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 As Cold as Charity?

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Sun 27 Apr 2014, 12:41

For Plato charity was one expression of a person's innate sense of justice, a sense that the individual was obliged to educate and encourage - a much more laudable motive I would suggest than personal salvation in a supposed afterlife or pursuit of a "feel good factor" in this one. Plato also maintained that there would always be people less fortunate or in worse straits than yourself - the bit that found its way into christianity as "the poor will always be with us" - but for him the seeking of justice was not confined to mere believers in any faith or contingent on any belief in any particular deity, it was a universal truth that applied to all individuals and placed the same responsibilities on all of them too, regardless of where in the pecking order of social status they found themselves.

Look it up in your "Big Book of Bloody Plato" - it sits in the same paragraphs as Wisdom, Courage and (irony of ironies) Temperance. Harmony of the soul depended on these elements finding expression internally and externally. Charity falls in the latter category. In Plato's perfect world where everyone faces up to their personal and social responsibilities charity can ultimately be confined to simple acceptance of others since the harmony is universal. In the meantime in our imperfect world it requires more fundamentally practical expression. This is essentially a humanist standpoint, not a religious one.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Sun 27 Apr 2014, 16:06

@nordmann wrote:
Yet what if your colleague was a product of this class you call "third generation unemployed" and had suffered the same misfortune regarding their child's health? How realistic would it be to expect them, however many good intentions they might have in that regard, to so successfully contribute through their own efforts to the cost of the child's medical needs?

This is a valid question in itself although I didn’t refer to ‘class’ to describe either my colleague or the 3rd generation unemployed person. Class doesn’t come into it as such. The term I used was ‘type’.

I have no interest in judging people by their class or by their religion or by their sex or by their nationality. It’s an individual’s character that interests me. A third generation unemployed person could belong to any class just as someone in employment can belong to any class.

What is the case, is that being chronically unemployed (and therefore dependent upon the public purse for their and their family’s needs) then there is an obvious onus on that person to exercise responsibility and restraint with (among other things) regard to the number of children they have. That way the state treasury would not be so stretched and there would much more likely be a reserve available for precisely those unexpected occasions (such as rare illnesses) when special calls are made for targeted funding. Needless to say that this also applies to the reserve of funds available generally in the wider economy (away from the state) in the form of spare cash which is freed up to be given in charity by individuals and groups. It’s a question of percentages.

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In my experience it is those who control that other purse, the one which far exceeds the public one and which is anything but public itself, who deserve as much if not more the finger pointed at them and yet are rarely even mentioned when the subject of real "fecklessness" arises.

If this is a reference to the super-rich then as I have said they will always be with us just as they always have been. Even during the ‘egalitarian’ years of the Cold War decades the super-rich lived lives outside of the realms of most people’s experience (East or West), holidaying in secluded, luxury resorts in places such as Montenegro etc.

I, for one, am well beyond the simplistic view that if we could only effectively tax the super-rich then we would suddenly solve all the world’s problems and none of us would have to exercise personal responsibility ever again. Even if all of the world’s wealth were to be theoretically divided equally among all the people in the world, within a year of that event some people would have managed to lose nearly all their capital while some others would have increased their wealth ten-fold or more. And within a generation we would quite likely be back close to where we started in terms of wealth distribution. Simply throwing money at a problem does not necessarily solve it and is quite often counter-productive.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Sun 27 Apr 2014, 16:27

I couldn't agree more with you regarding the redistribution of wealth - a waste of time whenever it has been integrated into any political ideology. And I would reckon whether you call the chronically unemployed (now there is a term to investigate) a type of person or a class of person is secondary to the issue of how this ever comes about, what its actual impact is on society, and whether it does or does not place extraordinary levels of responsibility on those included in that class/type over and above those placed on other classes/types. These are not questions that can be easily addressed if one retreats into stereotypical views, but yet that is exactly the current trend in the British media as far as I can make out and seems to be one that is shared by enough people now as to find expression within domestic political policies being touted to attract votes by certain parties.

