Paul's Internet Landfill/ lj/ Uncharitable


In this entry I shall demonstrate that I am a cold-hearted selfish bitch.

See, I made this mistake. I decided that as a Rich Person it would be good if I gave some of my money to charity. So I saw some marketing put up by charities, and I filled out their appeal cards, and I gave them some one-time donations. The donations were nothing to write home about, and I explicitly avoided giving them regular donations through my bank account because I fear commitment.

Boy. What a mistake that turned out to be. Now the charities know that I exist, and that I am the kind of bleeding-heart liberal who gets suckered in by marketing. So for a few years now they've been panhandling me by mail: sending me their heartfelt appeals for more cash. Better yet, they shared my mailing address with friends, so in addition to getting messages from the Mennonite Central Committee I get Project Ploughshares mail, and in addition to Council of Canadians garbage I get spew from the NDP and some organization that wants to save the CBC. The worst is Amnesty International, which -- of course -- never stops bombarding me with letters.

If you want a tax receipt, you are on their mailing list -- and there is no way to get off. Maybe you could send each organization some mail to politely ask to be off their lists, but will they listen? How is that different than asking the spammers to please leave your mailbox alone?

I know why they do this. There's all kind of misery in the world, and these organizations are working hard to put band-aids on that misery. I am not quite their ideal demographic -- they don't have a pipeline directly from my bank account -- but I am attractive enough that they think they can squeeze more money out of me. And what else can they do? They are nonprofits competing for scarce charity dollars. If they don't get money from suckers like me, the organizations will starve and the poor children in Africa won't even get their band-aids. That's the way the system works.

So they send out their marketing: the heartfelt letters that are all exactly four pages long, the cards with their "suggested donations" a slot higher than the minimum suggested donation ("The need is urgent!"). And then there are the gimmicks. UNICEF just sent me a nickel in the mail. They say that nickel could save somebody else's life. But they don't want a nickel from me, and they don't really care about their damn nickel. They want $35 or preferably $55 from me. If the nickel was actually going to be able to save a child's life then maybe they should have kept the nickel, instead of sending it to me and then asking me to return it to them. I am not going to give them their nickel back. I should spend it on vodka -- at least vodka doesn't go around pretending to save a child's life.

The thing that ticks me off the most is that these nonprofits are playing the marketing game, the same tired game that is used to sell beer and cars and computers. It's always the same story: if you buy the shiny new product, you'll be happier. If you buy beer you'll get hot chicks and be cool. If you get a car you'll zoom through the forests. If you get a shiny new computer you'll be able to do so much computation, store so much data, communicate with so many others. All these stories are lies. Drinking beer would make me drunk and fatter, and wouldn't do a thing to improve my defective personality. Getting a car would get me stress and traffic jams commuting to work so I could pay for the damn car. And a computer? Ha. You fall for those ads and two years later you feel like a fool, because your expensive investment is going obsolete. Beer and cars and computers may have some useful value to society, but listening to the stories used to sell them won't leave you any better off.

It's the same with charity. The story the charities tell me is that I can make some positive contribution to alleviating the suffering of others. The promise is that if you give up some money you can feel better about yourself. What a lie. All you'll get is more guilt, because once you give some money to charity the bombardment starts. There's no shortage of bad things happening in the world, and the charities are more than happy to educate you about every one of them if they can get money out of you. Giving to charity won't give you peace of mind -- it will destroy your peace of mind. It won't make you feel good -- it will make you feel guilty, especially if you are afraid of commitment and/or your budget is tight. Meanwhile, those who don't care one bit about the suffering of others go through life happy and unscathed -- they just ignore whatever sob stories they hear.

That's the other thing that ticks me off. A lot marketing doesn't work well on me, but somehow I ended up in the "do-gooder" demographic: somebody tugs at my heartstrings and my wallet starts gushing. I hate being marketed to. I hate being manipulated, and I hate the payload of guilt that is associated with these appeals. How could I not give money to the starving children of Africa? I call my budget tight, but I am among the richest 10% of people in the world! How could I not support work to feed people in refugee camps? How could I not support freeing political prisoners? How could I not support curing cancer? How could I not support hurricane relief? What kind of cold-hearted selfish bitch am I?

A tired one, that's what. When I started working I made a pact with myself: I would live by the 5% rule, an idea I stole from Islam. Five percent of my net income would go towards charity. I think it's a good rule, and even though I rarely have made the yearly quota I have often come close. But now my expenses are up and my income is down. I don't want to break the pact but I am feeling the pinch, and I would really rather not deal with the additional guilt of not supporting every worthy cause that's out there.

It doesn't help that I have significantly cut back on my volunteering in recent years. Something has changed in my life, and I am pretty sure I don't like it. Unfortunately, actively changing this life deficiency takes a lot more work than whining in my LJ, so I doubt it is going to happen.

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Mood: guilt-ridden