17 May, 2022


The Politics Of Giving

By Arjuna Seneviratne –

Arjuna Seneviratne

In the previous post, I reflected on what giving should be. In this, I will reflect on what giving has become. Both I think should be read in tandem. Enjoy…*winks*

The conventional meanings assigned to the term aid are a) help, assist, or support (someone or something) in the achievement of something, b) assisting a person or persons overcome their own stated problems and minimize the their own stated  threats and c) support for acts on the part of a person or persons to overcome their own stated problems and minimize their own stated threats.The term does not imply the following: a) assistance in overcoming problems perceived to be so on the part of the Samaritan regardless of whether or not the person or persons being assisted think them to be so, b) assistance in overcoming problems real or imagined that are fashionable to address and c) assistance that provides the Samaritan with a return on his investment of time, resources and effort. These types of assistance can be rightly called disgusting,dangerous and dumb.And yet, over the last 70 years or so, current global understanding of the word “aid” has systematically distanced itself from its natural meaning and become increasingly aligned with the disgusting, the dangerous and the dumb. In that process of transmogrification from a human good that is both just and natural into a human failing that is vicious and manipulative, there has evolved an interesting lexicon and phraseology that has both shocked and amused me by its semantic incongruity, its basic idiocy and its inherent indecency.

Here are a few:

  • Aid effectiveness: Holy freaking cow! Have we so far lost our heads as to believe that giving should only be done if that giving is effective? Asinine.
  • Aid market: Eh? You gotta be kidding me here man. Giving as a business? With people competing with each other to give and people competing with each other to get? Blah!
  • Aid industry: Yeow! you mean, there are actually a buncha people around who earn a living by industriously engaging in the giving and receiving of help? oh..help!
  • Aid chain: A full 40% of the “aid” never reaches the people that it is supposed to assist. Instead, it gets pocketed by tiered ranks of middle men and  women. Read, bilateral and multilateral aid agencies, civil society organizations in rich countries, facilitating civil organizations in poor countries, corrupt governments, enforcement agencies and line agencies. Whoa!
  • Conditional aid: mmm? Giving that is based on the receivers fulfilling the givers conditions means that the givers are more interested in achieving their perceived outcomes than responding to the real requirements of the people that they are helping. Disgusting.
  • Tied aid: Tied, eh? If its tied to the giver it was never given. Period.
So, here we are, inconveniently living life in a world full of imbalance where the attempts at rectifying it seem, in fact to be more selfish than selfless. More self-serving than self-giving. Dramatically so. Geometrically so. Almost, almost, completely so. So bought into these ideas of giving are the affluent members of the human race that they have almost completely forgotten why human beings give. Therefore, one can safely assume that they are either becoming rapidly dehumanized or, are already inhuman.Conclusion? The affluent are better off keeping their money and their materials and their technologies and their various other what-have-you’s than engage in this nonsense that any reasonable man will have little trouble labeling as nonsense. But they don’t keep their moolah in their pockets and have done with this whole misbegotten mess.Apart from a few exemplary exceptions, they Won’t. They, importantly … can’t. Why?

Because, in this day and age of cheap communications, they are terrified that at some point, the yawning disparity between those who have and those who have not would reach catastrophic proportions, resulting in a spontaneous combustion of social forces and desperation fuels that will..um… basically…explode in their faces…in various Tiananmenish or Tahriristic squares across the world with a rather messy, inconvenient loss of both affluence and power for the super-heeled of the world.

So, one part of their thinking goes something like this: A few  handouts tossed at the mangy scavenging dogs around the world, framed within conditions, insured through tying, facilitated by industry, auctioned through the market and encouraged by effectiveness  would keep these mongrels relatively not unhappy, relatively not unfed, relatively not undeveloped so that they can’t really make  much of their situations but, more importantly, they don’t reach that critical mass of desperation required to threaten our situations.

The other part of their thinking goes something like this: We got the dough so, what sort of ways are there for us to use it to gain something more than money.. such as say… political bargaining space…capture of strategic geographies…votes in the UN…expansion of our businesses…jobs for are hundreds of thousands of NGO workers, laborers, consultants, researchers, technicians.