Plato would have reversed the logic here, especially since that which passes for logic as popularly expressed appears to be little more than a spiral of self-fulfilling prognostications which cumulatively pull away from an answer rather than help approach one. True, there will always be those more fortunate than you in terms of wealth and by definition therefore an elite of super wealthy people. But why - or more particularly how - do they escape the moral opprobrium we are increasingly familiar with as directed against the welchers at the other end of the social spectrum? I agree that the idea of levying taxes on them is practically futile, but then even contemplating a need for such a levy at all is simply confirmation of the fact that without coercion they too are failing in the platonic sense to address their responsibilities with regard to equity and justice.

Religions, especially Christian and Moslem variants of Abrahamic monotheism, have attempted to apply a different sort of coercion to achieve the same goal. But they too have failed, as is evident from just looking around you. Plato, ever the helpful chappie, offered no solution to this dilemma either except of course the crazy notion that people could actually be educated to understand not only themselves but their relationship to a harmonious cosmos.

But was it all that crazy after all? Perhaps after the obvious and catastrophic failure of religion to do much more than dent the collective conscience in this regard (justice is not a concept much discussed in religious texts) it is time we sheepishly admit our failure in attempting to replace intelligence with religion and go back to first principles again. Much like Plato said, actually.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Sun 27 Apr 2014, 16:59

@Vizzer wrote:


I, for one, am well beyond the simplistic view that if we could only effectively tax the super-rich then we would suddenly solve all the world’s problems and none of us would have to exercise personal responsibility ever again. Even if all of the world’s wealth were to be theoretically divided equally among all the people in the world, within a year of that event some people would have managed to lose nearly all their capital while some others would have increased their wealth ten-fold or more. And within a generation we would quite likely be back close to where we started in terms of wealth distribution. Simply throwing money at a problem does not necessarily solve it and is quite often counter-productive.


I couldn't agree more. We have to throw something far more powerful at the problem than money.

Why do people simply give up on themselves and those whom they love? That's what we - and the charitable organisations - need to address. How do you make people "responsible" for themselves? How do you convince them the effort is worthwhile? That they are worthwhile? I would respectfully suggest that haranguing them and lecturing them does no good at all. If you think you are a total waste of space, you really couldn't give a damn what other people think; their disapproval or their scorn simply confirms what you already think/know/presume about yourself. And that applies to all "losers" - even folk like Hans Rausing and his late wife - rich beyond anyone's dreams - yet two people whose lives were as empty and wretched as the lives of any of the characters from Trainspotting. What went wrong there - what was the problem that several billions couldn't solve?

This is where love - in the spiritual, not in the cold, "religious" sense, or in the soppy, gooey sense - comes in and it can transform people and lives. It makes people grow - and so grow up. And it's where I think the Platonists - the intellectuals - fail. I mean no disrespect by that. You can't intellectualise pain and self-doubt and misery away. Reading Plato doesn't make people feel they matter. Sorry, but it just doesn't work. You can all laugh at me - I honestly don't care - I know what does work. I've seen it time and time again -  in my own life and in the lives of others.

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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Sun 27 Apr 2014, 19:36

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This is where love - in the spiritual, not in the cold, "religious" sense, or in the soppy, gooey sense - comes in and it can transform people and lives. It makes people grow - and so grow up. And it's where I think the Platonists - the intellectuals - fail.

There are so many ambiguities in that statement that it probably is the best summary I have ever read of how the religious mind thinks. The notion of the failure of intelligence, the notion that intellect is secondary to something that is not defined and cannot be because that would just be intellectual then wouldn't it, the notion that "love" itself can be categorised by temperature - all these things and more are what have amused me about religion since I first learnt that it provided about as many answers to life's great mysteries as sellotape.

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Reading Plato doesn't make people feel they matter.

I found it terribly affirming at first, actually. It certainly made me feel intelligence mattered, something the religious around me in my childhood had stressed was quite the opposite of their version of "the truth". And as someone who was looking for a rather more thought out analysis of who we all are and where we're going this therefore made me feel that I "mattered" too. So I don't think your  generalisation is actually right there - maybe it's the way philosophy is tackled in a world skewed by theology that makes it inaccessible? I don't know. But I would still recommend one approaches life that way rather than through instructions veiled in pseudo-philosophical platitudes masquerading as verities. For one thing it's more fun.

