Sunday, December 13, 2009

Generosity Rant

Warning: This rant about generosity isn't very generous.

A funk has been building in me.

On Facebook an "event" has been going around Quaker circles called "Hug a Quaker Day" on December 15th. I've felt cranky about this and am feeling bad and un-generous about being cranky.

But here's the deal.

Quakers already give and get more than enough hugs. What about people who actually don't have enough hugs?

I think this comes from my desire to be generous to people who don't have what they need to live. Including hugs. And also including money and goods.

I've been reading lately about how patterns of giving in the US actually perpetuate and reinforce existing social class structures. Social scientists have found that most modern giving benefits the elite and few others, and the little that goes to the most in need are safe because they don't challenge the status quo. Finally, the majority of philanthropy that gives to the most in need also gives opportunities for people, including those they serve, to socialize with the elite. But it actually reinforces the status of the elite. (Disentangling Class from Philanthropy: The Double-edged Sword of Alternate Giving, from Critical Sociology 33, 2007, in case you want to read the whole article about alternative foundations).

It got me thinking about mine and Liz's giving, but also my meeting's giving, which looks like this:

National

American Friends Service Committee $2,360
Friends Committee on National Legislation $2,360
Friends General Conference $2,360
Friends World Committee on Consultation $375
Right Sharing of World Resources $325
Friends Journal $1,135

Local

Friends for a Non-Violent World $5,700
Friends School of Minnesota $4,225
Northern Yearly Meeting $5,615

Local non-Quaker

Loaves & Fishes $1,200
St. Paul Council of Churches $200 (required dues)

Undesignated

$250 for special requests

Here's how our giving breaks down as I do the math.

Organizations that serve mostly already-privileged Quakers and others who are also privileged (FGC, FWCC, Friends Journal, FSMN, NYM, Council of Churches): $13,910
Organizations that serve Quakers in our quest to serve others (AFSC, FCNL, FNVW) $10,420
Organizations that try to serve poor and working class people (Loaves and Fishes): $1,200
Organizations that try to change the system that keeps poor people poor (RSWR): $325

Our meeting also gives $3,400 to individuals, but $2,100 of that is for Quaker travel and registration expenses, mostly to events sponsored by organizations that serve Quakers like FGC and NYM.

You might argue that Quakers do a lot of volunteering and making of social change, so giving to ourselves is somewhat justified. But I don't understand how justified it is if this kind of giving only reinforces the social class structure. I can't find evidence that Quakers are vigorously working to break down class barriers.

In the spirit of full disclosure, our personal giving breaks down like this:

18% goes toward organizations that serve us or other privileged people (like public radio and Friends General Conference).
37% goes toward helping middle class people help those in need (like Women's Foundation of Minnesota and Philanthrofund)
17% goes toward helping poor and working class people but without changing the systems that keep them oppressed (like the food shelf and Metropolitan State University)
27% goes toward changing the systems that keep poor and working class people oppressed (like Right Sharing of World Resources and the Women's Prison Book Project).

What does your personal and Quaker meeting philanthropy look like in these categories? What are you doing in your personal philanthropy to change the system that keeps people oppressed?

33 comments:

RantWoman said...

Friend speaks my mind! Thank you so much for posing the question the way you did. I shall certainly add your queries to my list of things to season!

susan said...

Very interesting way of looking at one's philanthropy. I do think that giving to Women's Foundation of Minnestoa and Philanthrofund (PFund Foundation) could be considered part of your social change giving, as both organizations focus their grants and work on people and organizations working to advance social justice for marginalized people. Full disclosure, this is Susan and PFund Foundation.

Jeanne said...

Thanks, RantWoman. I'd love to hear about what happens for you as you think about it during this season.

Susan, in reading that article I cite, I came to be somewhat uncomfortable with PFund and WFMN because their structures are very typical of the social class structure and because they serve communities that are both advantaged and disadvantaged. Not all women are disadvantaged. Not all GLBT people are disadvantaged. But all poor and working class people are disadvantaged in our culture.