For some of these people I feel sorry. The ones I feel sorry for are those slotted in at the middle level inside aid agencies and civil organizations. They are, for most part, pleasant and gentle human beings who actually believe that they are doing some good in the world. I just wish that they had managed to revisit the basics of what constitutes a human being before they embarked on their various crusades across the planet.

For some of these people I do not feel sorry. The ones I do not feel sorry for are the manipulatively affluent at every level of the “aid chain” raking and skimming so that each lower level gets a “handout” that keeps them relatively not unhappy.

What is the upshot of this insanity? Obviously, nothing wholesome. Poverty production in the name of poverty reduction. Conflict escalation in the name of conflict mitigation. Marginalization in the name of empowerment. Destruction in the name of construction. A planet destabilized in the name of stabilization. This, none can escape. Not the affluent. Not the middle-makers. Not the iffy governments. Not the corrupt rulers.

The people at the lower end of the spectrum already know this is true. It is time that those at the upper end realize this. For when there is a personal agenda driving anything couched within the broad term “giving”, that’s what one will get. And I mean get.

*Arjuna Seneviratne’s can be found at http://arjunareflections.blogspot.co.uk

Related posts;

The Spirit Of Giving

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Latest comments

  • 0

    Quite a few of the Cancer Non profits are frauds, with sometimes less than 5% going to cancer patients care or research.


    Evangelical Churches can be no better. Unhappily, there is no necessity for public audits of churches, mosques and temples (just like in SL) and can be rife with fraud.

    Not one of them would agree to an interview regarding their opulent lifestyle, but when it comes to opulence, few religious leaders compare to Kenneth Copeland. To show his house, Inside Edition rented a helicopter so others can see his 18,000 square-foot mansion (located outside Fort Worth, Texas), valued at over six million dollars. It has beautiful water views and comes complete with a boathouse. But that’s not all. Copeland is an avid pilot. He has a 20 million dollar Cessna Citation jet. It’s the fastest private jet which money can buy. He claimed that he needed it to better serve the Lord. He proudly did a fly-by for his followers after the church bought it.

    It was in fact found that Copeland had a fleet of planes registered to the church. He has his very own airport (the Kenneth Copeland airport) located right next to his mansion.

    Inside Edition Investigates TV Preachers Living Like Rock Stars


  • 0

    Spot on!
    Dambisa Moyo, an African Economist has written a book: DEAD AID – which calls for an end to so-called aid to Africa.

  • 0

    This is where the conventional economic theories fail to improve the lot of the masses. Economics always focus on gain or increase in wealth. As opposed to economics the religous and moral argument for charity is devoid of material gain or even for the sake of prestige. I give below the Islamic perspective.

    It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards East or West; but it is righteousness―to believe in Allah and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Messengers; to spend of your substance out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans for the needy, for the wayfarer for those who ask and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer and practise regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient in pain (or suffering) and adversity and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth the Allah-fearing.

    Al Baqarah: Ayat 261

    O ye who believe! Give of the good things which ye have (honourably) earned, and of the fruits of the earth which We have produced for you, and do not even aim at getting anything which is bad in order, that out of it ye may give away something, when ye yourselves would not receive it except with closed eyes. And know that Allah is Free of all wants and Worthy of all praise.

    Al Baqarah: Ayat 270

    Allah will deprive usury of all blessing, but will give increase for deeds of charity: for He loveth not creatures ungrateful and wicked.

    Al Baqarah: Ayat 277

    Those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and establish regular prayers and regular charity, will have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve.

    Ali ‘Imran: Ayat 92

    Thus selfless giving and spending on the poor and needy is one of the corner stones of the religon of Islam. In fact money spent on the construction of mosques is given without strings attached, purely for the sake of Allah. Same is for the poor and needy. If such a benevelont and charitable society be created there would be no poverty and no gap between the haves and the havenots.

  • 0

    Is your whole family like this? Sad.

  • 0

    The writer is right, of course. All-or should I say the more powerful and affluent charitable corporations-have issues of corruption; skimming off. I do get offended when they ask for contributions with the bracketed ‘tax deductible’!
    But what is the answer? Individual, personal, anonymous ‘giving’ which certainly cannot reach the masses? This certainly wont help society where whole populations need help.

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