Charity, warm & simple

Garvey, John

Of several minds: John Garvey CHARITY, WARM & SIMPLE WHEN IS 'FEELING GOOD' THE REAL THING? There IS A wonderful old phrase "as cold as charity" which needs to be replaced now. The phrase no...

...This isn't a luxury we have, but an obligation...
...The problem is that people, having done that, will think they have really done something...
...That is why dealing with them in the right way matters, and if the issues are either sentimentalized or dealt with in a coldly detached way they are, in effect, lied about...
...We Are the World" was the better of the two, and it was in the Barry Manilow style that full-throated, sincere, Coke-commercial sort of thing...
...The same issue of the New York Times which offers all this visceral detail says of Gorbachev and his wife that they "are believed to have two children...
...Feeling good, or for that matter bad, about Ethiopia is beside the point...
...It is interestingly non-holistic, by the way, that the New Testament counsels a certain dividedness when it tells our hands that they have division almost as a charge...
...I am not expecting a move to the avant-garde here, and I am sure that a group I like very much, Talking Heads, would not be nearly as good at raising money...
...The problem is that the language we use influences the way we think, and if that language does not offer responses other than crudely emotional ones it will lead us into a reliance on raw and rough ways of dealing with immensely complicated issues...
...To want to feel good about whatever it is you are doing for the poor and oppressed, to want to have an emotional dividend, is to want very much to have the right and left hands in constant communication...
...It's a fine ironic line, but now it doesn't work...
...There are two sides to this...
...People dressed in national costumes from everywhere lifted Coke bottles to the sky, toasting the unity of all humanity...
...The sentimental approach, the feeling that buying a record or sending a sum of money or feeling sufficiently terrible about what is happening to Ethiopians will make a lasting or even slightly significant effect on their ultimate fate, is tragically common...
...The first and clearer point is that we are not to let our left hand know what the right is doing...
...If we once had to worry about charity being cold and moralistic, the problem now is that it is warm and sentimental...
...Soviet news agencies were quick and open with the time of his death it was a Sunday evening and with the fact that his liver was destroyed by chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis...
...At the end of those issues you do find hungry people...
...The phrase no doubt originated in times when charity was handed down in icy Victorian fashion and was meant to prove the virtue of the giver more than to show any real solidarity with the recipient...
...But doing something because it makes you feel good is, to say the least, a limited response to desperation...
...This was followed by an American effort...
...How you feel about it is irrelevant...
...What the buyers said was almost always the same: it feels nice to buy a record and at the same time help out people who really need it...
...Years ago E.E...
...Neither the intention of bringing help to the desperate people of Ethiopia nor the concern of the people who participated in the effort can be questioned...
...We have a new problem with charity, and it isn't all bad, but it carries a problem which isn't as far from the first sort of charity as it ought to be...
...Nothing is known about one...
...It was made to raise money for the starving people of Ethiopia, and though there were some scandals involved in the distribution of the record (some rotten sorts were pocketing money which was meant for the Ethiopians), it was generally successful...
...here the record was called "We Are the World," and all proceeds went to Ethiopian relief...
...Cummings Commonweal: 230 wrote a poem which, among other things, satirized advertizing...
...A sincere, warm school of selling things took over...
...So does another less clear point...
...First, just to get it out of the way, neither one of the records was very good...
...Our job is certainly not to sneer at those who make or buy the records, but to point out that this is not yet even a beginning...
...his main problem was emphysema...
...That is coupled with the statement about the self-righteous who want others to know what they are doing and, because of that, "have already received their reward...
...That is not the question...
...they require an effort which will, if it happens, be long and complicated and will not lend itself to such simple stories as we find in good-hearted pop stars doing a very nice thing...
...The title was ''As Freedom Is a Breakfast Food.'' With Barry Manilow (who is now a star of sorts but whose first big hit was the State Farm Insurance commercial, "Just Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm Is There") this kind of advertising hit new heights, or, depending on how you look at it, reached new and subtle lows...
...For the Christian who is supposed to feel that all human beings are, in the most profound sense, relatives, feeling bad about not doing more about Ethiopia is like feeling bad about leaving Mom drunk and bloody at the foot of the stairs...
...I think that the reasons people give to the question, "why do you want to help...
...When Chernenko died we received an autopsy report, almost instantly: Chernenko died from lung, heart, and liver disease...
...One is Christian, scriptural, moral, and clear...
...Hamburger ads appealed to our need for friendship and ads for soft drinks offered to bring about world peace...
...I have no quarrel at all with anybody who can afford to buy the records made by people who want to help with the Ethiopian relief effort people ought to do so, and bless them all and everyone ought to send money to any group which does a good job of relieving hunger in Ethiopia or anywhere it happens...
...In England last year a group of rock musicians got together and made a record called "Do They Know It's Christmas...
...may be answered "because it makes me feel better" only because of a poor vocabulary...
...What worries me are the TV interviews which appeared when both the British and American records hit the market...
...In fact the problems faced in Ethiopia are terribly complex, and they range from the specific and limited problem of the sort of government Ethiopia has to the spread of the desert and common agricultural practice in African nations...
...JOHN GARVEY 19 April 1985: 231...
...they were treacle...
...Sentimental" is too kind a word...
...The reasons may be more complex than that, but people may not have ways of addressing them clearly...
...The songs written for Ethiopian relief have similar tunes, and lyrics which are at least as sentimental...
...Virtually anything which gets money to people who need it is the right thing to do, even if some things are wrong with it...
...If the Christian obligation is clear, the ways in which it might be met are not...
...They usually began with shots of the various stars looking terminally sincere in headphones, followed by something earnest said by one of the organizers, followed by people buying up copies of the product in record shops...
...And NOW, as Monty Python says, for something completely different, It has to do with the nature of life and death in the Soviet Union, and may even have to do with the nature of dialectical materialism...
...The problems of African hunger will not be solved by the simple but absolutely essential forms of relief which are now being sent...
...It matters a lot...

Vol. 112 • April 1985 • No. 8


 
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