Charity degrades and demoralises

Before you get angry over the title, let me clarify I did not say it, it was Oscar Wilde who said this. Through this post you will see what exactly Oscar Wilde meant by this.

I will start with a video “First as Tragedy, Then as Farce”, it talks about what is wrong with the whole business of charity or in other words why charity is no longer solving world’s problem. I encourage my readers to watch this video and also read the following excerpt from Oscar Wilde’s book “The Soul of Man under Socialism“.

My purpose of the blog post it is to give a different perspective which we mostly do not hear from mainstream media. My readers may agree or disagree but  I leave it to you to think over it and make your own judgment.

Now lets see what what Oscar Wilde exactly said.

“The majority of people spoil their lives by an unhealthy and exaggerated altruism – are forced, indeed, so to spoil them. They find themselves surrounded by hideous poverty, by hideous ugliness, by hideous starvation. It is inevitable that they should be strongly moved by all this. The emotions of man are stirred more quickly than man’s intelligence; and, as I pointed out some time ago in an article on the function of criticism, it is much more easy to have sympathy with suffering than it is to have sympathy with thought. Accordingly, with admirable, though misdirected intentions, they very seriously and very sentimentally set themselves to the task of remedying the evils that they see. But their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease.

They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor.

But this is not a solution: it is an aggravation of the difficulty. The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible. And the altruistic virtues have really prevented the carrying out of this aim. Just as the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so, in the present state of things in England, the people who do most harm are the people who try to do most good; and at last we have had the spectacle of men who have really studied the problem and know the life – educated men who live in the East End – coming forward and imploring the community to restrain its altruistic impulses of charity, benevolence, and the like. They do so on the ground that such charity degrades and demoralises. They are perfectly right. Charity creates a multitude of sins.

There is also this to be said. It is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property. It is both immoral and unfair.

The Soul of Man under Socialism” by Oscar Wilde

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2 thoughts on “Charity degrades and demoralises

  1. I think this is only one possible trajectory.

    If someone gives me $100 and tells me, “I want you to invest this into your work”, I’ll gladly take it and buy a software program or do some work

    I have an upcoming post on this. It’s connected to bodhisattvahood. There are practical issues with charity and reaching out, there are practical issues with almost any heroic behavior, but we should take them as challenges to overcome.

    Oscar Wilde’s broader point about socialism is of course valid.

  2. I do agree, charity through empowerment has great potential. On the other hand as long as system of injustice is there, world’s problems cannot be solved. We may feed few hungry people but system of exploitation will keep on producing thousands of them.
    I am looking forward to your blog post.

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