“Charity begins at home”
“What do you think this is – a charity?”
“I’m not a charity case”
“I’m not asking for charity”
“You’re just a bloomin’ do-gooder”
“Fundraisers harassing donors”
“The charity fat cats”
…and I’ve probably missed some more examples. Feel free to add them in the comments below if you have any that really grind your gears! It’s struck me for years how so much subtle criticism of charity and/or social concern generally has seeped into commonly used vernacular here in the UK.
I must admit, I find it really frustrating!
Take a phrase like ‘charity begins at home’. Now, I can actually see a kernel of truth in this one. We should seek to care for, to show love and support for, those in need who are closest to us – our families, our wider social circle, those in our communities, towns, cities and family of nations. There is also some truth to perhaps there being hypocrisy in the hypothetical situation whereby someone is showing an exterior concern for a far-away need, all the while ignoring a similar such need in their own surroundings.
…but in my experience that’s not a common hypocrisy of those engaged in global issues and it’s also not often how that phrase is used. It’s instead often used as a justification or shorthand for a kind of insular, ‘us vs. them’, anything but charitable nationalism that falsely pitches cause against cause (funding the NHS vs. international development for instance) with an undercurrent of de-legitimising care for global issues. In truth, of course, it’s not a binary equation – it’s not either/or, it’s and/both. It particularly saddens me when I see the phrase sometimes even being used by those in the sector to subtly hint that fundraising for certain causes is more legitimate than others… I don’t see it often, but when I do, I feel like screaming ‘we’re all on the same side people!’
So… why this blog post?
…well it’s partly therapy I suppose. I thought you might be a community that resonates with my frustration on this one! …but more broadly I’d like to ask you all how you think we can reclaim some of these words in our culture and society? Could we kick-start a new series of catch phrases and buzzwords that describe the positive aspects of charity and social concern in an easily communicable way? How do we, in our everyday language, advocate subtly in the opposite direction?
Ideas welcome… and any of your pet peeve phrases I’ve missed!