I think the work of PFund and WFMN is still very important, but like Quaker giving, neither organization is working at tearing down the social class structures that keep so many oppressed. I don't think Quakers should stop giving to Friends Committee on National Legislation. FCNL is a tiny lobby and we have tremendous power in Washington--more than our tiny group should have.

The light I shed is to ask Quakers to look at what Christ calls us to do and to compare that to what we're actually doing. We are not turning over the tables at the temple. We're actually one of the tables at the temple.

Hystery said...

So I'm not the only one who thinks about philanthropy with grumpiness! ;-) I get many requests for money from all over the place. We live paycheck to paycheck so I end up recycling most all of them. What we do is keep a UNICEF Trick-or-Treat box in the kitchen all year long and put our spare change in it. My kids know how much it costs to give a kid in dire need a drink of clean water or nutritional biscuits. In the light of this great need, I have a really hard time working up any enthusiasm to give to art galleries and historical associations. Now don't get me wrong. Coming from a family of artists and historians, I'm partial to art and history and see such stuff as critical for a sane and humane culture....but...if I've got ten bucks to give and it can go to a kid who is dying of thirst or someone with a doctorate in museum studies...Well, you see my point. I've been thinking about this for some time and not sure where I'll end up with it but it is good to know that others are sharing my concerns.

Laura said...

I've set up a system to try to keep my giving somewhat weighted the way I want, because otherwise my giving ends up being too weighted toward group that serve me and people like me (my own Meeting, FGC, etc). I have a commitment to myself to do 1/3 "groups that serve me", 1/3 "charity", and 1/3 social change. That said, I do put Quaker orgs that serve middle class people trying to serve others in the "charity" and "social change" categories, and I think your critique that they often reinforce/perpetuate existing hierarchies is dead on. I have lots of friends for whom AFSC and FCNL have served jobs programs--do they really help their "intended" beneficiaries or do they help the employees/interns/etc?

Some groups I have given to in the various categories (I have no income right now, so I'm not sure what my giving will be like this year):

"groups that serve me/people like me":
my Meeting(s)
FGC
FLGBTQC
Pendle Hill
Equality Maryland and Eq VA
my local Pacifica radio station

"charities":
local catholic worker food kitchen
RSWR
AFSC
local free store

"social change":
Virginia Anti-Violence Project
Progressive Maryland
CASA Maryland (immigrant rights)
FCNL
CCAN (environmental)

Anyway, as usual, great topic and thought-provoking questions.

Laura G.

Jeanne said...

Thanks, Laura. I'm glad you've been thinking about it.

If you (or anyone else for that matter) is interested in the article, I can email you a PDF version. It really made me rethink how charitable money flows and to whom and who it really helps. Just email me at writeousness at gmail and you know the rest.

It feels so good to say that we make donations to all these charities, and while they are actual charitable organizations, the article (and the source articles) made me understand how much my giving supports social class structure.

Jeanne said...

Hystery, I hear ya. After reading that article, I now understand that those organizations, especially the BIG ones, will ALWAYS have the funding they need. Organizations that serve poor people and working class people won't.

Anonymous said...

Charity is a difficult topic. It is difficult to know the effect of one's contributions. One approach is to stay local enough so that one can actually observe how the donations manifest; I'm thinking of local foodbanks and local shelters.

There is also generosity with one's time; that is to say actually volunteering for some group; it might be a soup kitchen, shelter, or something else. Again, this has the mark of actually being able to see the effect of one's contributions.

I'm leery of thinking of political organizations as recipients of charity. AFSC, NCL, and similar groups have a political agenda which is complex; not everyone, not every Quaker, is going to agree with the effectiveness of those agendas. I just can't see giving to a politically focused group as being the same as actually contributing to something concrete like a foodbank.

Thanks for your thoughtful post.

Jim

kibbles said...

Our worship group this last round is giving:

Clothing for 4 children through the organization that houses our worship group.

