I’m writing this at a cafe in Portsmouth this morning. I got up well before the library opened and I wanted to get my online stuff done for the day in the morning. I haven’t gone out for breakfast in a while so I figured I’d head here. The place doesn’t open until eight and free street parking ends at nine so I only have a window of about an hour to get online right now. No, I’m not that broke but I don’t feel like packing up my computer, heading back to the parking spot to pay, then head back to the cafe to get back online. I could probably leave the computer here, it’s only Portsmouth, but I don’t dare.
I parked my bike across the street of a small bank parking lot. A young couple sat on a bench in the lot. The boy called over to me as I turned my bike off. He was trying to bum a dollar off of me so they could buy a soda. I have two general rules: I don’t carry cash and I don’t give money to panhandlers. The former pretty much cancels out the latter anyway but my stance remains. I can’t give money to everybody. They were just teenagers, if that, and around here I imagine that they could get a job at some point if they wanted to. I doubt that they would spend the money on a soda but I really wouldn’t care as far as that’s concerned. If I gave them money what they spent it on would be up to them.
I could come up with different reasons for not giving money to these kids. They looked like punks. They looked fit enough to go get a job. They probably didn’t need the money anyway, or they were just a dollar short for what they wanted. The point is that none of these things really matter to me. I just generally don’t give money to people on the street. Occasionally, if I do have a dollar on me I might drop one in a musician’s box or whatever as they are working for it. I consider that akin to tipping for a job well done. But I usually walk by panhandlers without giving them anything. I don’t want to take my wallet out in front of them.
But it really gets more general than that. For the most part I don’t donate to charity. If I’m at an event that’s collecting then I might donate something, but unless somebody I know is involved I probably wouldn’t be at that event in the first place. By this point in the blog post you might be wondering why it is that I don’t donate to charity, and by this point in the blog post you might be expecting me to provide a solid philosophical reason. The fact of the matter is that I’m simply not charitable. That’s all. I don’t try to bullshit people into thinking that I thought through why I don’t give. It’s just not in my nature.
The only justification that I could offer (if I really felt you needed it) is that I would feel bad donating to one charity as opposed to others. I can barely make enough money for myself let alone give to everybody. I’m also reluctant to donate to organizations without researching where that money goes in the first place. I know not to donate to the Salvation Army as they’re a church and as such I find them suspicious. That’s my biggest problem with things like firefighters having the boot drives for The Jimmy Fund. I feel pressured to donate on the spot like that and I never remember when I get home to find out where that dollar went to.
Am I mean? I suppose to some degree you could argue that. I don’t think I am. It’s not that I ethically oppose charity. I just usually don’t take part. I do ethically oppose the systems in place in our society that puts people into the position in which they need help in the first place. Perhaps if I was wealthier I would be freer with donating money to others but right now I can’t. I have to live my own life first.