by British Awakening – 28 Feb 2018
By markaharper1 - originally posted to Flickr as Brown Sicklebill 2, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link
According to the Wiktionary, the word “Charidee” means:
(informal, humorous) Conspicuous charity, especially as part of a TV promotion, or of an otherwise pointless exercise.
In the 2012 film adaptation of Anna Karenina, there is a scene where Anna travels to Moscow by train and encounters Count Alexei Vronsky striking up a mutual attraction. As the scene unfolds a rail worker is killed crossing the track, Vronsky is witnessed by Anna giving a large sum of money to the rail worker’s colleagues for his family. There is a suggestion that Vronsky makes this public demonstration of kindness to impress Anna. The deed in itself is a good one but the viewer is left with some doubt as to whether Vronsky would have done this if Anna was not looking.
Trying to impress a girl for her affections is one of the most natural things in the world common to nearly all species, from male spiders presenting their potential mate with a tasty treat (to avoid being eaten as a post coital snack) to the fabulous courtship dances and plumage displays of birds of paradise. Impressing a girl by our generosity reveals one of the more noble aspects of humankind; we clearly value altruism and respond warmly to those who demonstrate it. This aspect of our nature was one of the running gags in the comedy movie ‘There’s something about Mary’ as each of her potential suitors engaged in an arms race to outdo each other’s altruism, in the movie at least it is clear that the displays of altruism are mainly performed for selfish reasons.
I have a certain ambivalence on the matter, I am as guilty as any when it comes to trying to impress a girl in this way although my efforts were more along the lines of buying a whole block of raffle tickets at a corporate Christmas bash, a display of generosity that follows a precise mathematical relationship to the amount of wine I have consumed. My ambivalence comes about when I try to decide at what point is the deed obscured by the motive? I will happily bask in the glory of competing in a fun run having raised money for a charity, I don’t feel any contradiction here, yes it makes me feel good about myself, I make no secret of it because I genuinely want to help. So I ask myself what are the bad motives, since by own admission I sometimes seek social approval? I don’t see anything wrong with the kudos benign characteristics bring, good deeds should be encouraged if we seek an altruistic society. Most times when I give money to charity I do so anonymously but as I have written in a previous blog, taking part in a charitable event such as a fun run can be very rewarding; I struggle to see the harm in this. I would argue that the motives become less benign when it is done for purely narcissistic reasons - or worse, where it serves as a mask for evil.
Jimmy Saville conducted widespread child abuse over a number of decades successfully hiding behind his work in charity. There is a story about Saville that came out not long after the scandal came to public attention. A witness described seeing Jimmy working as a hospital porter pushing a heavy trolley with a look on his face as though the trolley was the burden of a great crime, the personification of his vile deeds. Of course the story is subjective and third hand but I like to believe it is true, I like to believe that there was still a part of him that was human and decent, crushed by the weight of the monster that had driven out the better angels of his heart. This does beg the question was his commitment to charity not only his shield but also what he saw as some form of atonement?
Sadly Jimmy Saville is hardly unique to the charity sector and I suspect over the coming weeks we will hear more about the activities of certain individuals that worked not only for Oxfam but more widely across the NGO sector. There is however the other class of individual that seems drawn to the sector, these I prefer to call selfish narcissists. To me selfish narcissism describes an individual who cares little for the cause but cares solely in the platform it provides to bathe his or her ego in the warm sunlight of an adoring audience. The current media attention on the sector is thankfully bringing some long needed attention to some of these people.
The recent resignation of Brendan Cox from a number of charities as a result of allegations of inappropriate behaviour to women is an example of this type of individual who use the kudos charitable work brings in order to mask some very unpleasant characteristics. By resigning Brendan Cox has done the right thing and owned up to his behaviour and I hope he gets the help he needs to change his life, but I also hope that his shame is real and not yet another vehicle to gain a respect that he is not entitled to. If he disappears from the public eye and gets on with a new life and provided there are no criminal charges arising from his behaviour then I wish him well.
Camilla Batmanghelidjh the founder of Kids Company is yet another of the legends of the charity sector feted by politicians and the elite media. Whilst there is no evidence whatsoever of any physical misconduct, her alleged mishandling of the finances of Kids Company is believed by many to be the reason it failed. What is not often explored is her autocratic manner in running the charity, I don’t expect everyone to be a financial genius but surely questions should have been asked about whether Kids Company was nothing more than a platform for a giant ego that did a bit of charity on the side? I am left with the feeling that any charity led by such a flamboyant attention seeking character should be avoided.
By NHS Confederation - Camila Batmanghelidjh plenary questions with Sarah Montague, CC BY 2.0, Link
Perhaps this is the common denominator to all of these three people, for different reasons each sought the limelight. Each sought glory either to serve their own ego or to disguise their true nature. If this is the case then surely we must be very wary of these charismatic individuals in the charity sector, perhaps charitable causes are much better served by ordinary people with ordinary jobs and the ego of a filing cabinet?
It is difficult for me to conclude on this piece, I do support charity and I will continue to participate in charity events because of the enjoyment it brings. I am aware of my hypocrisy; I have written this down for you, I have written it down because I am conflicted. Yet I remain troubled about how the sector seems to attract sociopaths, egotists and the downright evil and I still wonder if there is some unexplored realm where darkened hearts take pleasure in wallowing in human misery. Maybe it was always thus but right now it seems to be there is something very rotten at the heart of our charity sector. I have few answers for you, I can only share a sense that another pure and innocent part of the human spirit is being corrupted and perverted in an orchestrated manner.
What do you think? Please leave a comment below.