Temp wrote:
You can all laugh at me - I honestly don't care - I know what does work. I've seen it time and time again -  in my own life and in the lives of others.

Aristotle would have been proud of you with that statement, Temp. It is exactly the subjective approach he reckoned the honest person must use when first engaging a subject and beginning to form one's hypothesis. "I just know it and f**k the begrudgers!". Excellent. Now we await the hypothesis, the examples, and of course the method behind testing the theory.

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You can't intellectualise pain and self-doubt and misery away.

If by intellectualise you mean engage yourself intelligently in getting to the bottom of something and fixing it then yes - sometimes you can. As with any other method it's hit and miss depending on the subject and the circumstances through which they have arrived at their point of self-doubt and misery. But yes, sometimes you can do just that. It's called psychiatry and sometimes it works.

Nice video - the notion that Holy Jesus Meek and Mild, the Love God, is cruising around cutting people down is so American. Cash does a perfect rendition. I liked it.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Sun 27 Apr 2014, 20:29

@nordmann wrote:
Nice video - the notion that Holy Jesus Meek and Mild, the Love God, is cruising around cutting people down is so American.


You don't do a bad job of cutting people down yourself, chuck.  Smile 

Actually, I think you've misunderstood the lyrics - isn't the song aimed at the exploiters - the real sinners? Perhaps I'm wrong, but it is a catchy tune, isn't it? Shame Bono's in the vid.

Actually where addiction is concerned psychiatry doesn't work very well - Jung said that. I'll try and find the relevant quotation, but will be tomorrow now, I'm afraid.  

PS Sellotape is indeed a wonderful thing.

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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Sun 27 Apr 2014, 21:28

Actually where psychiatry is concerned Jung doesn't work very well - but maybe it's just addiction said that.

The Australian Catholics have a problem with the sellotape area of soteriological theory in theological studies. But then the product has a different name there:

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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Sun 27 Apr 2014, 21:54

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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Mon 28 Apr 2014, 04:07

@nordmann wrote:
Spoken like a true Orwellian, ID. Wigan in the 1930s shared much with the circumstances pertaining in Greece at the present time and he concluded the same.

On the subject of "deprivation" in contemporary British society however it is worth noting that there is at present a suspiciously coordinated attempt being conducted through the popular media to characterise this chiefly as a systematic abuse of the welfare state by a sort of "underclass" whose principles are non-existent and capacity to injure society as yet unchecked - a "threat" in other words to the well-being and stability of the majority. However it does not take much research beyond the superficial to see that the disintegration of this stability and the evaporation of state-assisted well-being is being driven by factors and groups of people who have nothing whatsoever to do with this so-called underclass at all. It would be tempting to call it ironical that those currently worst affected by this disintegration of social guarantees are being enthusiastically encouraged to blame this nebulous class of freeloaders until, that is, one remembers that old historical phrase beloved of those in power intent on daylight robbery; "divide and conquer".

Yep and on a much wider scale, we've seen the same tactics used in the EU/EZ since the crisis began. Lazy, corrupt, irresponsible, feckless freeloaders in the south as opposed to the parsimonious, responsible, honest, hardworking northerners. Even a cursory glance at a few facts blows this rubbish out of the water but it confirms pre-existing prejudices and fears and effectively distracts attention away from the underlying causes and culprits. Even with mass education systems in place for many years, people can still be sheep.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Mon 28 Apr 2014, 05:46

And you see it on a much smaller scale in little New Zealand - I think it is a modern phenomenon, at least in comparison to the early 20th century.  The man (a scientist) speaking at our Anzac Day service said that the soldiers in WWI (and no doubt WWII) realised that living or dying in war was a matter of luck, and brought that idea back, so that 'deserving' wasn't a criterion that that generation applied to poor or rich people.  So they were prepared to set up free education and free health etc.  Now my son looks out his window and sees people getting benefits and having more children while they wait till the can afford them, whereas I look out my window and see my poor neighbours, also on benefits, putting their home-made woodwork and craft out on the street to try and sell a bit and have a little more to live on. They work much harder than me and have a lot less. (My other son tries to ensure he doesn't see any neighbours on benefits from his window. Not entirely successfully since they are in a student flat area.)

