I was recently asked whether I wanted to contribute to a charitable donation for Christmas via my department. The donations will allegedly go to those proverbial "inner city kids, who have nothing". I am unsure whether in this case majority rules, and I would be forced to contribute regardless of my opinion, or whether the decisions would be made on an individual basis. Likewise, I am unsure as to how I should go about not coming across as the Meanest Woman in the World by declining, and whether I should even be concerned if such a perception were to arise.
I've always been somewhat intrigued by the fairly related (oxy)moronic notion of forced volunteering, which I had initially encountered in high school. Having only been in Canada for a couple of years at that point, I was astonished to find out that 150 hours of volunteering were part of the requirement for the International Baccalaureate program. For the first time in my life shockingly my academic achievements alone were insufficient (of course, that was before grad school entry ;)).
Even those who do not participate in such activities for an immediate purpose like a program requirement are fully aware of the resume benefits that an act like this would provide afterwards. The obvious positive effects of "forced volunteering" aside, we could at least choose another title for it - the lack of financial gain is not enough reason to maintain its current name.
During my first years in Canada, I was similarly shocked to see just how much fundraising was done for just about every imaginable cause. Unimaginable, yet real causes included encountering parents in an attempt to raise money for their children's dance classes! Most of the time I would not even answer the phone calls or open the door, and if I did, my negative response incurred angry looks or even commentary. One of the more recent examples includes:
"Welcome to Tim Horton's. Would you like to donate a dollar to the Tsunami victims"?
"Can I buy a coffee in peace and not get harrassed about donations?" - Okay, I thought that one, which doesn't make it any less valid.
Would you like to buy a bracelet to fight lupus?
Would you like to sponsor a child through World Vision? What about the Christian Children's Fund? What about United Way? What about..........
And if you indeed would like to sponsor such a child for the mere price of a cup of coffee a day, you aren't even given the choice of the child's location! Apparently, feeling greater affinity towards a youngster from a related culture is unacceptable!
The biggest mass hypnosis donation mockery is, of course, Live Aid. It is particularly infuriating to witness financial demands from the likes of Russia due to its membership in the G8, while it cannot feed its own. And it gives, it gives! Remants of tearing a shirt (skin) off your back and starving yourself - a standard Soviet mentality - is alive and well, while third world dictatorial moochers continue perfecting their beggary skills.
In general, Canadians pay high enough (~30%) taxes to cover many of these causes (whether or not we'd like our money to be spent in such a way) - so when a country's leader decides to increase financial aid drawn from these taxes towards [insert a third world disaster here] and you are approached to donate further, a raised eyebrow response is to be expected in the very least.
Even considering our taxes, there are a number of causes towards which I would not mind contributing. The common thread shared by these selected causes is the fact that they embody a personal interest - dog shelters and hereditary familial ailments, for example. I also do have an interest in helping children, however, I would a) bypass an organization and b) focus on slavic children in orphanages only. Such charitable financial support out of personal engagement is directly pertinent to complex political and economic structures within a given state, which involve the way in which issues like social welfare, healthcare, and tax designation are dealt with, and is clearly beyond the scope or purpose of this rant.
It suffices to say that for every cause there is bound to be someone interested; hence personal engagement leads to improved results due to heightened motivation - the kind that cannot possible arise out of a guilt trip. More often than not, those individuals agitating for saving the world most ardently and accusing everyone else around them of "selfishness" also demonstrate the greatest lack of concern for their personal microcosm - even something as simple as giving up your seat to an old woman on public transportation. And I would much rather "start with the man in the mirror"! (Tee hee hee!)