The food pantry, the mission (local homeless shelter), PIN (People in Need, a place where those who have an emergency need like a bill paying to keep the lights on can get funds) and an organization that does weatherproofing for seniors, gives out fans in the summer, is a resource for the entire community (a helpline for those in need), a childcare referral center, and a place that phones seniors. That last bit is all the same agency. There are only a dozen of us, tops, so we don't have much money at all.

In the spring we want to give to Kiva.org and Heifer International. We need to see how much our Yearly Meeting needs from us as dues or whatever you call what we give them.

We've also given for trips and camp scholarships for our own members, and we are mostly working class. A few middle class, a few fixed income. That's never much. We simply do not have it.

Jami Hart said...

I have been keeping track of my giving for several years in order to increase in areas that work for justice e.g. RSWR. I am thankful that you have articulated this so well.

Chuck Fager said...

"Charity." Elites supporting elites. Reinforcing class structures.

Lots of truth in that.
And yet . . . .

When I mull over these issues, I keep having Mozart run through my head, and I get muddled.

See, I've had some hard times, money-wise. Nothing really life-threatening, but . . . . And there have been other hard times that were not primarily financial, but hard enough even so.

And through both, the music of Mozart has been a great and continuing comfort to me.

Not that I go to a lot of high-ticket price concerts. (I see more of them nowadays, watching on YouTube.)I'm talking cheap LPs, copied audiotapes, MP3s, plus of course those classical radio stations, and standing in lines in the cold for free tickets to the Messiah. (Some of Handel echoes in there along with Mozart.)

I'm very aware that Mozart's music has been kept alive mainly with the money of the wealthy; and Mozart himself was no revolutionary. Oh no; he kissed up to the Emperor at every opportunity, even tho it didn't do him all that much good.

Yet when the elite philanthropists talk grandly about the broader value of their support for this music -- and the hourly-wage announcers on the classical stations dutifully repeat these elite messages-- I'm aware that 200-plus year old music doesn't fill anybody's belly, or tear down the Berlin Wall . . .and yet.

The music echoes in my head and I can't work up as much of the disdain I sometimes think I should.

Because the plain fact is that my life would have been much "poorer" in very important ways without Mozart.

Which only puts me deeper in a muddle.

Because I have similar responses to some other resources, Quaker and non-, which are even older and which have required lots more elite money and elite institutions to preserve them long enough for me to come along and get benefit from them too.

The folks whose dough has enabled the preservation don't invite me to their parties (well, one or two, by serendipity), and there's no doubt they have often misinterpreted and misused many of these resources.(Hitler and Beethoven--now THAT was an outrage!)

But I'm not sorry that they were preserved, so I can not only enjoy them, but maybe help set some of the interpretations a little straighter, or at least put the work to a different use.

Which means, if I'm honest, that I suspect maybe some of those rich elites who preserved some of this stuff were indeed doing more good for many more people than they could foresee, even while preoccupied at the fancy parties, from which poor folks were excluded.

Is this a rationalization? Maybe. But if I was to look at my record of giving (not a distinguished one, in truth), and if I thought it had thereby managed to help preserve, say, just one of those forty one symphonies or twenty-seven piano concertos, for others yet to come-- by golly, I don't think I could easily be persuaded that it had been a waste, or simply a reinforcement of oppression. Not for me anyway.

Muddle, muddle.

Now for the requisite self-disclosure: chuck fager, at chuckfager at aol dot com

cath said...

I give of my time and talent, which pretty much makes it all local.

I gave something of myself just yesterday--a pint of blood. There are only two kinds of blood they can use for surgery on preemies, and I have one of them. I don't worry about what social class label might be given to that preemie (or anyone getting my blood). I just hope it helps them stay alive.

cath

Sterghe said...

I hear so often about how, statistically, Friends are well-educated with higher-than-average incomes and all the rest. At our monthly meeting, when we asked for help from our yearly meeting to consider buying a meetinghouse, they sent (among other things), a planning sheet that told us the average income of Friends and how much we should be raising from our membership.