As regards intelligence and love, different people have different ideas on what is the most important value in life. I read recently someone saying kindness was the main thing needed.  I remember my husband telling me once that I over-valued intelligence; he thought I made excuses for people if they were bright, even if they were bastards. (But he's always thinking I make excuses for people; I think I am just providing reasons or showing what their justification would or could be.)  I have just come home from a funeral of a woman who was kind and loving and not lacking in intelligence.  But she seemed to have a very difficult life - her sister at the funeral talked of their father being brutal and lashing out at them with cowrope. And she suffered from depression  - the first time I met her I knocked on her door collecting for something and she answered it in floods of tears.  When I apologised for the disruption she took me inside and explained she had depression and it was a bad day.  But she also had diabetes, other illnesses, abusive and frightening children in jail, and a lot of challenging life experiences.  Religion and faith and her second husband and grand-daughter seemed to be her lifelines.  But other people without much kindness, love or intelligence seem to sail through life.  There doesn't seem to  be any connection between deservedness and what you get.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Mon 28 Apr 2014, 08:59

@Caro wrote:
There doesn't seem to  be any connection between deservedness and what you get.

It was this above all else, according to a very fine lecturer of mine one time, that distinguished philosophy from theology. Whether the sentiment is treated as fact or assumption it is obvious that the opposite fact or assumption - that the universe contains (or should contain) an in-built reward and punishment scheme, a divine ledger of consequences - is the one that underpins all religious faiths and all resultant theologies they spawn. Philosophy on the other hand has always entertained the notion that nothing so banal can be attributed to the cosmos based on actual observation and that therefore the "truth" must lie beyond such strictures or the need for them. It was, he said, the difference between thinking and wishful thinking, and when studying philosophy it is a good rule of thumb to apply that test to each hypothesis presented. As much as theology borrows piecemeal from philosophy it is also true that the inverse applies, though in cases where philosophy imports elements from theology it is nearly always an impediment to logic and a challenge to reason and therefore must be tackled before proceeding. A bit like encountering pollution on an ocean voyage but being obliged to clean it up rather than circumnavigate it if one wishes to reach the other side.

One is on much surer ground - both philosophically and indeed theologically - if one limits the notions of deservedness and justice to the human experience. That there is an innate understanding and appreciation of the concept amongst all humanity is evident. Socrates asked why this was so. Plato asked how this was so. Aristotle attempted some answers. However it is one of those notorious intangibles one encounters in philosophy where something apparently self-evident and simple proves to be anything but when one attempts to understand the why, what and how of its existence, and that is even before one attempts to adduce principles based on that existence.

Religious theologians can employ a short-cut regarding why, what and how. Politicians and ideologists can employ a short-cut regarding the establishment of principles. The rest of us tend to waver in that grey area between not knowing for sure and possibly never being able to know but are as obliged as anyone, even the deepest philosophical or theological thinker, to live by rules as if established through principle. It is from this area of our psyche, according to platonic thinking, that the internal dialogue we hold produces the concept of, and indeed the need to do, charitable acts.


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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Mon 28 Apr 2014, 09:26

@Caro wrote:
There doesn't seem to  be any connection between deservedness and what you get.
And is not this a major cause of religion - and irreligion? If it can be observed that there ain't no justice in this life, is there not a temptation to believe that therefore there must be some mechanism to administer that justice after death (or in another incarnation)? Or, conversely, that if tanj (to use Larry Niven's contraction) is so, why bother being good?
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Mon 28 Apr 2014, 09:35

But we "bother being good" irrespective of whether we entertain theological truths as such or not. That much is observable (as is that adherence to religious principles does not preclude people from "bothering to do bad"). So recognition of the apparent absence of a reward system may indeed influence a person's religious or irreligious outlook but does not necessarily affect their morality or understanding of what is "good and bad".

