July 23, 2024

The Politics of Charity

Acquiring Merit by Exercising Charity

The poor and unfortunate are put here by divine dispensation so that luckier people can acquire merit by exercising charity towards them.

The myth of personal dysfunction used to mask oppressive social relationships

People are described as being ‘in need, vulnerable and deprived’ as if these things were qualities of the individuals in question. As if these individuals were, in some ways, lacking something that normal charitable people had.

In this way charitable action and the use of the myth of personal dysfunctions acts to mask the fact that where need, vulnerability and deprivation exist, it is the result of a set of oppressive social relationships, dynamics and actions, which leave the individuals in question in situations, in which:

  • They do not have access to the basic goods and services in life
  • Where they are more likely to be attacked, abused or taken advantage of because they have not been afforded the levels of protection that others have been empowered with.

In this way the great and the good of the charitable world, who are part of a system that systematically exploits and impoverishes people, can then absolve themselves of responsibility for their actions, and create an ideological smokescreen, which helps to numb the minds of those who receive charity, who might otherwise develop clarity of thought around the true cause of their predicament.




Medea Incorporated, one man and four women, radiate with corporate earnestness, gesticulate with the finesse of a gymnast and smile warmly into our eyes. Over the next hour Medea Incorporate demonstrate and sell us their new Emotion Design Technology, Product Medea 4.0.

Confident survivors don’t sell, just as international aid charities know pictures of wealthy Africans don’t sell, just as children’s charities know ugly working-class children don’t sell. The lights go down; Medea is hushed and seated in a chair with her back facing us. Slowly but surely Medea Incorporated tenderly derobe her. Medea is left a shivering, dishevelled, humiliated woman, curled up naked in the middle of the room. This marks the end of Medea Incorporated’s first lesson in how to sell misery.

Over the remainder of the play Medea Incorporated introduce us to more techniques, including communicating compassion and creating a deserving victim. During this time the quick changes of interlocutor, the passionate deliveries; and the dynamic synchronized movements of the cast keep one enthralled. Each technique demonstrated has an associated training course, which we can subscribe to, which Medea Incorporated provides a glossy corporate advert for.

Charity fundraising executives are likely to be left feeling decidedly uncomfortable for the rest of the night. For the rest of us the play is an interesting exposition of the way in which charity is dependent upon humiliation, why do we feel compelled to give only when the subject is sufficiently deprived of their dignity?


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