19 August 2009

My Limits of Charity

People who know me will be aware of my involvement with Amnesty International, the ISPCA and various other charities.
And since I spent some time of my life in the so-called 'Third World', I am perhaps also more acutely aware of people in real need, and of the places where they live.

This has led me to organise - in my own small way - some direct help over the years, and I know that every Euro and cent I transfer reaches the people for whom my help is meant. There are no administrative costs, no overheads for staff, and certainly no cut-offs or kick-backs for corrupt local officials in the receiving countries.

So when it comes to charity and making donations, I think that my contributions are well above average for a man with a modest income. Nevertheless I still donate ever so often money to numerous Irish charities when their members and supporters approach me in the street and push a collection box or bucket - rattling with coins - into my face.

There is literally not one week - and perhaps not even a single day - without someone collecting money for some 'good cause'. Besides the major charities there are countless smaller organisations, and even local bands and sports clubs are meanwhile asking for donations in the streets. If one would give money to all of them every time they ask, there would be not much left for oneself.

So one has to be disciplined and say 'no' sometimes, even if one might feel awkward about it. But there is one kind of charities that will never get a single cent from me, and for good reasons.

I was reminded of this again today. While going about my business in the city, I was approached in three different locations, within a radius of not more than 500 metres, by three different men, asking me to buy a scratch card in support of their charity, whose name was not familiar to me.

When I asked the men what it was for, I was told that they did "rehabilitation programmes for alcoholics and drug addicts". As soon as I heard that, the proverbial shutters came down in front of me and my purse. And I told them so.

There is no way that I will ever donate any money for this cause. Some people might regard me as cruel, perhaps, or as cold-hearted. And they are entitled to their opinion. But those who know me would strongly object to such a view.

My refusal to finance rehab programmes for alcoholics and drug addicts is based on logic, on life experience and on common sense. I do not drink alcohol and have never taken any hallucinating drugs, legal or illegal. Not even when I was in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan or Nepal, where they are freely available in the markets like potatoes and cabbages here.
As I know that drugs do damage to a person and can lead to addiction and destruction of body and mind, there is no need for me to test them and their effects. And the same goes for alcohol, the most popular and most destructive drug sold and used in Ireland.

I know plenty of people who go to pubs two or three times a week and spend large amounts of money getting drunk. Alcohol is quite expensive in Ireland, but that seems not to deter the vast majority of our people. And I have heard many times of drug addicts who waste several hundred Euros a day 'to feed their habit'.

This is bad and sad enough, and I deplore it. But the fact remains that people who drink alcohol excessively, or take illegal drugs, spend freely and voluntarily huge amounts of money on their choice of self-destruction.
Some of them die young, others lead a miserable life - of their own making - for many years. And some see the light eventually and try to get out of their madness. This is to be welcomed, and I wish everyone who steps out of addiction and returns to the real world all the best.

However, I see no reason to pay for that. People who wasted plenty of money on the idiotic ways that lead to addiction can well be expected to spend some more to get out of the mess into which they have brought themselves. Why should a teetotaller finance the rehabilitation of an alcoholic who wasted his time and money on destructive and expensive drinks? And why should a person that never took drugs pay for the detoxification of idiots who do?

We all are the masters of our own destiny and responsible for what we do. There is no action in life without consequences, and we will reap in Autumn what we have sown in Spring. On this line of thought and philosophy I have built my own life, and I think I am entitled to apply it as well when I am asked for charitable donations.

Apart from that I find it rather strange that any charity that fights two addictions is using a third - gambling - to finance its operations.
Do people actually think before they make decisions? We would have a much better world if they did.

The Emerald Islander


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