What is universally accepted - to keep it within the thread's ambit - is that the inclination to perform charitable acts is definitely good, at least in terms of motive.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Mon 28 Apr 2014, 10:12

why bother being good?

I've been sitting on my hands but I can't any longer - it's Darwin (as ever), altruism confers an evolutionary advantage.

We illustrate that while kinship or genetic similarity among those interacting may generate a favourable structure of interaction environments, it is not a fundamental requirement for the evolution of altruism, and even suicidal aid can theoretically evolve without help ever being exchanged among genetically similar individuals.  

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/276/1654/13.full

Sober argues that, even if we accept an evolutionary approach to human behaviour, there is no particular reason to think that evolution would have made humans into egoists rather than psychological altruists (see also Schulz 2011). On the contrary, it is quite possible that natural selection would have favoured humans who genuinely do care about helping others, i.e., who are capable of ‘real’ or psychological altruism. Suppose there is an evolutionary advantage associated with taking good care of one's children—a quite plausible idea. Then, parents who really do care about their childrens' welfare, i.e., who are ‘real’ altruists, will have a higher inclusive fitness, hence spread more of their genes, than parents who only pretend to care, or who do not care. Therefore, evolution may well lead ‘real’ or psychological altruism to evolve. Contrary to what is often thought, an evolutionary approach to human behaviour does not imply that humans are likely to be motivated by self-interest alone. One strategy by which ‘selfish genes’ may increase their future representation is by causing humans to be non-selfish, in the psychological sense.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/altruism-biological/#ButItReaAlt
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Mon 28 Apr 2014, 11:29

Excellent point and irrefutable, ferval. Which is why modern philosophers occupy themselves primarily now with the area of how this proven and biologically explicable altruism reflects or doesn't reflect aspects of the ego. Only in certain theologies (normally of the more fundamentalist kind) is Darwinian logic ignored or even outright demonised.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Mon 28 Apr 2014, 16:51

@nordmann wrote:
Excellent point and irrefutable, ferval. Which is why modern philosophers occupy themselves primarily now with the area of how this proven and biologically explicable altruism reflects or doesn't reflect aspects of the ego. Only in certain theologies (normally of the more fundamentalist kind) is Darwinian logic ignored or even outright demonised.
True - but how does that account for charities devoted to animals, preservation of artifacts etc? Whilst it would certainly account for giving to some charities, there are a few on this list I find it difficult to account for by citing this principle, whilst others work in places so remote from the donor's community to give me, at least, cause to wonder at the adequacy of this explanation.
http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/apr/24/top-1000-charities-donations-britain
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Mon 28 Apr 2014, 17:30

We had an evolution thread a while ago and I mentioned the work of George R. Price. Price proved mathematically that there is no such thing as "pure" altruism, although I believe there is still fierce debate in scientific circles as to what this means exactly. I have to admit I find the maths/science of it all terribly difficult to grasp, but the human story of this brilliant but terribly sad and lonely man fascinates me.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24457645

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_R._Price

For those of you who can understand such things, here is his equation:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price_equation#Example:_Evolution_of_altruism

George Price had been a militant atheist, but the bleakness of his own mathematics unhinged him: he underwent a religious conversion and he became determined to help the homeless, the alcoholic and the destitute. He gave away all he had, and invited homeless drunks to share his flat. Many of those whom he tried to help exploited him, but not all.

I read in the recent biography of Price of one incident that, were it not for the man's eventual terrible end (Price took his own life), would have been good material for an episode of Rev. Price had set up a little altar in his flat, complete with a wooden cross, hoping that the two alcoholics whom he was trying to help would use it for quiet prayer and contemplation. He returned home from the University of London one night to discover that George (I think that was also the alcoholic's name), in a laudable attempt to improve his personal hygiene, had washed his underpants. He had then draped them over the cross to dry.


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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Tue 29 Apr 2014, 08:35

Oh. That stern and chilling interrogative "And?" has disappeared, nordmann. And I've just spent ages trying to answer your question. What the heck: here's what I've written.
 
