Ideas are a luxury in desperate times. A core function of society is agriculture (while its predecessor hunting and gathering is still a sub set) and it might be argued that energy is even more basic. The Covid 19 pandemic is reminding us that survival cannot be taken for granted. Focusing on survival shunts aside many endeavors that we now better appreciate are really luxuries. Luxuries are what we are able to indulge in when we have created a surplus of what is needed to survive
A confession before pontificating. I find beggars very annoying and guilt inducing. My experience has taught me that we live in an inequal society that favors the wealthy and the powerful. I can now better appreciate there will be some adjustments in society's power arrangements with a lot of little people further marginalized. Ideas are a luxury, but they are what make us a civilization and I hope we can survive as one. This more or less summarizes my attitude for this post.
Entertainment is a luxury that is already being curtailed. The major sports businesses have all been shut down and all gatherings of spectators for music and theatre are locked out. We can still eat, but not so much at restaurants. Much of our entertainment has filtered down to electronic which ultimately means fewer and fewer people will be required as we will be able to view the best of the best rather than the corner bar singers for example. You can see read paper books, but as I am learning more of that is electronic. Entertainment of all sorts was very critical during the Depression of the 1930's, but there was no concern about large crowds so we will be making different adjustments
Charities boil down to begging. These are the causes that we are concerned about, but not enough to distract too far from many other human endeavors. We have assuaged our guilty conscience by allowing the government to fulfill some of these functions, but are careful to make sure our taxes don't cramp our lifestyle too much. Many of us have personal concerns often where a disease has harmed our loved ones and many of efforts have been partially taken over by governments, but not enough to solve the problem. Perhaps it is better to maintain a role for the individual conscience. For others they are conscious of discriminated against either their own group or that of another. Still others feel society would be better off if awareness of some cultural activity were better appreciated.
In times of desperation as right now, charities are minimized. Many of those who have asked for assistance now feel guilty for asking. There are reasons we should give what we can afford if we really want to keep our civilization functioning. Charities perform functions that we all benefit from.
Jobs are important. We live in a world where it takes fewer and fewer people to supply the necessities and even luxuries. We still have beggars who somehow slipped through the cracks (and in some cases as many suspect, are deceptive) but they do in fact help circulate revenue. Some employees of charities got the job as they weren't able to get a better one, if any. Some specialize and have developed skills for raising revenues in a competitive world, even for charities. Like the rest of us they may well have to sacrifice some of their income and some likely will lose their job and have to seek another way to make their ends meet. Still those making a living appealing to our conscience not only help our economy, but can feel good as they are lessening the burden of others.
Research (thinking of charities for diseases primarily) also provides jobs, but not just any job, ones that are value added. While scientists discover something to better deal with one disease they often find applications to others. I recall learning that research for Parkinson's has overlapped with research for Alzheimers (something more people fear). The understanding gained through scientific research helps us all appreciate how everything is connected.
Another function of charities is advocacy. The disabled have most often been cast aside as not only not able to function productively, but disturbing for the rest of us have to work with. With disabled legislation gradually making life more tolerable for them it has also made them more productive and everyone has benefited. This also applies to those who have suffered discrimination and been denied a more suitable role in society. Causes such as climate change, refugees, endangered animals, etc. are deemed important by individuals and groups. Even those promoting cultural activities have (mostly) enriched the lives of those who appreciate something otherwise unknown.
Some people get paid to advocate for special interests (including charities) and we call them lobbyists. They form a useful function, although much abused. Some thoughts on their role at: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/03/coronavirus-lessons-how-one-makes-money.html
Caregivers have either been forgotten or taken for granted. Charities can relieve some of this burden and help make some people more productive. Much of care giving is voluntary such as family and friends or just concerned citizens. For others care giving is a paid job that someone has organized for the necessary resources and persuaded someone to provide money.
Survival is no trivial thing and we all will be looking at what we now better appreciate are limited resources. But if we want to retain a sustainable and satisfying civilization we need to be open to ideas. Charities are an idea that is part of society and that benefits everyone. Hoarding resources may seem necessary to survival, but human survival demands a more open and sharing society. Earlier I blogged about how it seems this pandemic will make us more conscious of how we all make money: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/04/lobbyists-do-deserve-more-appreciation.html