Friday, June 20, 2008

Locally v. Globally

Inspired by a recent comment from Chris F....

I'm not a big fan of giving within my community. My "community" is New York City, and it has always felt to me like everyone is working a scam of some sort, no matter what the context. Also, I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey, where it seems every town councilor in charge of the recreation program embezzled huge chunks of their funding. Then there was grandma, giving her local church thousands for the roof fund, the mortgage fund, the new organ fund - and then they had the sanctimonious balls to reject my aunt's request to be married there because at 46, she wouldn't be producing new Catholics to fill the pews. Oh, and let's throw in that she's mentally retarded and wouldn't have been able to safely raise children anyway. When it comes to local giving, the one thing I have always stepped up for has been blood donation in the name of someone ill or recently deceased - unfortunately, I had to give that up a few years back when the phleboto-nurses warned me that my veins were difficult and I should save them for my own future medical needs.

But the main reason I give outside of the USA rather than within: what passes for poverty here is wildly rich and stable by the standards of more than half the world. So I indulge in "economic triage", targeting those teetering on the edge. From my cushy vantage point, those that have less than nothing are living proof of the human spirit and the indomitable will to survive in the face of hardship beyond my comprehension. It's why I've put off travel to Africa for so long - fear of staring mortal poverty in the eye and feeling utterly helpless, guilty, overwhelmed, ashamed. So with my tentative plans to go there early next year, that part of the world has featured prominently in my Adventures in Giving. It would feature more in my Kiva lending as well except that so many of the loans for African applicants are in Nigeria, and I still hold it against them for fleecing me out of $35 in their scholarship scam in the 1980s.

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