And? I really don't know. What am I supposed to say? The story of the underpants on the cross (it's to be found in The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness by Oren Harman, 2010) made me laugh when I first read it, but laugh in the rueful way you do at some of the ridiculous incidents in Rev*, incidents which are darkly funny because of the absurdity and apparent futility of it all; absurdity and futility which baffle and frustrate the Rev. Adam Smallbone (and the rest of us), but which sadly eventually helped to destroy George Price.
 
And? So did Price's desperate and obviously needy attempts to prove that his equations were all wrong, and that "pure altruism" - ie. charity or caritas or agape in the Christian sense - does exist, actually offer pretty good evidence that the opposite is true: confirm suspicions that such an approach is not only misguided, foolish, unintelligent, but, what is worse, is often indicative of a serious sickness in the would-be giver? George really did take the Gospel injunction: "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven" literally, and his exploitation by the recipients of his charity, most of whom stole from him and laughed at him, would suggest that he had been wasting his time and his energy, and that he was quite deluded. Those underpants, so carelessly and casually tossed over George's ridiculous little cross, could definitely be seen as a sign that his "mission" was actually a bit of a farce.
 
Price's work with the homeless and with the hopeless alcoholics of his neighbourhood ended in utter disaster; eventually, exhausted, malnourished and in need of medication for a thyroid condition, he gave in to despair. Indeed his "ecstatic Christianity" could well have been a symptom of another condition which should have been treated medically: Price was possibly bipolar and the ecstasy of his altruism had perhaps been the manic phase of this condition. He now was plunged in the dark abyss of depression and he died horrifically, cutting his carotid artery with, of all things, a pair of nail scissors. This brilliant mathematician and scientist bled to death alone in his flat.
 
And Price had been brilliant - yet only two members of British academia showed up at his funeral: W.D. Hamilton and Maynard Smith. The other members of the tiny group of mourners were the lame ducks and losers whom he had tried to help. Underpants George was one of them. He told W.D. Hamilton: "George was the only one who cared about us."
 
And? I suppose we all have to work that out for ourselves.
 
PS *Rev - I think you would enjoy this programme immensely, nordmann. The script by James Wood is brilliant. I'm not absolutely sure, but I think someone told me Wood read Philosophy at Oxford and Yale (like you do). It's very funny and not at all God-squaddy or Vicar of Dibley-ish - quite the opposite. I love it. Colin the alkie/drug addict is my favourite character after Adam. Colin reads The God Delusion and pronounces: "This Dawkins is a right twat. His book is a load of shit." (Think he said shit, might have been bollocks. Ferval will know.)
 
PPS Ralph Fiennes plays the Bishop of London. As a reviewer in the Telegraph puts it: Ralph Fiennes dropping in to play the Bishop of London. There were so many degrees of irony at work when Lord Voldemort himself arrived at St Saviours having, so to speak, swapped codes, that my brain nearly exploded. Exactly - a delicious little touch.


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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Tue 29 Apr 2014, 09:07

Oh Temp, that's the most wonderful image, positively Caravagian (if that's a word), the underpants on the cross. The theologians - and the art historians - could have such fun, mining it for deeply significant symbolism. Let's be playful: the underpants are the soul, washed clean of sin and uplifted by Christ's sacrifice, is one obvious one, I however am pleased to think of that unpleasant and inaccurate lump of wood being used for something useful.

I'm afraid I can't remember exactly what Colin said but I have had fun trying to work out who all the characters are meant to symbolise. Adam is, well, Adam or Christ or everyman, Colin is Peter, Nigel is Judas, the bish is Pilate and so forth. I haven't watched the last one yet but I'm looking forward to seeing how it handles Adam's metaphorical resurrection.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Tue 29 Apr 2014, 17:43

@ferval wrote:
Oh Temp, that's the most wonderful image, positively Caravagian (if that's a word), the underpants on the cross. The theologians - and the art historians - could have such fun, mining it for deeply significant symbolism. Let's be playful: the underpants are the soul, washed clean of sin and uplifted by Christ's sacrifice, is one obvious one...
 