The problem with this sheet, and these assumptions, is that statistical descriptions don't apply to every Friend. Our meeting includes a rather large number of Friends living below the poverty line--and not out of a choice made to avoid paying war taxes.

Our meeting also includes Friends who live alone and don't get out much due to disability. When I see them, on Hug a Quaker Day or any other day, I'm going to offer a hug.

I work directly with some of our nation's most disadvantaged people, and I agree with the principle that giving needs to be directed so that it does the most good and reaches those most in need. To achieve that, we do have to keep ourselves strong as well. We also have to avoid stereotypes that suggest that "those most in need" can be categorically identified by ethnicity, religion, or anything other than need itself.

Saying that Hug a Quaker Day will encourage us to hug people who already get plenty of hugs misses the fact that not every Friend does already get plenty of hugs.

So, please, on Hug a Quaker Day and any other day you like, offer a hug if you're comfortable with it to anyone who wants a hug, whether that person is a Friend, a potential Friend, or just a fellow human being who might be a little lonely.

Timothy Travis said...

I don't think much about changing the world with my giving--I just give when prompted. Sometimes it doesn't make sense to even me, and it sure doesn't make sense to people I know. Oh, well.

Timothy Travis

Diane said...

Jeanne,

I appreciate your blog, and I hear what you are saying about elites supporting other elites ... Quakers supporting Quakers. I do get angry when I see the symphony hall but up in my home town and know it came from the profits of racist fear-mongering in real estate years ago. And in a city full of housing that you wouldn't let your pet live in ... a symphony hall? But then, like Chuck, I do remember I appreciate Mozart --but that too, I recognize as a class-based taste ... and why should educated class tastes be supported ahead others?

But as I mull this, I think of how healing it was for me for my Quaker meeting to support its own after coming from a church that always seemed to want to take my money. Take and take. It meant a great to me that the meeting would support my children going to Quaker camps ... and it meant a great to my children. Self care models care for other ... but I agree, that care has to push out to the "least of these."

Also, my husbands works for and two of my children attend Olney Friends School, hardly an elite boarding school--a school that really provides a true Quaker education to kids who might not have any other opportunity to get one--because they would probably be turned down for admission at the elite Quaker schools. Not because they couldn't do the work, but because they couldn't pass the test or look good enough on paper. Olney does depend on support of other Quakers--it can't make it on tuition alone ... so I struggle with this. I hate to see needs compete and want to believe there's abundance for everything important, that we don't need to divert from one charity to the next but to divert funds from the latest consumer good so we can support more charities, especially these days.

RantWoman said...

Friend speaks my mind about assumptions.

I was amused at some Quaker gathering I attended to learn that even the bus-riding, recycled clothes wearing hardcore composters.... still have a huge carbon footprint compared to others.

I think giving is never bad but it's also sometimes our responsibility to push for things like responsible carbon credits to maintain forests and policy things that might, just might inconvenience others like us.

kevin roberts said...

I give what I have in my pockets to anybody who asks me for help.

We also receive. This Christmas the staff at my kid's elementary school collected bins of second-hand clothing and went through and picked out shoes and blankets for us. Last year my daughter's first-grade teacher bought her a new coat.

They gave us gift certificates for the grocery store this year, plus a frozen ham. Serious stuff- this year the food coupons were for $250.

Very good people, and I am very grateful for their generosity.

kibbles said...

Ah, but of course there are some poor Quakers, I certainly am not rolling in the dough, but that just shows how the point is missed, and it is missed too often, used to justify so much. "But there are poor Quakers" "But I have black friends" "But my doctor is Jewish" as if somehow this absolves the behavior that is brought up in the first place. The poor Friends do not make up for the fact that the lion's share of attention and funds can be focused on those who already have. "Hug a Quaker Day"? Why don't we just doff our hats to each other, since we're so special, and different, and not equal to every one else.

Jeanne said...

