The ugly side of charity

13 Oct

When did charity become a selling point?

Buy this and we’ll give two cents out of our million profit to this charity organisation. Buy this product, go ahead, buy yourself some conscience!

I know I have done it, buying a four quid pink pen to support breast cancer charity. Only then to read the small print and figure out that they didn’t even give two percent of that four quid to the promised charity. And the saddest part, I really thought I was helping. Like many others who fall for it.

And the moneymaking machines, the corporations know this. They use it, not to help others, but boost their own profit.

Last month there was a campaign by a big sweets brand here in Finland, Fazer. The idea, the promise, was that when we eat chocolate, African children eat too. Buy this chocolate bar and you’ll help the kids in need. Oh, the charity, the good deed!

So very ironic then, that it is these kids who actually make the chocolate.

None of the products carries a fair trade stamp. The cocobeans are hauled over from Western Africa from plantations that live out of child labour. There is human trafficking too.

So, this is charity. This is what their charity stands for.

Charity has become the equivalent of a face lift for many companies. They photoshop few smiling faces of the poor into their ads, polish their image and then, purring with content, watch the profit flooding in.

It’s so easy. It is a neat little trap for the consumers, bound to attract. Because we want to help. And the best part is, the seller now knows that when we read the ingedients list, we don’t pay attentions for additives. We look at our beloved purchase and see that it’s made of charity. Might not be fat-free but it’s guilt-free!

But what if you didn’t buy that pink pen next time or that chocolate bar, and used the money to buy a sandwich for a homeless guy instead? Or gave him a little bit extra for that Big Issue?

Or what if you put away your wallet all together and gave few kind words to your lonely neighbour? Or carried the shopping of an old woman instead of rushing past her in the shop?

You would see the help. You would see their smile and know they’re smiling for you, to thank you. Not because their profit turnover just tipped over  two million.

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6 Responses to “The ugly side of charity”

  1. MishaBurnett October 13, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    This has become a huge business.

    I remember reading once a study that indicated when people make consumer choices based on advertising that promotes products as “green” or “compassionate” they are actually less inclined to independent charitable acts such as helping a person up the stairs or giving change to someone who asks.

    The writer of the article (which, alas, I cannot now find) speculated that people who are able to feel that they have done something morally good by purchasing a product (even one that they would have purchased anyway) then feel that they are absolved of the obligation to help others.

    • daydreamdaisies October 13, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

      That is a very interesting point and sadly, it seems quite an accurate observation. I think the reason we make these ‘good’ and ‘compassionate’ consumer choices is because it’s help at our convenience. Like you said, the product is there and available for us to buy and the illusion of help/charity that doing so creates makes us perceive helping others directly as something that requires effort or ‘going out of our way’. I think that is immensely sad and can condition us out of caring.

  2. ruleofstupid October 13, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    Great post and brave to talk ‘against’ apparent charity too.
    I have a big problem with charities. While I respect their aims etc, and don’t disparage those who work for charities, I often feel charities do what governments should, or do the opposite of what they intend.
    I want to live in a country that spends altruistically, instead of on bombs. Also, a lot of charity gets swallowed by the mechanisms of charity (as you say re: the pen) so very little makes it to the intended recipient. Worse, dictators intercept charitable money and take it. Or, charity enables rulers to let someone else feed their populace, thereby enabling dictatorship.
    I want people to look out for each other, but often I think charity is a great deal of love that goes all wrong in the implementation.
    If everyone helped their neighbour, we wouldn’t need charities to do the work our conscience should.
    p.s. Thanks for the follow. I will be reading more of your blog over the weekend 🙂

    • daydreamdaisies October 13, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

      I couldn’t agree with you more, especially on the warfare. Stupid amounts are spend on bombs whilst we see things like cuts on NHS in order to ‘save’. It’s backwards. Save us.
      I think the simplest and most important charity we can do is, like you said, to just look out for each other. I’m glad that point came across, because I don’t have a problem with charities either. Just making them into a business.
      Thank you for visiting my blog and taking time to comment! Much appreciated. : )

  3. Piscis October 14, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

    Very sadly true. It’s often abused to the point of attempting to impress a feeling of guilt upon the consumer for not purchasing the company’s product.

    • daydreamdaisies October 16, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

      Yes, that’s also sadly true! I hope as many people as possible are aware of this. The greed for money that riots in our society is horrible.

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