politics, theology

The Benevolence Conundrum


To sink into this issue read the followiing from 3 Quarks: THE FOLLOWING

It starts:

Don’t give me anything, one sign says. Gifts are unacceptable and will be disposed of, asserts another. Pay no attention! The signs are held by a homeless woman on the subway, a heavily bundled figure who appears as interested in warding off charity as she is the cold, and the severity of her warnings are such that every vowel snarls at the nearest onlooker.

During my years at the UN in the late 90s and early 00s I was inundated by the issues of benevolence. By the end of my time there, I was tolerably convinced that the world needed to move beyond conventional philanthropy, benevolence and charity to value system based on nonidolatry, helpfulness, democracy and tolerance. Within such a system one would want to look very carefully at current modes of charity and benevolence, and even philanthropy in the widest sense, to see if they in fact serve the very elements of a system of widespread injustice.

I ended up linking capitalism and philanthropy as the twin engines of a system which I called benign genocide. This simply refers to the obvious fact that the current system inexorably does in millions annually, as the likes of Bill Gates painfully realizes.

What would replace benign genocide?

Not a wholesale rejection of capitalism nor of philanthropy, but a withdrawal of the idolatries that turn these ventures into objects of veneration. We need a widespread, indeed universal, skepticism regarding the utility of our systems. We need, in short, an Obama type of “what works” mentality. And an end to fatuous “binary” silliness.

The 3 Quarks piece referenced above is a vignette of a person who is intentionally flaunting the most elementary situation that raises our consciousness about having and not having, the very origins of benign genocide. The answer to the question it poses lies in such notions as linking radical individualism to the articulation of values (or as Nietzsche might suggest re-values) that have universal validity.

Benevolence these days is a conundrum inviting us to the most creative task that human beings can take up. Revaluing values.

Read more about Benign Genocide

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