From Diane from Emerging Quaker:

I appreciate your blog, and I hear what you are saying about elites supporting other elites ... Quakers supporting Quakers. I do get angry when I see the symphony hall built in my home town from a major donation and know the money came from the profits of racist fear-mongering in real estate years ago. They helped wreck the city and now they’re putting up a fancy venue? And in a city full of housing that you wouldn't let your pet live in ... a symphony hall? Then, like Chuck, I do remember I appreciate Mozart --but that too, I recognize as a class-based taste ... and why should educated class tastes be supported ahead others?

But as I mull this, I think of how healing it was for me for my Quaker meeting to support its own after coming from a church that always seemed to want to take my money. Take and take. It meant a great deal to me that the meeting would support my children going to Quaker camps ... and it meant a great deal to my children. Self care models care for other ... but I agree, that care has to push out to the "least of these."

Also, my husbands works for and two of my children attend Olney Friends School, hardly an elite boarding school--a school that really provides a true Quaker education to kids who might not have any other opportunity to get one--because they would probably be turned down for admission at the elite Quaker schools. Not because they couldn't do the work, but because they couldn't pass the test or look good enough on paper. Olney does depend on support of other Quakers--it can't make it on tuition alone ... so I struggle with this. I hate to see needs compete and want to believe there's abundance for everything important, that we don't need to divert from one charity to the next but to divert funds from the latest consumer good so we can support more charities, especially these days.

Hystery said...

I think this conversation is important. I don't give lots of money to charities because I don't have lots of money. My children raise money by the nickel for UNICEF. Otherwise, my husband and I contribute between $10 and $20 at a time, typically for environmentalist/social justice groups since I believe that environmental degradation is at the heart of the emerging new chapter of human and animal misery.

But it occurs to me that Diane has hit on something important when she mentions our consumer spending. For me, as a Friend, the testimony of simplicity means (in part) that I discipline myself to eschew spending that minimizes my ability to serve my community with my limited financial resources AND it means that I discipline myself toward socially conscious spending. If I were giving thousands of dollars to social justice and environmentalist charities but still spending money every day to support corporations with unethical, inhumane, and unsustainable practices, what good have I really done?

kibbles said...

It took a while, but I realized what bothered me about a comment -- about how some Quakers were REALLY poor, and not just because they were avoiding war taxes. How privleged to be able to chose poverty, when so many people are mired in it, sometimes for generations! To be lucky to make that choice for your political beliefs! I'm not sure if that's a solution, either. Besides not paying war taxes, other taxes aren't being paid, and you probably can't give generously to those who were thrust into their situation, if you've decided to live that way yourself.

And as for not thinking a school that is 13k/27k tuition per year isn't elite -- I simply am flabberghasted -- my education is being held up for lack of $135. One hundred thirty five dollars is keeping me from going to school next semester. At a local community college. That I get financial aid for. The definition of elite seems to be different based on who you speak with. I'm going downstairs to find some way to make my government venison more palatable.

LauraG said...

I forgot to talk about one of the things I really struggle with around money and community, which is that I really value the idea of building communities of mutual solidarity and accountability in our lives, and think that at times Quaker meetings have done a good job of being those communities (usually in times and places where Quakers faced some persecution). The problem with this is that we (or at least I) tend to form those communities with people of a similar social position as ourselves. At one time in my life my group of Quaker friends and I had a fairly strong community of that sort and we practiced financial solidarity (informally, in various ways, redistributing money from those with more to those with less). It was fairer/juster than keeping that money in the hands of those with way more than they needed, but still kept it in the circle of (mostly) college-educated white Quakers in an area of the country/world with access to good jobs.

My group of college friends also practiced some financial solidarity, which had about the same effect as in my group of Quaker friends (helping some people be able to complete their undergrad degree at our 3rd tier state university, but not really changing the dynamics of class inequality).

Diane said...

