Y’know what’s whack? That it’s so hard to get people to spend their money some things, but so easy to get them to spend it on others. Like “hey guys! There’s a half-price sale on at Bling!” sweet, cheap jewelry. But “hey guys! Let’s help a starving family start a business!” doesn’t really push people’s buttons. I mean, we’re talking about the same amount of money here, why are people so unwilling to spend their money helping others? I have some theories.
- Selfishness. In my English class we recently had a discussion on selfishness, I think it was about how we can see the Victorian workhouse system was based on a philosophy of selfishness; a basic belief that people are selfish. Basically in our discussion we talked with the assumption that this was not true. But is it? I mean, when given the choice between a $15 necklace (down from $30!), or a $25 belt (which would go so well with your new jeans!) and donating $20 to a program that feeds hungry people, I’d say 99% of the time we’d choose the jewelry or the belt. Obviously it’s the difference between spending money we earned on ourselves or on others. But should the sustenance of a family really be on the same par with an accessory we don’t even need?
- Cynicism. We don’t believe the money will make it to the right place. There’s always scandals in the news about people fraudulently collecting money, charities spending the majority of it on “costs”, that we fear our money might not reach those who need it. Even if we’re talking about an established charity, these fears are a great excuse to pass the buck.
- Lack of recognition. Imagine if one day you put $5 in a donation box on the street. Suddenly, a cameraman steps out of nowhere, a small, grateful child takes your hand and elderly woman shakily offers you a flower. In a voice shaking with emotion and admiration a reporter thanks you for the difference you have just made to the life of a farmer in Nigeria. Ok, so maybe we don’t want this much recognition, but what’s the motivation to give your money away if nobody knows about it? The person who receives it doesn’t know about you, your friends won’t know what a selfless person you are, you might as well throw your money away!
- The economy. “The price of petrol is going up. The price of food is going up! Hamburgers now cost up to 10 cents more! How can I afford to give money away? I don’t even eat fast food or go to the movies more than once a month, plus I need clothes, to pay my rent, to pay my student loan and my mortgage”.
- “It’s not my problem.” “It’s not my fault they’re poor. I’m all the way over here in my country, it’s not my fault I was born in such a prosperous society.” – When was the last time you donated time or money to a local charity, or helped out with a programme in your own community?
- Desensitisation. “I’ve seen the ads on TV, I heard about a million children die every second. Or maybe it was 10 million? I’m not sure.”
- Resignation. “There has always been people in poverty in the world, there always will be. Governments will always unfairly persecute people, what am I supposed to do about it? I am one person living a million miles away. I have my own problems.”
So we’re all selfish, desensitised cynics who are starved of attention and while we’re sick of the price of petrol going up we’ve pretty much given up on world poverty.
And now we’re defensive.