I serve as a volunteer at different organizations that help people. I donate to various causes. And when I work for pay, I generally offer my skills to groups that do good things for the world. But is it enough? Is it ever enough?
My giving is tempered by my anger: If only some people would do some things differently, then I—and others—wouldn’t have to give as much. And these things aren’t magical; they’re very basic. But all evidence indicates that it’s not the way of humanity to do them.
Three examples (and these align with the points made in my book, Forked):
First example: One of the problems in this country and others is that many people can’t afford what they need. People are hungry, they’re homeless, they can’t afford medical care, they may turn to crime in order to support their families. How can we solve this? Well, it’s not that difficult. The very rich need to cede more of their wealth to the very poor. I understand that reluctance: If you’ve worked hard to make a bunch of money, then you shouldn’t have to give that money to people who think they deserve handouts. Of course, not all rich people have worked hard, and not all poor people think they deserve handouts; quite the contrary. Nonetheless, there’s got to be a better way of sharing wealth. Wages can go up, prices can go down, taxes can be adjusted, and money can be spent wisely rather than squandered. It does take work, though, and as long as the people who make the laws are fed by the rich, it’s going to take a lot of work. And as long as people who run other countries oppress their citizens in order to lead comfortable lives, it’s going to take even more work.
Second example: So many problems could be solved if people would just get rid of their prejudices. Yes, I know this is obvious, but it’s no less frustrating. People discriminate against others for all the wrong reasons. I’ll never forget going to a dinner with a family (not my family) in Minnesota, and people were telling Finn jokes. Finn jokes! It seems as if every culture has to feel better by putting down other cultures—whether those cultures are defined by geography, religion, language, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender, physical appearance, diet, or propensity to behave “in an odd way”. I think it’s okay to discriminate against people who are cruel or hapless or dangerous—some people clearly need to be isolated from the human race—but it doesn’t make any sense at all to mistreat Finns.
And my third example: People who are ignorant, who think that it’s a great idea to let a pandemic spread by avoiding vaccines and masks, who are fine with invading a country that hasn’t done anything wrong, who consider climate change a hoax, and who value bombast over facts—these people are the main reason that I feel obligated to give money to organizations and volunteer my services. Just think of how much better the world would be if it was a common human trait to appreciate truth more than entertainment—or if critical thinking was an ability to be desired.
So I ask you: Do you feel frustrated because your efforts to do good (presuming you make those efforts) are thwarted by people who do bad? What motivates you to keep going? You’re probably not going to give away everything you own to a worthy cause, so what are your limits? And what can you do to help people see that it’s a good idea to share their wealth, to refrain from insulting others who are different, and to think about facts once in a while? Can you lead a happy and satisfying life while trying to fend off those who are making the world worse? Are you doing all you can to improve the human condition?
Is it ever enough?