Friday, January 6, 2023

Partying For Charity (and Status)

If you are wealthy, you can afford to give to charity - and have a good time of it, too.

We get these upscale magazines from rich people's island (they have stacks of them at the hotels) and it is interesting the vibe they give off.  There are plenty of ads for the soap-and-candle shops, as well as the high end clothing boutiques that show incredibly skinny (and apparently pissed-off) women in slinky gowns.  No one actually looks like that, of course.

But what is interesting is that the articles deal mainly with the various charitable fundraisers they are constantly having for one cause or another.  In the back are "mugshots" of people awkwardly standing at an event, holding a cocktail and pretending to have fun (or, after several cocktails, actually having fun).  And yes, Mark and I have appeared on these pages on one or two occasions.

But as I read the latest issue of the magazine, I could not help but think that something was off.  I could not put my finger on it, but it was there.  Go on the 5K "fun run" to raise awareness for our local hospital!  Collect shoes for the poor in West Virginia!  Attend a fundraising dinner and eat and drink your way to saving the planet!  It struck me that this was a fun hobby for people with a lot of money and a lot of time on their hands.  It was not something the poors can do - although they will trot out a "poor" at some event to show where the money is going.

And yes, we do this sort of thing too, by volunteering at the gallery.  My contributions are a little more basic, though, such as vacuuming up little old lady poop when the toilet clogged and flooded the basement.  I could think of better ways to spend Christmas eve.

I pointed this out to Mark and he said it was a Southern thing - doing whatever for a noble cause.  Maybe it is tied to religion, I don't know.  I realize these people mean well, but of course, while they are willing to collect shoes for the poor, they are the same people who will vote down expanding Medicaid for the poor, or decry raising taxes to pay for Social Security or Medicare or Food Stamps (SNAP).

Say, that's an idea! The government could make these various entitlement programs a lot more palatable to the rich if they held a reception or event to sponsor it.  "Come to the SNAP reception - honoring our donors who have contributed so much of their tax dollars to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program! We'll have an actual poor on display for you to meet and talk to, and of course, take a selfie!  Be part of our adopt-a-poor program!  Learn firsthand how your SNAP dollars are going to help some young child get good nutrition, do well in school, and be less likely to carjack you when they get older!"

Or how about the "Social Security 5K Fun Run! Come get some exercise or just have fun! Wacky costume contest, too!  All proceeds go to funding Grandma's Social Security!  We'll have an actual old person there for you to meet and talk to!  Do good for society and have fun at the same time!  Be there!"

It just might work. And hey, maybe the Pentagon could do the same thing, too. Cruise Missile Fundraiser.   Maybe people would bitch less about taxes if we gave them a banquet of rubber chicken and cheap white wine once in a while.  Of course, you have to have a photographer there to capture everyone's picture for the magazine!

OK, start the flames and the "how dare you!" shaming. I'm a bad boy.  Or am I?  Because when a person makes a big show out of giving to charity, maybe there is more at stake than merely giving to charity - there is something in it for the person donating.  There is something in the Bible about that.  Of course, there is something in the Bible about everything - it is, as some wags have noted, the world's greatest multiple choice question.

I noted before when Mark worked at the lighthouse, there was a big deal about the "wall of donors" and the annual dinner they had for them.  My parents liked to go to the symphony and wanted their name in the program under "donors" and a plaque with their name on it, on their favorite seats.  I had friends who bankrupted themselves donating to a church so their name was on a plaque beneath a stained glass window they paid for.  Yes, status rears its ugly head once again.

Real philanthropy should be anonymous - the donor gets nothing out of it other than the satisfaction of giving.  But that's no fun at all.  And maybe that is why people bitch and moan about paying taxes (which is not voluntary and not directed by the donor) while at the same time they love to participate in a charity event.  Not only do they get to pick the charity, they get street cred for being a decent human being.

The next day, they can go to work at the payday loan company they own, knowing they spent the weekend raising money to help the poor.