The Tao of Charity

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The Yin and Yang of World Hunger by David Revoy

Most people would agree that poverty is a big problem in our world today. Let’s rethink this notion. Is poverty or wealth more problematic? Which causes more problems and harm to the world?

A poor man may commit petty theft because he doesn’t have enough to eat. On the other hand, a rich man has the potential to commit white collar crime, steal more money and cause more damage than all the poor people in the world put together. The worst part is, the rich man steals because he is greedy, not hungry. It is the wealthy and powerful men of this world that are destroying our planet for the sake of profit. The rich and powerful kill thousands of  innocent people without hardly lifting a finger. How much harm can a poor man really do?

Poor people suffer, and their children suffer. Millions of children die just because they are born into poverty. For most people, this is a big problem. However, isn’t it better to die than to be the walking dead? To be a zombie. To be a slave to money and materialism. The wealthy may seem like they aren’t suffering or anywhere close to starving, but I’m sure some of their spirits and souls are starved to death.

There’s so much talk about alleviating poverty. We’ve been trying for ages to help the poor. Unfortunately, no amount of aid, money, or volunteers seem to be enough to even make sure that people do not starve to death. Isn’t this absurd in a world where so much of food is wasted everyday? It makes you think.

Wealth causes inequalities. It is in the nature of wealth that only a few can be wealthy, since one person’s wealth depends on other people’s lack of it. Our economical system is like a game of musical chairs – the scarcity is created as the law of economics states that the lower the supply, the higher the demand. There are not enough chairs for everyone, and there is only one winner. We cannot all be rich. Some must lose for others to win. Some must starve so others can stuff themselves with food. This is the yin and yang of world hunger.

Wealth causes poverty, and then tries to alleviate it. It is clearly not working. Philanthropists are basically wealthy people that give money to the poor. But maybe poor people wouldn’t have to suffer so much if philanthropists didn’t feed the hand that bites us. You see, wealthy people feed the system – the capitalistic system which bites us when we are the weakest or poorest. Wealthy people make a lot of money, and they spend a lot of money. Without wealthy people or the working class heroes, the cruel capitalistic system would come crashing down. Charity is not only about giving, it’s about not taking so much in the first place.

So now that we’ve established that wealth is the main problem, not poverty; let’s turn the tables. Let’s help to save the poor rich people instead. The UN’s new goal should be to alleviate wealth! But there’s something all of us can do to help eradicate wealth. What? How? Don’t be greedy! Only take what you really need. Most of the problems in our world today are caused by over-consumption. Over-consumption leads to environmental destruction and the suffering of countless people and animals. And who consumes the most? Wealthy people of course. So what can you do? Live simply, so others can simply live.

A central theme in Taoist philosophy is Wu-wei – to do without doing. We can sometimes do more (and less harm) by doing less. In fact, we may cause more harm and damage running around trying to save the world. Our intentions are good, but the outcome is damaging. Aid creates dependency. Wealth begets poverty. Many people aim to be rich with the good intention of then being able to help the less fortunate, but unfortunately it’s a vicious cycle. A farmer friend of mine told me once to look at the tree. It just stands there and seems like it’s doing nothing, but it contributes so much to this world without hardly moving. On the other hand, humans are busy running around trying to improve and make things better, but only to cause more damage. We can be more effective and contribute much more to the world through quiet contemplation and mindful actions. This is the Tao of charity.

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