Tag Archives: charity

Charity v Altruism: Now & the Medieval era

Straight-out, I’m totally taking a High Medieval module this term (which was fantastic btw and could only be improved with the addition of poor neglected Wace) and this came up during my research for my essay.

Whilst reading Aaron Hostetter’s article “Food, Sovereignty and Social Order in Havelock the Dane.” (The Journal of English and Germanic Philosophy, 2011, 53-77), I was struck by the economic model he describes. Lords live on surplus, and do not labour. The lower classes, slaves, peasants and the like, labour to produce a surplus yet only consume as much as they need to survive and work (and sometimes not even that much). This model he applies to the poem Havelok, a lovely story of the rise of a king from low class work, and specifically to Aethelwold, one of the kings, who “dines in a manner that enforces his claim to rule his nation, but with the happy result that they all have enough to eat,” (57) because out of the surplus he lives on, he sends out alms to the poor so they can eat.

Now, is it just me or does this seem ridiculous?

The power dynamics here are founded upon a circulation of food and wealth that relies upon a minority to be charitable and generous enough to send on the surplus they’ve gained back to the people who produced it in the first place. Very inefficient for mass survival but very good for constructing the minority’s power.

The same thing is still going. A majority work to eat, though our standards of necessities far exceed what we need to actually survive, and produce a surplus that oligarchs, magnates and corporations live off and distribute “charitably”. It’s really no wonder such a sense of cynicism surrounds these charitable acts, though the power now constructed is that of controlling consumer power/power over consumers.

But why? Wouldn’t it be better for those lower in the chain to distribute their wealth/food/all that they produce charitably to others and shorten the circular pass-the-parcel from low to high to low? And wouldn’t this in turn reduce any gap we currently see between the high and low, as the foundation of their power would be eradicated?

Obviously, it requires relying upon a lot more people to be charitable (as crowdfunding seems to prove is possible) and that seems unlikely, but it also seems illogical to rely on a minority of people to be as altruistic and yet.. it works, doesn’t it?

Ad Hitlerum; An Exercise in Contradiction

Silence is a sin, the greatest sin that there shall ever be.

But can I speak for another? No, of course not,

It is not my story to tell, I have not suffered how they have,

My suffering is a pinch on the arm compared to the

Psychological and physical torture they have gone through,

Caused mainly by our own complacency and ignorance.


We believe we are good for narrating their story,

We are righteous in our acknowledgement of their suffering,

We are angelic in our own sacrifices to help them.

But we do nothing, or rather, the overall affect we have

Is nothing. We make it worse, generally.

We bomb and steal, rape whole countries at a time,

And get surprised when our soldiers die in a war we started.


This is not to say that we do nothing, that there is no hope

So we should stop all our own minor sacrifices for the greater good.

We just need to do more, and do it together,

Not individually, working for all different causes, and means,

And reasons, and morals, and political gain,

But together, for the greater good, for human’s good.

If we can’t even help our neighbour, why, we don’t deserve to live

As far as I’m concerned. It is no wonder there are so many cults concerned with,

And such a market for apocalyptic, dystopian fictions. 1) IT’s not fiction.

2) We deserve the punishment we are writing for ourselves.


We do, purely, deserve death for our crimes against humanity.

There are too many of us in the world. We help no one but ourselves,

And when we do, we help because it alleviates our guilt for a while.



Because we are guilty. Language is inadequate for getting you to understand

And to motivate you, and to inspire you.

I can’t tell you, I can’t make you see, that everything we do, the entire basis of our society

Is destroying us, as a race, and we’re letting it happen because we are comfortable.

Because we believe we deserve it.

We don’t. We don’t deserve to destroy ourselves.

WE deserve to be sentenced to death for doing nothing about the destruction we are wreaking upon the race. But we don’t deserve that destruction.

We are the plague wanderer, the wandering survivor, living forever in the belief that punishment and the weight of guilt are what we deserve for having survived the biggest scale of self-destruction we’ve ever seen.

And it’s made us complacent, it’s raised the bar of suffering so that nothing can ever seem quite so bad. But I say it is; you want a modern day holocaust? Look to Syria, and Iraq, and Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Brazil, Ferguson, Michigan, Tehran.

France can fuck off.

Reductio ad hitlerum; we are hitler.

So sit and do nothing as a nation of people, we sit in the lap of consumerist luxury, suffering still in poverty or stress or isolation of seeing no one because we’re too busy because we’re working and that’s all we can think of we can think no further than the next paycheck because if we do we don’t know why we’re doing it why we’re putting ourselves through this why we’re working non-stop except in that it’s required to survive in a society of luxury why is it required in a society of luxury and riches and healthcare and education and why.

As a ‘nation’, as countries, we bomb places. We steal their oil and gold and people’s lives, and then wonder why they’re stil fighting can’t they learn they’re uncivilised underdeveloped not as clever as us yet we’ve sorted it we’re living in luxury but they suffer at their own hand. The people of said nations respond;

“But it’s your fault [the gov], we voted you in but its your fault these countries are like this you keep doing the wrong thing like you do to our doctors, you keep stealing what they need like you do with our students and firemen and police, and you keep taking for you and not helping these people to fix their country their countries are broken we employ you to fix them fix them fix us fix it.”

“You voted us in, we’re doing our best we don’t understand how to get them to stop we know it’s annoying but it’s like they can’ts help it, we can help it here we don’t know why they can’t, please help us, we’re sinking we’re trying please help us.”

“You did this didn’t you on purpose didn’t you we knew it you bastards you always screw us screw them screw up, screw up for everyone but yourselves and we see you now and we’re going to hold cardboard made in factories in tAiwan shipped over by the Chinese in boats made in ‘africa’ running on oil from Iraq and Saudi Arabia which seems to be doing ok so it’s ok, and we’re going to write on this cardboard with pens made from hazardous material that will pollute the water earth air for generations to come that were made in China risking the lives of thousands so we can have pretty colours, and we’re going to hold these up above our heads these things we make to tell you you’re failing you’re doing it wrong.

But no.

We don’t know what else to do.

You do though right?

And that’s why we’ll tell you through petitions online made on computers that contain poisons and degrade over millions of years and we go through millions a year because that’s our life now because we can’t look at our own world because to look is depressing because death and destruction and we know we’re responsible but we don’t know how to fix it we don’t know where we went wrong please help us.

You can fix it right?”






[Soundtrack; Runs in the Family, Amanda Palmer]
[White Noise Don Delilo unread, Ragtime E.L. Dotorow LOVED]