Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Helium Debate: Should charity be voluntary or compelled?

This was another debate at Helium, a website for writers. Here is my opinion:

You've got to be kidding! How can charity be forced upon anyone when, by definition, the word means to give on one's own? Look at how Princeton University's WordNet 3.0 describes charity:

  • Noun
    * S: (n) charity (a foundation created to promote the public good (not for assistance to any particular individuals))
    * S: (n) charity, brotherly love (a kindly and lenient attitude toward people)
    * S: (n) charity (an activity or gift that benefits the public at large)
    * S: (n) Jacob's ladder, Greek valerian, charity, Polemonium caeruleum, Polemonium van-bruntiae, Polymonium caeruleum van-bruntiae (pinnate-leaved European perennial having bright blue or white flowers)
    * S: (n) charity (an institution set up to provide help to the needy)

At the same site, compel is described as:

  • Verb
    * S: (v) compel, oblige, obligate (force somebody to do something) "We compel all students to fill out this form"
    * S: (v) compel (necessitate or exact) "the water shortage compels conservation"

By meaning of the words alone, charity and compel share nothing in common. One's a noun, the other's a verb. So there.

In a strong sense, taxation is a very compelling word. We are obligated to pay taxes. Out of those taxes we build roads, bombs and other things not considered charity. Necessary? In many cases, yes, but they are issues that can be argued about, compromised and sued over. Some public funds pay for unemployment, welfare and a slew of other agencies that benefit the public at large. Government charity? Yes, in a sense, it is to those who qualify, but what about those who don't? Would they be forced to "donate" funds because they don't meet minimum poverty qualifications? How can anyone, rich or poor, be forced to give money to a specific cause? Take a look at how governments operate. Through all the bureaucratic red tape, not to mention greed, how much really ends up in the hands of those who need it?

Who organizes and runs it, whatever it is? We are talking about a global charity, aren't we, not just the United States? Should we put the United Nations in charge? In a world of political correctness, wouldn't legitimate charitable foundations, such as the United Negro College Fund in the U.S., cease to exist as we now know them? No longer can an individual give to one cause without giving to all. Every race. Every ethnicity. Every cause. Anything else would be blatant discrimination. This would legitimize all sorts of illicit and unnecessary organizations, allowing them to beg for - and rightfully receive - handouts. Everyone and everything becomes a charity case. If denied, they'd sue. Who would pay for that? In the meantime, let's tie up the local, federal and international court systems while no one receives help until the entire mess gets sorted out. That would take forever and, of course, private donations would be against the law. Suddenly, underground organizations flourish because the will to help is inherent in our DNA, but no one has the power to scrutinize how they are run and how the money is divvied up. Black market charities become the new rage and those running them get rich quick.

That's one scenario, but let's be more pragmatic and practical. If we are forced to pay, what organizations will we be compelled to give to? Who will do the choosing for us and what does happen to those we are no longer allowed to give to of our own volition? Personally, I like the Salvation Army. We wouldn't have the right to donate to them any longer. That would be discrimination, for sure. Would they disappear or become "internationally homogenized"? In the name of humanity, all organizations become indistinguishable. "Give to one, give to all!" would be the mantra. Will we no longer be able to take advantage of tax deductions for opening our hearts? Our hearts will no longer matter when we are driven to "donate" by force and charity becomes another word for tax, or perhaps, a charity fee. That sounds better. How can we write off a charity fee?

Why should I be compelled to pay any amount to something I do not believe in? Would I ever be able to afford a nice steak again because I had to pay money to a Vegan cause in this new world order of Utopian giving? Why should someone be forced to support a foe and vice versa? What would a Catholic politician do with this power? How about a Muslim, a Protestant or a Jew? What happens to the countless places of worship that feed, clothe and house the poor, regardless of religion? There would be no religious charities, now that they are under the direct authority of the Department of Big Brotherly Love. The whole thought of it turns me off and I want to chain my pockets shut.

Charity will, and should, remain exactly what it is - a kind and personal gesture. We must want to give. As far as I'm concerned, an old idiom rings true. If "charity begins at home," I will gladly donate my home address to anyone compelled to assist me. We don't need to get the government or anyone else involved. Please make your checks out to "Cash". Do it while it's still legal, before the charity police catch you.

No comments:

Post a Comment