, but of the dominance of the Left in modern philosophical discourse, and the reaction of some Christian sects to bend with the times to remain relevant (something that Christianity has been doing since the 40s AD).

One also must remember that Jesus' actual teachings had relevance from about 30-100 AD, but were essentially subsumed by the church from 100 AD to 1500 AD when the first vernacular translations were created. The Matthew quote, if you look at the original Greek, means more like "have goodwill toward people who hate you" or "return hatred with love/goodwill", implying more of a "stop the circle of violence and hate" rather than going up and kissing a terrorist. When we hear the word "enemy" we think of a guy with a gun to one's face, but that was not what Jesus was saying here.

Bottom line, Christianity bears only a small fraction of the blame for the modern coerced "charity". Most blame goes to Kant, Comte, Hegel, and Marx. As far as uncoerced charity (alms) goes, there Christianity does have a role to play philosophically, but one that is not equal to self-sacrifice and not incompatible with "cooperation."

Charity Redefined

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

The many dictionary definitions I consulted on "charity" don't seem correct. They don't seem to capture the essence of the word, concept, and ideal.

Charity, properly defined, involves self-sacrifice. It's the transfer of value from yourself to someone else remote to you. It specifically hurts you and -- supposedly -- benefits the other.

Charity is radically different from sociability and friendship. Also from cooperation and mutual interaction to mutual profit. These four are good. But "Love thy neighbor," (Mark 12:3) and "Love thy enemy," (Mathew 5:44) are very different. These two are acts of Christian charity and self-repudiation. They seem to best capture the essence of this erroneous moral concept and social ideal. Ayn Rand's overall ethics -- especially her discussion of egoism and altruism -- improves our understanding of this issue.

What do I get back?

VSD's picture

I only find myself 'charitable' towards people and situations where I get sth back. Even if it is only the knowledge that a special individual still exists and keeps going with my 'charity'. I want that 'existence' to continue because I like seeing it and interacting with it, because it's valuable to me. If it's some individual halfway across the world that I know nothing about and have no idea how they got into that mess and what they're doing (if able) to get out of it I find I don't much care. Even less when they're grouped into lumps of people like most charities in the world do. Where's my value? Certainly not in masses! So why should I care?
The more hard-nosed kind of 'charity' is an even more direct trade: you got into a bad situation (by your own fault or external forces) but have the ability to get out of it and continue a productive life. You just need a little help to tide you over, get started on recovery. The trade off is I get another productive individual in the world I can interact or even trade with in the future. Or negotiate an immediate 'return-on-invest': 'pay me back when you're back on your feet'. My 'payback' is usually 'do the same for someone else worth it', as I usually do not need the return at the time. The 'being worth it' however is the hard part to figure out ; )
So no charity from me ... and I do have a nasty suspicion that even the 'bleeding hearts' don't do it for charity, but because they want to get sth out of it. If not money, then at least adulation, power, a place in heaven, name your price even if it is only 'makes me feel good' ...
VSD
PS: I agree with (most of) the negative aspects of 'charity' - however they're so obvious it's like preaching to the choir: like any bad investment the return is just 'making it worse' ... what I don't get is that so few people 'get' that ...

But...

Andrew Atkin's picture

If it's no good to give, then why did the human animal evolve with the capacity for charity as part of their emotional tool kit?

I agree with the critical points in the article, but the luck-of-life factor would explain our instinct. No matter how much of a premium specimen you might be, pure bad luck can always bring you down. Risk is eternal. And who wants to see good genes fail to reproduce, and only because the specimen got raped or mugged or something? And indeed, I notice that human instinct is to give more charity to those that we find beautiful (indicating good genes worth protecting), suggesting that the charity instinct is about 'good reproduction'.

The problem with modern charity is the welfare state, where the giving process is split in terms of accountability. When the hand that receives is directly accountable to the hand that gives, then charity becomes more rationalised (much more!). This is what we have lost with the invention of the welfare state, and we have developed severe problems and "natural distortions" because of it, I believe.

Charity and generosity

edpowell's picture

Our buddy dictionary.com says charity is "generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill, or helpless" so it seems charity is generosity towards someone in need. So I don't think there is much distinction I guess between generosity and charity.

I'm not a big fan of "forgiveness" under any circumstances, especially not for serious things

As for magnanimity, I guess I agree with Churchill: "In War: Resolution, In Defeat: Defiance, In Victory: Magnanimity, In Peace: Goodwill"

Charity and Forgiveness vs. Generosity and Magnanimity

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Ed --What do you think about the idea of charity and forgiveness vs. generosity and magnanimity? Altho' it depends a lot upon definitions, in general terms I think there's a big difference between them. The second pair seems proper to individualists and egoists, while the first does not.

The Deserving and the Undeserving

edpowell's picture

Many charities today, including especially organizations like The Clinton Foundation and ARI, are designed to enrich the management at the expense of the donors. Even seemingly harmless organizations like The American Cancer Society and the Red Cross--both of whom do valuable work--do the work AFTER skimming large chunks of cash for the principles. Ideological organizations are no different in general. The most effective pro-individual rights organization in the world, the National Rifle Association, is involved in all sorts of financial shenanigans. I do donate the them on occasion though because the work they do is more important to me than the graft they exhibit.

As to charity for individuals, that depends on whether they are deserving or undeserving. My friends lost their AC during an enormous heat wave a couple of years ago, so I let them and their kids stay in our house for the week it took for the AC to be fixed. And unlike John Galt with Dagny, I did not charge them rent for this use of my dwelling. That was charity, and perfectly proper. Charity in the 1900s worked reasonably well, as the charitable organizations were quite good at weeding out the undeserving poor from the deserving poor. Don Watkins discusses this in his horribly named but well-written book "Rooseveltcare". A similar example of charity, indeed one of the most remarkable stories I've ever read, is the aftermath of the Johnstown Flood, which killed 2000 people and made many more thousands homeless. The victims started the next morning rebuilding their town and they were very grateful for the support which came in from around the country. The president himself wrote a check for $300 of his private funds to help the survivors. The most amazing example of charity was by the Pennsylvania Railroad, which on it's own dime loaded relief trains with food, medicine, supplies, and workers and sent them towards Johnstown. Ten miles of railroad track had been washed out by the flood, and the railroad was the only means of communication between Johnstown and the outside world. Do you know how long it took for the Pennsylvania Railroad to rebuild those ten miles of track and send the fist relief train to Johnstown? One day. Imagine how long it would have taken today? This story is told in David McCullough's "The Johnstown Flood" and should be read by everyone for the story alone, which if put on film in a Hollywood blockbuster would leave the audience thinking, "nah, that could never happen." But in the context of this post, it shows what real charity is and how real charity works.

The moral point of charity is the recognition of reciprocity among human beings. If I were in a bad situation not of my own devising, I would welcome help. So I give help in similar situations. The fact that all organized charities today are partial scams is the fault of our diminished ethics, not a fault of charity as a concept.

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