Charity for Dummies (Part 1)

Ask a conservative how the poor will eat without taxes, and they’ll be sure to point you to charities. They exist for just about every circumstance and cause out there – battered women, abused children, blood donation, breast cancer awareness, the list goes on. Volunteers offer their time for construction work and house repairs, disaster relief, passing out food, collecting money, … – again the list goes on.

On a personal level, I see charity as a good thing. Without personal charity, my journey to Kansas City would have been much different. But, someone was willing to lend me a hand when I needed help up. Examples of that sort of thing are fairly widespread. In the local area, 98.8 (among other radio stations), offers help to random people during Christmas season.

Unfortunately, I believe that charities are also being abused. My employer, as well as many others in the Kansas City area, encourages people to give to the United Way. And wouldn’t you know, it’s easy. All I have to do is fill out a form, and every paycheck I can donate any amount I’d like. Wow, isn’t that Great? Well, …

No, it isn’t.

The reasoning behind giving to United Way? “If it’s too hard to figure out a charity you want to give to, give to them and they’ll figure it out for you.” It rather reminds me of a science fiction classic, where people design robots to worship God for them. A charity like United Way isn’t charity to support a cause, a passion, or a belief, it is simply charity for the sake of charity. Or, as I like to call it, guilty giving.

Don’t get me wrong, the United Way does some really good work. They write grants to some great organizations! And occasionally they’ll even help out and do volunteer work or charitable work directly. When it comes right down to it though, they exist to collect money off of our collective guilt.

Guilt is a powerful thing – a basic human emotion that says something is wrong. And while there are circumstances where guilt is uncalled for but natural, I question the creation of organizations that seek to relieve us of our guilt by simple transfer of wealth.

The level of ease with which charitable giving now happens allows us to live like a drunk driver that goes to AA meetings. We give to charity, therefore our rape of the poor and down trodden is meaningless. We can fill free to litter the streets with our garbage, because we pay for prisoners to pick it up.

Paycheck donations to charity do not require us to examine lifestyle or put forth any effort to consider our value systems. You sign a form, and after a few months, the donation to charity becomes another line item on the paycheck, right beside Social Security tax deductions.

And then, when someone sees your behavior, notes that how privileged you are and that there exist others without the same opportunity? When they pull up the mirror and reveal and show that you have done nothing to benefit the society that has given you the gift of wealth? Why, THEN you can point to a forgotten line item on your paystub and say “Look, I give to charity”.

"The Dead Zone"

“Dead Zone”

The name sounds like it’s from bad science fiction. I remember hearing about Dead Zones in my high school biology and geography classes. One of the largest is located in the Gulf of Mexico and consists of an area roughly the size of New Jersey. At the mouth of the Mississippi river, a large amount of fresh water flows into the Ocean. But not only is fresh water coming in, but run off water from large farming operations in the midwest. The fertilizer rich water hits the Ocean and causes a food chain march which leads to hypoxia, a lack of oxygen in the water.

This year, the dead zone was predicted to grow to record levels of size. Recently released data showed the dead zone not as large as expected, but more severe. In the end, it covered only 3000 square miles.

At what point do we stop ignoring the cost of our way of life? Today, the Gulf of Mexico dead zone directly threatens $2.8 billion worth of US fishing industry. Put another way, 99 cent cheeseburgers threaten to destroy the option for a slightly more expensive, but much healthier, grilled fish sandwich.

Can we shutup about the f***ing faeries already?

Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

— Douglas Adams
So a friend of mine forwarded me a video. Really, it’s pretty awesome. Basically, the universe is really big. Like, really.

It’s a video that Carl Sagan would have no doubt loved to see. The knowledge of what I’m looking at here is awe inspiring. The commentary about the video though, is not. Instead of a focus on the magnitude of what is, I hear countless people remarking “Awesome, look at this, clearly there is no God!!!!”

Really people? Can’t we just … move on. Believe me, I have plenty to complain about when it comes to religion. Plenty. I don’t however, spend all my time watching videos like this thinking, “wow they really were full of shit”. You know what amazes me?

“God fearing” people that see that video are probably enjoying it more than the skeptical societies.

See, they actually get to enjoy it. True, there enjoyment is going to take the “look how awesome God is to have created all that” form. But, it’s enjoyment and inspiration nonetheless. The atheist watching this as “ohhhh, proof the Goddies have it wrong”, well, not so much.

To this day, I am amazed by the fact that we have such vocal groups here shouting their views, that neither extremist side gets to sit down and realize: most of us just don’t give a damn. Sorry, it’s true.

So, to the “ohhhhhh, look this proves there is a God” people and to the “ohhhhhh, look this proves God is bullshit” people – please shut the F*** up about the faeries, and let the rest of us enjoy the Garden, faeries or no.