Dear Kibbles,

Any private--or as they are now called--independent--school IS elite. No question. However, my point is, rather than settle for a black and white, lowest-common denominator approach, we need to think carefully about giving. I believe we should have a greater sense of urgency about the people at the very bottom--but are the Roberts (whom I know, and who are wonderful people) be labeled elitist for taking a $250 food certificate when there are mothers in Brazil feeding their children newspapers soaked in water? Shouldn't that $250 go to Brazil and the Roberts --you know--they won't starve ... if worst came to worst in this country, they could probably do pretty well dumpster diving--but doesn't this kind of thinking get mean and nasty too? I think we need to get out of the mentality of scarcity that is drilled into us, the mentality that if one person/entity gets something, another won't. I believe the Robertses getting a gift certificate resounds across the universe. They in their turn are giving, generous people. Their witness of the ability to accept--to take--is itself a great gift. We're too neurotic and judgmental in this culture about both giving and taking. So yes, a 27K list price boarding school IS elite--and trust me, I struggle with that--but it also--because of the values it teaches of simplicity, peace and community--is throwing a great gift into the universe, imho. Basically, my point is not to defend anything or anyone but to say "elitism" and giving are difficult concepts to reduce to some sort of moral formula.
As an aside, I went to meeting with a woman who looked askance at war tax avoiders: "someone else always pays," she said. She was speaking of a person who lived technically below the poverty line but as result, expected his Quaker community to provide subsidized housing for his family, free Quaker education for his children, etc. ... so yes, there is poverty and elitist poverty and the issue is complicated. Anybody who can contribute to this blog--who has even literacy and access to the Web--is in an elite.

Jeanne said...

Kibbles...I'm on your side here. Just for the record. I will send you $135 so you can go to college next semester.

Diane, broad-brush statements like "Anybody who can contribute to this blog--who has even literacy and access to the Web--is in an elite," don't deepen the conversation. You don't know the social class status of anyone who has access to a computer and the internet. Anyone who can get into a library these days can get access, even in some of the most remote areas of this country. I get emails all the time from poor and working class people who appreciate the conversation here because they've experienced classism among Friends.

Also, this blog concerns itself specifically with north American Quakers and specifically American social class. Comparisons to poor people in other countries aren't relevant here. Poverty in the US is very real and very life-threatening, and it can be abolished with enough will. But we have to make it transparent.

RantWoman said...

Well, actually NOT anyone with access to a library can get access to the internet. The internet is revolutionizing lots of things, but for example people with disabilities continue to face many kinds of barriers compared to others. Even the location and availability of libraries also has a class component.

Jeanne said...

Chuck Fager posted a comment and then I found most of it repeated on his blog here, so I deleted it and my response.

But here's my response:

Chuck, I never said we should stop giving to our meetings or to FGC or FWCC or any other Quaker organization. I'm questioning the balance of our corporate giving as well as our individual giving.

If I didn't value Quakerism, I wouldn't be writing this blog.

I welcome your comments but won't post anything that you also post on your blog

Jeanne said...

RantWoman: Thanks for writing. I had to laugh because I did the same thing I was critical of! I didn't mean to say that EVERYONE has equal access to the internet. I mean to say that most people who have access to a public library, they can have access to the internet. And lots of people who can have access choose not to. So therefore, internet access is NOT a reliable determinator of social class in the US.

Su said...

Our charitable giving has diminished dramatically during the Two Years of the Lawyer. But during those same two years we developed stronger financial interactions with friends and family, a lot more resource-sharing. We gave a good used car we weren't using to a family we know that really needed a reliable car; in return, they gave us two years of fresh duck eggs and turkeys they raised themselves. They also helped us out with money for the lawyer bills when that whole mess happened, as did another family in my meeting, in each case simply because the family felt led to. Last summer, at a flush moment, I helped a friend cover the financial gap to get to the summer gathering; two weeks ago, another friend in my meeting handed me a check to help me and my kids get to midwinter gathering. Things like that. It's just a few families experimenting with not thinking so much about "my" money as about "our" resources, in some small ways, and it's very challenging in our culture.

