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Charitable giving and the illusion of fulfilled responsibility

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“There is also this to be said. It is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property. It is both immoral and unfair…. The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible.” – Oscar Wilde

The holiday season is upon us.  For most of you reading this article, this is a time for gathering with loved ones, intense traveling, and a plethora of home cooked meals.  But for many, it is also a time of great hypocrisy, willful ignorance, and diffusion of responsibility.

More than any other time of year, the holiday season (between November and December) typically is the period of time when people feel the most charitable.  Donating to charitable organizations and non-profit entities is a fond activity for many who feel the sudden sense of moral responsibility that typically accompanies increased discussion about “family” and “giving.”  And donating makes people feel good: “I’ve done my part,” they exclaim; “We are making the world a better place,” they rejoice.

Is that so?

The idea that by simply donating to a charitable organization from time to time, one has fulfilled his/her civic and moral obligation to the world at large is a narcissistic, egocentric, and convenient narrative for those who would rather close their eyes to the ills of systemic injustice.  Now, if you believe that you have no such civic or moral obligation to anyone other than you and you alone, than by all means, stop reading at this point… though I suggest that you also seek professional assistance to deal with your level of sociopathy.

To those who think I am being too harsh in my criticisms, I invite you to ponder the following questions.  What good is it to donate to organizations that help the homeless, if you continuously vote against measures that protect the social safety net?  What good is it to volunteer your time at veterans’ hospitals, if you will continuously support measures that severely gut proper mental health funding?  What good is it to donate food to a local food kitchen that services the poor, when you continuously support measures that will virtually eliminate the very SNAP benefits that prevent starvation amongst the downtrodden?  What good is it to deliver gifts to a local children’s cancer center, when you continue to support measures that prevent greater universal access to proper preventative care and treatment?  What good is it to spend time praying for the poor, when you continue to support policies that place an immense burden upon their shoulders, and when you privately disparage them as being “lazy” and “dependent on handouts?”  And in summary, what good is giving to charity when you spend most of your life perpetuating the very injustices that charities seek to eradicate?

If pondering these questions causes a visceral reaction amongst you the reader, then our collective work to eliminate – rather than alleviate, and by extension, perpetuate – systemic injustice can now begin.  The truth can be very inconvenient and painful, but true change begins with an open mind, an open heart, and open eyes.

About Nick Baez

Nick Baez, M.S. is a native of New York, New York (Lower East Side) and currently resides in Denver, Colorado. Throughout his academic and professional career, he has been a scholar in the fields of psychotherapy, anger and aggression research, trauma, youth leadership initiatives, and teaching. Committed to sound research and program development, Nick has been instrumental in tailoring programs to fit the needs of various communities, and subsequently evaluating those programs to ensure that they meet goals and standards. Most recently, Nick was the Mental Health therapist at Centennial High School in Fort Collins, CO. He has been a psychotherapist for 7 years, and specializes in adolescent populations. He has worked extensively with the National Hispanic Institute for 15 years, serving initially as a junior volunteer and currently as a senior staff member and senior alumnus. Through his work with the National Hispanic Institute, Nick has worked closely with thousands of high school students in helping develop initiatives to prepare them for leadership in the 21st century. Nick has conducted peer-reviewed research on risky behavior, anger, anger expression, and aggression, and has been previously recognized for his work by the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association. Nick has also done research on psychological trauma and its effects on cognition and interpersonal relationships. He has been invited on numerous occasions to give special lectures on trauma, co-dependency, ethnic identity, and social conflict.

A cum laude graduate of the College of Natural Sciences at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO, Nick holds a degree in Psychology. He additionally holds a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology from Colorado State University, and is currently a doctoral candidate there.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

Comments

  1. Season to give….got that right! People should spread their thoughtfulness and giving tendencies throughout the year.

  2. I love you, Nick. I can always distinguish your pieces from their titles. “On the sociological effects issuing from the gradual and persistent degradation of humanitarian sentiment preceding, during and succeeding Christi Natalis, or the holiday commonly known as Christmas”

  3. Your articles are like GTL for my brain.

  4. Lol! Love you too bro. Ethnic hug.

  5. Great article!! Me like.

  6. Gracias Taina!

  7. It’s my credo to do & give all year long. After all, we live each day, so why not spread joy throughout the year?

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