Go read Steve’s post and especially the comments: Feeding the homeless now illegal in Vegas.
Something I’ve noticed in the philanthropic world recently. Somewhere, sometime, charity became not about helping others because it was the right thing to do but about getting a return on your investment. Charity became about helping others only if they really, truly deserved it, only if they were really poor, only if they were really addicted, only if they were homeless because they didn’t “want” to be.
As Fat Bastard says in Steve’s comments:
Whatever I give to whoever is between me and The Creator (or the karmic wheel, if you should swing thataway). No matter what happens to the money I give, I know I gave it in an effort to do good.
If the one I give it to spends it on a bottle of Ripple, that’s between him and The Creator, and I ain’t even in it.
Hell, for all I know a bottle of Ripple is exactly what The Creator thinks he really really needs.
IT AIN’T MY PLACE TO JUDGE.
It’s exactly those judgemental sonsabitches that want to say that some people don’t deserve to be fed.
There is some kind of twisted expectation we have now, that everybody who needs help deserves their fate in some way. That misfortune is beneficial, even, character-building. There are people who’ll talk about the lessons of poverty, the proud “I didn’t need a handout, and I’m just fine,” the kinds of things you never hear from anybody until after they’re not poor anymore. It’s easy to make something a pretty story when you’ve got some distance, money in the bank, a canap in your hand.
I think it’s a defense mechanism, the thought that the homeless, the hopeless, the poor, are that way because they want to be. Because if it’s not about making choices, well, then it could happen to people who do everything right, who have jobs and insurance and a home and a car and are doing just fine. If it’s about people “wanting” to be homeless (which, can I just say, has never been the dream of any child growing up that I’ve ever known) then we don’t have to be scared, because we don’t want to be homeless, and the universe isn’t that random, and it’s going to be fine. A cascade of circumstances — mental illness, economic downturn, addiction, divorce, sickness, death — that leads to you being on the street talking to yourself and scruffing up the park for the suburbanites couldn’t ever, ever happen to you. Blaming the victim is a time-honored way of making ourselves feel safer.
It’s not that I begrudge people their illusions exactly. If you focus too much on the random way the gods confiscate good fortune you’ll never leave your house again for fear of being nailed by a potato chip truck on your way to mailbox. But I do very much begrudge people denying others help on the basis that they know who deserves it and who doesn’t, based on something they kinda sorta maybe heard somebody say someplace once.
And if you’re really worried the guy’s just gonna spend it on booze, if that really matters to you all that much, go home and match the couple of quarters you threw at him with a $25 donation your local homeless shelter, or your neighborhood drug treatment center, or your city’s social services wing, so that your help’s going as many places as you can make it go, and you’ve got all your bases covered.