As I was driving home from work yesterday, I heard someone come on the radio and advertise a school supply drive where you could bring school supplies to this particular location and they would then be donated to people in need. I sat there and began thinking: yes, donating school supplies to people in need might help a child a little bit in school, or at least help out the parents so they don’t have to spend the money, but to what end? The people doing this don’t actually care about changing the systems that put people in need of school supplies in the first place. All they’re doing is giving companies like Walmart and Crayola some extra money that they wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.
I don’t believe we should stop giving people things they need like food, clothes, medicine, and school supplies. However, we should realize that if that is all we are going to do, all we’re doing is creating a situation where generations after us will still be giving school supplies to each other years down the road, with no actual problems being solved. We’re just going to end up with more and more people who need school supplies, clothes, medicine, food, etc.
I think that our concept of “charity” here in America, however well-intentioned it may be, is not solution-oriented enough. We think we can just throw people money every now and then and maybe it will fix the world’s problems. NEWS FLASH! That isn’t going to work! To solve the problems that we see in the world today, we need a lot less charity and a lot more working on innovative ideas that will really change things. Does our economic system allow for people to make absurd profits off the proliferation of complex societal problems like mental disease, poverty, drug use and abuse, the cancer and obesity epidemics, and terrorism? Absolutely. Capitalism definitely has its pros, but it also has some major cons. Does our current governmental system allow people with large amounts of money to have a much larger political influence than those without the same? Yes. We may have a “democracy,” but it is corrupt, and it is not serving the people. It needs a renovation.
To reiterate, my point is that charity, however helpful it may be for some people at some times, will not change the world in any meaningful way. We need to – and I say this all the time – think bigger. As in we need to see a bigger picture. When we see problems – for example, cancer – we need to focus not just on ways to “cure” them or to put a metaphorical band-aid on them, but on ways to prevent them from ever happening in the first place.
So, I say let’s get out there and do some real work to change the world. Not just sit around throwing people a few things here and there while perpetuating the very system that got them there in the first place. God* knows we need some new and fresh ideas for this crazy 21st-century world.
*or Allah, or Buddha, or Vishnu, or The Universe