Posted by: rogermitchell | August 5, 2010

Animated prophecy on why charity can make things worse!

Stephen has posted a great link in his comment to the last post. Slavoj Zizek at his best, brilliantly animated, declaring where the west is at.



  1. Well, Stephen has made my point for me – in a much more delightful manner. It reminds me of when I went to work for 5 churches in a low-income neighbourhood in western Toronto as a community pastor. There, the church ladies collected old clothes and sold them to the poor. But they did not put a price on the clothes. No, the price was set when the ‘poor’ person walked in depending upon how they impressed the lady in the store with their poverty. Appalling. But the good church ladies wanted to give, to be charitable to their low income neighbours.

    So I flipped the model on its head. I noted that Jesus says it is more blessed to give than to receive and that our job is to make sure the ‘poor’ have the capacity to give so that they would get the blessing. So the job of the local evangelical churches (who served the protestant rich while a single catholic church served the poor) was to create new neighbourhood structures as needed to ensure that their low income neighbours could be givers. We embarked on an adventure of learning how to make community across the rubicon of the dividing road as rich and poor people joined together to improve the area, add necessary services, create groups to address issues together. It was wildly successful.

    The big moment for me was when we held a dinner that brought together the volunteers from several programs to share what they felt about the neighbourhood and had learned during our adventure of several years. I was totally awed when a number of those good church ladies stood and talked about how they had learned that the poor folk across the road were no different from them and that it was the most important friendship of their lives that they had worked all together to improve everyone’s lives. Yes, I’m not a great fan of charity as it plays into and supports the totalitarian system. I’d rather be a subversive.

    That used clothing store was redecorated, and prices put on the clothes. It was also wildly successful when run like a real business, eventually moved to a very large space and provided signficant income for the ministry.

    I did used to tell the old ladies in the churches that they were indeed subversives when they proudly told me about growing tomatoes on their balconies or in their yards. They would giggle at the thought of undercutting the corportist and consumerist society.


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