AMERICANA SUCH AS CHARITY AND TIPPING IS ANTAGONISTIC TO CIVILIZATION.
AMERICANA SUCH AS CHARITY AND TIPPING IS ANTAGONISTIC TO THE ADVANCEMENT OF THE APPROPRIATE CIVILIZATION; HOW IT PUTS PEOPLE IN A SELF SATISFIED SLEEP.
(Letter to a friend, tweaked and expanded).
Hello my friend!
Glad to hear from you. I appreciate that you want to give money to handicapped people to practice sports, and it shows you have a good heart. I like people with good hearts. I also appreciate that helping handicapped people is very important: helping each other is the difference between good and evil. Nevertheless, I have to decline your offer to make me feel good about myself and others I know by taking part in this "charity" you propose me to indulge in. I do this in the name of a greater good. Let me tax your patience with some of the arguments which lead me to think so, because, for me, arguing is the noblest activity of man, the greatest gift, and, being the source of the most elevated care, the greatest charity one can do to other human beings, whoever they are, and wherever they are going.
I see that the American government is not taking care of the handicapped as much as it should. I see that, in light of this deficiency of the US government, the American nation, and its states, to give enough to those of their own who have fallen on bad luck, some little people want to distinguish themselves from their government, and show they have a good heart, and try to turn the tsunami of selfishness, as if they could.
Indeed, after giving money to the very rich, and high explosives to Iraqi children, the US armed government has little for anyone else. The richest 400 income earners are taxed at as low a rate as people earning $75,000, which means the US government helps the very richest to pay less taxes (the average family income is around $55,000 in 2005). A fraction of that tax rebate to the rich would allow to legislate a lot of generosity in America.
The USA spends more on its military than the rest of the world combined, and has troops in a majority of countries, on the pretext of "defense". In consequence the USA, or more exactly its plutocratic government, does not have enough money left for its own population, as the state of US day care, US schools, US roads, US health care, US help to senior citizens, etc. amply demonstrates.
For example, the US has money for extremely expensive carrier task forces, of which it has fifteen, and which are exclusively instruments of imperial projection, not defense.
Contributing to "charity" in the USA is to help the continuation of this militaro-imperial system, and becoming a willing accomplice and servant of it. Charity helps the system materially, because a semblance of basic services is then insured. It helps it psychologically, because people can turn around and say it's a good system, because it brings the good out from people. Charity reinforces the plutocracy further, because everybody can see the Rich helps the poor more, so the poor should be thankful to the Rich, more, and thank the Rich for the US political system, where the Rich buy elections for their servants and little helpers (this is American style "democracy"; other countries have other labels for it, and have carefully steered away from giving the Rich as much control).
Charity belongs to the same (meta)logic which leads to tipping. The metalogic of reinforcing American style "democracy".
Tipping is pretty strange because it makes the providing of a service, which (in a genuine capitalist economy) should be compensated in a fair and predictable fashion, into a gratuity, which may, or may not, be given (just as monarchs of old may or may not have given money to the people, according to how they felt -their "because such is our bon plaisir").
One would not think of making one's doctor live of tips. In light of this, only inconsequential jobs are thus compensated according to the good pleasure of consumers. The clincher is that, far from being an occasional mark of appreciation, tipping in the USA is the exclusive way that allows a vast subpopulation to earn its living. In other words, millions of Americans are made to beg professionally everyday, in lieu of a job. This makes tipping into another characteristically pathetic American habit, which is ineffective, exploitative, humiliating, but makes everybody feel better about the Rich, because they tip more. This turns tipping into the triumph of the Rich, all the more since it turns American patrons into would-be monarchs. The latter point is not a detail: aspiration to riches, play acting as if one were rich, and admiration for the Rich form together the main cement of the USA. That, and a set of obsessive habits unique to America, known as "Americana", a sort of patriotism lite, for the mentally challenged.
Charity and tipping are parts of Americana which keep on reproducing themselves, in no small part because they make the miserable environment in which they thrive. Because such hypocrisies thrive, the ideas which would corrode them can't live in the same mental ecology. That is why the (meta)idea that ideas matter more than anything else is so unpopular in the USA. Actually "arguing", the noblest and unique characteristic of man, has become an omnipresent insult in the USA. Lucky for America that most of the arguments were invented somewhere else!
Habits such as charity and tipping have become All-American because they entertain in the minds of small people the illusion of their importance (by contributing to charity, they play a role in making the US functions, indeed). "Small people" in the US, means people which are not rich enough for the reduced tax status I alluded to above, namely more than 99% of the population. They are small, because, whatever they are allowed to do will not have much effect on the increasingly plutocratic nature of the USA.
One should notice in passing that the hypocritical use of "charity" is not exclusively American. The Europeans send, by "charity" enough food "aid" to Africa to break to smithereens African agriculture. Meanwhile they provide a yearly tip of more than US $ 200 billion to their own farmers, that is more than the entire African Domestic Product. Both are related: the European "charity" is a smokescreen behind which European agriculture is allowed to wreck Africa. Of course, some of the richest Europeans, such as the Dutch agriculture minister, or the Queen of England, and the Prince, her son, get astronomical gifts, on the ground that they own already many farms (in other words that the richer the Rich, the more they should be given money). The USA has a similar system of agricultural "aid", roughly half the (monstrous) size of the European one. Both together keep the Third World in bondage and starvation, but call it charity.
The patience of many non Americans with America is exhausted. American leadership has turned into a farcical hell. America is a place where small people are busy helping the Rich, every breath they take. What America needs is a revolutionary meditation, not charity. At least it will not get charity from the wise. Or more exactly, not that way. What America needs is to learn, and be taught lessons. What America needs is spiritual, psychological, mental and intellectual counseling.
America needs to learn that ideas matter more than bombs and dollars, and the rich, their charities, and their tips. America will not buy a good society by contributing to charity. This was tried before, by Roman emperors, 2,000 years ago, and it did not work, except for the continuation of the Roman imperial system until it became so dark it has been called the Dark Ages ever since. America needs to legislate for itself a good society, not just distribute some to its poor when it feels like it on a good day. Anything else is sheer hypocrisy.
I know this is all hard for you to swallow. The system cannot be fixed. By cooperating with it, people come to feel good about themselves, and then feel free to support the likes of George Bush who could only do what he did by getting the support of more than 80% of the American people. Now that we have done, one more time, exactly what Osama bin Laden wanted, America, and the rest of the West with it, is stuck with a war with Islam America does everything it can to lose. Meanwhile, the real problems are allowed to fester.
The Iraq war is hard to swallow, but, even more difficult to swallow is the righteous, blind, self satisfied stupidity behind it, which came straight from a society where one communicates with money and the superficialities of Americana rather than with ideas, arguments, depth and legislation.
This type of arrogant imperialistic stupidity, antagonistic to thinking, has been seen many times before in the history of civilization, and has been the main cause of the worst disasters. A mixture of the discomfort caused by an unfair society and that particular stupidity makes people eager to invade other countries. Considering there are now Weapons of Mass Destruction, it needs to be treated as the trash it is, before it gets mirrored in the behavior of other (nuclear weapon) countries with even less restraint.
I wish you a happy summer too, and I thank you for helping me to think about these things, from the bottom of my heart!
Patrice, August 18, 2005.