My Life is More Interesting Than Yours

And I'm willing to fight about it

Altruism? Or grand standing? May 23, 2012

So this evening I got home to find an abundance of mail.  Aside from a flyer for an Italian restaurant there were letters from Planned Parenthood and Heifer Fund, but also an oddly non descript large envelope that asked not to be bent.  The Planned Parenthood and Heifer Fund mail was what I was expecting it to be, thanks for my recent donations and would I be willing to donate more?

The large envelope however was a letter that turned out to be from the Southern Poverty Law, asking for support, and including a certificate of appreciation….for money that I haven’t given yet.  This isn’t at all strange though.  Many charities use this method to feed the ego of someone to get them to give them money.  The biggest example is the Save the children group, with their promises of giving the donor a “sponsor child”, a kid that the donor will never meet, but whom writes to you telling you how awesome you are.

Who does this appeal to?  Frankly the whole sponsor child thing made me very uncomfortable for the three months or so I gave to Save the Children.  I was giving money, its not like I was in Columbia personally digging a well for them, or braving roving bands of mercenaries so that I could provide medical care to the poor.  I mean yeah, my money was helping that.  Or was it?  The other major thing about Save the Children was the sheer amount of mail I would get from them.  Most of it junk too.  I started to wonder how much of my donations were going to actual people in need and how much was going to these mailing campaign.

Right now I give regularly to Doctors Without Borders and Amnesty International, and their selling point was that giving monthly meant less mail, because they knew that money was coming and so didn’t need to spend on begging for more.  Also the updates I get from them are news stories about what they were doing, none of this massive ego stroking I get from other organizations.

In light of the recent article about organic food buying assholes I think this points to the nature of some people and their motives to be altruistic.  Rather than doing it because they want to help make the world a better place, they give to charity, buy organic food and what not because it makes them feel important and helpful.  Even though they’re not making major sacrifices, doing heavy lifting or even taking extreme risks, they feel they’re owed something, whether its a certificate or the ability to cut off people in traffic with impunity.  In short, sanctimonious assholes love finding good reasons to be sanctimonious about.