Reconsidering Altruism: The Pain in the Ass of Trying to do Good

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(A very unnecessary pessimism post better left unread, you have been warned)

Let’s face it, it is NEVER easy trying to do the good and the right thing.

Those spirited good young things, being on the street, volunteering at soup kitchens and shouting at the top of their lung at rallies for “the cause”, whatever it might be, with all the best intentions. They just made us feel ashamed of ourself for not being out there too, to be part of something noble.

They might be the same arrogant ass, a few years later, who cussed under his breath every time a homefree asking him for spare change, or when having his Waja route detoured every time there is a street rally. It is so easy to go to the other side.

It is tiring to do good. It (implication to God for all you God fearing people out there) is designed in a way that it is always hard to do good than to do evil things. You think shoplifting is hard? Try initiating a simple night neighbourhood watch. Or a simple, one-day woman empowerment workshop for your local community.

Doing good deeds takes so much effort and commitment, it is no wonder that we always see burnout-ed activists everywhere- those that claimed that they have seen it all, done it all and saw no changes. And now, as if an act of revenge, they go all out immersing themselves in what they used to go against.

Humans are motivated by results- we are more results oriented than we might think we are. It also happens that most of the time, the good deeds that we do will go unrewarded in any emotion, motivation and what more a monetary way. Don’t even hope for the slightest appreciation from the receiving end. Don’t.

That is why people always tell you to do good but never expect anything in return, because you will not. Don’t even hope that God give a slight attention to you, you are still way behind in your points collection- get used to it. Even the slightest hope to see something good in return is not advisable- give and go, don’t stay too long- it’s a case that you don’t get to reap what you sow.

The kind cabbie who gave back the customer her envelope full with cash gets one day of media coverage the little headlines that you ignored, the one news on the bottom left, to fill the space on the publication that day. Do the maths: a simple thank you and 15 minutes of national press fame doesn’t really outweigh the amount of cash that could help paying the bills. And to help you to finally get the permit and stop renting from the taxi company.

Honestly, people who do good has a sense of self-righteousness in them. The holier than thou aura that surrounds them everytime they prescribed their help to the less unfortunate. The imagined saintliness of the giving hand. The you-don’t-know-what-you-need-I-will-provide-you-with-what-you-need. Like those who tried to get the homeless to welfare shelter, when the homeless just wants to be free.

To social activists out there, regardless of what your cause is, let’s give yourself an your organisation a check: Are you really providing people what they really need? Do they really want to be taught fishing or they just wanted the fish? Is what you think is ‘better’ for them is really what they want? Do they really want you to get them a job?

You may have the best intention of the world. You are young and would love to appear as the next Mother Theresa. But do the people really need your help? All thse people in charity organisations always think that their help is needed. The fact is, and I personally have an unfortunate event that has taught me this, people does not always want you to interfere with their businesses.

I mean, who the hell are you? You have been living in a different world before you came in to interfere and to engage in your humanitarian points collecting. The fact remains- you don’t know shit about the people that you believed you will be able to make better. Do you ever ask them if they ever need your help? If you don’t think that it’s necessary then aren’t you just the self-righteous bastard who imposes your values to people?

You might be surprised that the door is not always open for you. Albeit your saintly intentions. Albeit you well-planned grassroots organising modules. Albeit your empowerment workshop. Not welcome in the first place, what more of being appreciated.

Still want to save the world?

One last jab in the gut, consider this: Do all the fucking good deeds throughout you fucking life, be the saint that you envision yourself to be: Never litter a cigarette butt. Be a vegan. Organiser of various workshops and civic awareness programme. Never miss a charity event where you donated, or at least helped in raking in donations. But you screwed up one time, all your prior deeds will be deducted. You are back in point zero. Square one.

See, doing good is never easy. Ironic, since “Doing good shouldn’t be so hard”, right? Unless you are ready for all the mentioned pessimism from me, try not to be another has been who kept on clinging on their past short stint. But if you are really into it, live it. Engaging in activism is almost never a ‘pastime’, it needs fulltime commitment.

I was never the one who condone pessimism but I was fairly disappointed with a recent incident that brings my attention to reconsider altruism. I decided to hold on.


Written by yuenkokleong

December 7, 2007 at 5:32 am

Posted in Emo, Firing neurons

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