This is a response to Nenomen's essay 'Charity Sucks'( www. fictionpress. ?storyid=1632052) which I think she (? He?) wrote because of someone else's assertion in an essay that 'Charity is '. I suspect Nenomen was playing devil's advocate, but I want to try and argue against the idea that charity is wrong anyway, because I have met people who genuinely believe this and I disagree strongly with them. I'm a little bit drunk right now. That's not an excuse for any strangeness or mistakes in what follows, just an explanation. I should also disclose that I'm a little biased because I have collected for Amnesty International a few times over the years, as well as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, I donate my old clothes and books to Lifeline or the Salvos and I do one shift a week at my local Oxfam shop on an unpaid voluntary basis, and naturally I would like to believe that what I'm doing is worthwhile. I think I need another drink. Mulled wine perhaps.

Charity Rules

Nenomen wrote:

'People give to a charity either because they feel it's their responsibility to give, and they don't want to feel guilty, or because it makes them feel good to give to the charity. Whether or not they help other people is really rather secondary...they're only helping others because they're making themselves feel good, because they're giving themselves emotional pleasure. It's deflating, but it's true: people only give to charity out of self-interest; because giving to charity brings them pleasure.'

People also give (their money or their time in the form of voluntary work) to charity for religious reasons, which is a little different since it may not make them feel good in the short term, they may be doing it out of fear or a desire to please their God, but that's basically selfishness too. I think when it comes right down to it everyone is motivated by selfishness, which is not to say that that's a bad thing. It's only natural.

Nenomen then goes on to argue that when charity is used to help people with genetic disorders, this serves to propagate 'bad genes' and is therefore going to spell the doom of our species.

'...And then, of course, there's the sociological reason. The human impulse of Charity serves as a kind of safety net, keeping alive those that could not keep themselves alive. In a way, it cripples Darwin's theories, and shoots evolution in the balls...which is why I'm (marginally) against charity..'

Firstly, this is only an argument against one kind of charity. Some charitable institutions, and charitable acts are not aimed at keeping alive someone who could not otherwise keep themselves alive, but rather at making life more bearable, or more enjoyable for those less fortunate than ourselves. When the Bali bombings happened, most Australians were shocked to hear of the lives lost, and many were moved to give money to try and help the survivors pay their hospital bills, get by while they were grief stricken and unable to work, and generally get their lives back together. It wasn't that these people would have otherwise died, but rather that their lives would have been a little more miserable and difficult without the financial and emotional support they received. Many charitable donations fall into this category. Each year thousands of Australians donate toys at the 'wishing trees' in department stores around the country, to be distributed as Christmas gifts to poor children, who would otherwise go without Christmas cheer. Having a full Christmas stocking doesn't keep these children alive, it just cheers them up a little.

Returning to the Bali Bombing example, even if the survivors of the bombing would have died without such charity, their deaths would not have gotten rid of any 'bad genes' which led to their predicament. There is no gene that would cause a person to be more likely to get blown up or burned to death by Al Quaeda terrorists. The victims in the Bali bombing weren't stupid or suffering from any congenital illnesses that caused the bombing. They were just terribly unlucky. Many charitable acts are aimed at helping out the unlucky and this does not do anything to disrupt our evolution. Any charities which help accident victims, victims of crime, survivors of sexual abuse, the poor or the homeless fall into this category.

Then there are the charities that Nenomen was talking about, those which help people with congenital illnesses or disabilities. Nenomen argues that this is bad because these people will not only survive but potentially reproduce, passing on the genes for their particular illness or disability. I can see two problems with this argument. The first is that we are no longer under the same evolutionary pressures we once were, and can, to an extent, alter our environment to suit us, so traits that were once disastrous to us as a species no longer matter. For example, in prehistoric times being unable to walk would probably mean you got eaten by a sabre toothed tiger or were unable to hunt and just starved to death. These days a person who can't walk, in first world countries at least, will probably be relatively safe from predators and will still be able to work and get food and lead a perfectly normal life. If their genes aren't harmful to them, then they won't be harmful to their offspring, so it won't do the species any harm if they reproduce. Of course if we were to have some kind of apocalyptic war and descend into savagery again paraplegics would be screwed, but if that happens then evolutionary pressures would be reactivated and stop them breeding.

The second problem is the question of which are the 'bad' genes. Nenomen wrote:

'the idiot savant...while he may be able to tell you what the day was in January 23, 1753, the rest of his genes are so bad that it's better to be rid of the bunch of them than to keep bad genes just to save his one redeeming ability.'

Which genes are 'good' and 'bad' is a matter of perspective. When the Nazis embarked on their program of Eugenics, their list of traits indicative of 'bad' genes including many forms of mental illness, physical deformities and homosexuality. Many, many innocent people were put to death because someone decided that they thought the species was better off if they didn't breed. Other countries, including the UK and America had a policy last century of forcibly sterilising women they believed would be bad mothers. It was believed that a woman who had a child out of wedlock was lacking in morals, and that her immoral nature would be passed on to any children she had, so the daughters of unmarried mothers were often sterilised.

While we like to think we have come a long way scientifically since those days, but we still don't know for sure which genes are desirable to have. Assuming you're trying to be objective and setting aside aesthetic ideas (eg. The nazi's idea that white skin is good and dark skin is bad) defining as 'good' those genes that are likely to be conducive to the individual's survival and as bad only those which will hinder the individual's survival, we still don't have the technology yet to be precise about these things. Even if you know for certain that someone carries a particular gene which will give them a congenital illness you can't dismiss all their other genes as 'bad' too. Most, if not all, of the people who have contributed to science, music, literature and art over the years have been imperfect in some way. Einstein was dyslexic. Julius Caesar had epilepsy. Steven Hawking has Motor Neurone Disease. Though these people have some genes most of us would prefer that our children didn't have (ie. Those that made them sick), don't their achievements suggest other good genes we might prefer to keep in the gene pool? Since our environmental pressures are not what they once were it might even be worth it to an individual, given the choice, to be disabled in one unimportant way and very talented in another important one. If that's the case, then giving charity to such individuals when they need it might actually be beneficial to the species.

Nenomen wrote:

'Conclusion: charity has a crippling effect on the species that practices it, and may, unless corrected, lead to the long-term de-evolution of a species and its downfall/self-destruction.'

We have never actually observed charity to have a crippling effect on the species that practices it, and we don't know yet what effect it may have. It may be that charity in fact will have a beneficial effect on the species that practices it and may, in the long term lead to its ascension/evolution into beings of pure energy. We just don't know. What we do know is that charity leads to the short term happiness of many, many human beings, which, since we are all basically motivated by the search for happiness, can only be a good thing.

'Now let's have another drink and study, study, study' Benedict Erofeev