At the same time, we look forward to being able to give money to charity again, and your question seems fruitful. David and I have tended to give to support animals: our local humane society, a parrot sanctuary in Arizona. But the question of how you make substantive changes in the lives of people has been on my mind for awhile, and as our cash flow gets freer and more charities get back onto the list, I know I'll be thinking more about it.

earthfreak (Pam) said...

Jeanne - I think Diane was talking in broader terms, and I'd have to agree with her, she specifically said literacy. We tend to assume everyone is literate, but they're not, even in the US. And I can tell you, access to computers isn't all that easy. When I worked in Linden Hills (one of the more elite neighborhoods in Minneapolis) I could walk into the library on my break and sit right down at a computer. At lake street, I usually have to sign up and wait at least half an hour, sometimes quite a bit more, for access. If I worked a 9-5 job (which I don't know because I"m unemployed, woo!, but if I managed to be working class for a moment) then I would be able to get to the library between 5-8 Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 10-6 on saturday. That's assuming I didn't have a second job taking up that time, or kids who needed to be looked after. Sure lots of working class people have a presence online, but there are plenty of people, in the US and most certainly elsewhere, for whom it is way out of their socioeconomic reach.

earthfreak (Pam) said...

we were just talking about charity and volunteering at my quakers without god group last week.

For a long time my biggest concern about charity has been how much it reinforces the status quo. I hadn't thought so much about how much money stays in the circles of the elite (if you support a friend's school or the opera, say, as opposed to a foodshelf) but more even that if you support a foodshelf, it's great because someone gets to eat when they wouldn't have, but in some bigger way it seems to accept that it's right that some people don't have food while some people have so much extra money they get to decide if they want to give it to the opera or the foodshelf, or just buy themselves a new toy. That has always made me sick, at least since I realized it.

kibbles said...

I'm completely lost -- how does understanding that people need food, and giving them food, reinforce the status quo? I think that's at least acknowledging an awareness of the problem and doing something to change it. When I went to the food pantry, then that was freeing up money that I could use to do something else, like pay the electric bill or something. It wasn't keeping me down, it was helping me lift up at least a little bit. Although yes, it's awful that there are haves and have nots, and we SHOULD feel uncomfortable about that and SHOULD look into programs that change that. But until then, at the end of the day, there are emergencies and people in need and those charities are doing good. They are keeping people fed. (Also wow, gmail really messes with comments, I am missing a lot of replies!)

Jeanne said...

Kibbles: I think giving to the food shelf is a very good thing, but most people leave their charity there, and give the rest to things that serve themselves or that reinforce the system. Also, giving to the food shelf makes people think they're DOING something about the status quo rather than actually THINKING about the things they're doing to reinforce the system that keeps the food shelf a necessity. The act of giving to a food shelf gives middle and owning class people an excuse to not do anything else about poverty.

Pam: I happen to think that ringing your hands over food shelf donations misses the mark because they actually almost never have enough food to give out when the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the University of Minnesota and Minnesota Public Radio and Twin Cities Friends Meeting and Friends School of Minnesota all have just about every penny they need to do their work. The cuts they make probably won't kill anyone. And I mean "kill" in the literal sense the way hunger can kill.

earthfreak (Pam) said...

Jeanne and Kibbles - I certainly didn't mean to imply that giving to a food shelf was in any way wrong. I am on the verge of using one myself right now, and have had personal reasons to be glad they're there (ie: people I love who need them, rather than just a general good feeling about them) for a few years now.

I meant only what Jeanne said about leaving it there. Like that quote on a poster I've seen around, "when I give food to the poor they call me a saint, when I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist" - giving food to the poor is great, AND it's a stopgap, it's not the solution, it's a way to patch things together (hopefully) long enough to start coming up with new solutions. But as a society, we stop there, and more importantly, we almost never look to the people in need to help form the solution, as if they couldn't possibly have a clue how to solve the problem.