The three points of a circle (of life) - part II
What lies behind the masks of Bono or Bill Gates? (on altruism)
Another idea that Baggini brought up, actually casts society into a very cynical light. A philanthropist who gives a part of his wages to charity, or adopts a homeless kid in South Africa and pays for his entire education and living expenses, can be seen as selfish. We have exaggerated and overplayed altruism. Call us believers jerks if you must, but from here I will attempt to sway you into believing so.
Altruism is in itself paradoxical, Baggini suggests.The world is made up of inequality that is brought about by the free markets, as an average economics student will tell you, which makes money so crucial to survival. So to eliminate inequality would not please the altruistic philanthropist, as much as they seem to love aiding the less fortunate.
There is a psychological counterpart to such an interesting phenomenon, often dubbed the ‘culture of dependency’ in which the helpless would be grateful to the helper, and such a relationship stems from the need of the less fortunate, and would otherwise be unable to perpetuate. The helper, in such a case, relies on the helpless to create a sense of purpose, and (contrary to their explicit motives) would not want the helpless to be independent, as this would render them meaningless.
Yet on the other hand, there is also a psychological inclination that the helpless actually enjoys (or is supposed to enjoy) his plight. This makes them ‘Tragic heroes’ or in the words of Aristotle, ‘a hero of a tragedy must evoke in the audience a sense of pity or fear’. Humans are more inclined to appreciate their own agony in a sort of masochistic way to induce sympathy in their audience, such that it makes them look pitiful but at the same time stronger and more heroic than their counterparts.
Many a time, the most unscrupulous beings would play the middleman, or what we know as the syndicate – who would exploit such a relationship of the helper (who is more than willing to help) and the helpless (who enjoys his plight). This would result in large amounts of donations from charities being siphoned or children being kidnapped and forced to beg on the streets for the syndicate.
I would now ask, to whose benefit is it when we do charitable work – the helpless, for our selfish satisfaction, or the middlemen who exploits it? And is charity work today necessary anymore? Or shall we simply go by the adage ‘charity begins at home’ and help only those we truly care about?