When I've had a few glasses of wine I'll come back with something involving Caravaggio, St. Peter and Calvin Klein, ferval, but haven't the heart for it at the moment. I've just been watching that really sad last episode from Season One when Adam gets terribly depressed about his  minus one rating on GodSpot.com (for his sermon on sheep). It's the episode with the vicar and tarts party where Nigel goes as the Pope. His costume was wonderful. I wonder if you really can hire a triple tiara from a fancy-dress shop? Probably you can in London, but not, alas, in Exeter.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 08:55

Price attempted to construct a biological theory which could explain altruism. Ultimately he failed to get beyond hypothesis. In recent years there has been a rekindling of interest in his published thesis, however the consensus is that Price had seriously underestimated W.D. Hamilton's alternative genetic explanation (which still works as a theory in biological modelling) and had placed an over-reliance on psychological motivations - something that can be made apply to individuals or small sub-sets of taxonomically ranked groups but which is notoriously difficult to make applicable to entire species, as Price had believed but never proved. Hamilton's Rule goes as follows:

"A gene for altruistic self sacrifice will spread through a population if the cost to the altruist is outweighed by the benefit to the recipient devalued by a fraction representing the genetic relatedness between the two."

This rule is now accepted as probably the best stab yet at a biological explanation for altruism based on observable behaviour at a genetic level, explaining all but reciprocal instances between non-related individuals (Hamilton addressed this later in other theoretical work). Price, tragically for him, had ignored or failed to recognise the devaluation principle employed in Hamilton's theory. He therefore ended up with flawed biological theory and pretty dismal philosophical theory, a hypothesis in other words that could never be empirically tested. His own attempt to do so regardless, coupled with a motivation that owed as much to delusional religious belief as to science, led to tragedy.  

For me Price is a classic example of how religion can really screw a person up. Had he stuck with his previously rigorous scientific assessment of the data he might well have survived the trauma of what ultimately was a failed psychological rather than biological experiment in which he became as much the subject as the experimenter. Never a good idea, especially for people with a predisposition to depression.

W.D. Hamilton however - now there was an interesting life (and death)! One as worthy of dramatisation as Price's, in fact probably even more so.


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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 09:44

@nordmann wrote:
Price attempted to construct a biological theory which could explain altruism. Ultimately he failed to get beyond hypothesis. 

W.D. Hamilton however - now there was an interesting life (and death)! One as worthy of dramatisation as Price's, in fact probably even more so.

My understanding is that Pythagoras' theorem was ultimately proved by Euclid rather than Pythagoras but that didn't stop me having to put up with it at school.  Actually I shouldn't be flippant because the theorem does help with mathematical calculations in the applied mathematics sense and not just the pure one.

It's become rather popular to take theories as facts in modern times, e.g. The Richard III skeleton; the spin put on history by some historical novelists; the character assassinations of the living that go on in some so-called newspapers to name but a few.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 09:51

Theory in Price and Hamilton's case is scientific theory - ie. a testable model which verification has elevated from hypothetical status. This should not be confused with mathematical theorem or indeed theory in its non-scientific application. Price's problem was that he announced and even published theory when it was in fact still only hypothesis. His failed attempt to justify the claim played a large part in his becoming unhinged later, I think.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 10:04

@nordmann wrote:
 

For me Price is a classic example of how religion can really screw a person up.
 
Whereas for me Price is a classic example of how science can really screw a person up.  Smile 
 
But perhaps we are both wrong: seems some people are just more susceptible than others to the screwing-up process - be they "religious" or atheist. Speaking strictly for me, it's the trying to make head or tail of it all that does the trick.
 
But who says scientists can't be poets? I can't understand his dead hard sums, but I've just read this on Hamilton's Wiki page:
 
A secular memorial service (he was an atheist) was held at the Chapel of New College, Oxford on 1 July 2000, organised by Richard Dawkins. He (Hamilton) was buried near Wytham Woods. He, however, had written an essay on My intended burial and why in which he wrote:

“ I will leave a sum in my last will for my body to be carried to Brazil and to these forests. It will be laid out in a manner secure against the possums and the vultures just as we make our chickens secure; and this great Coprophanaeus beetle will bury me. They will enter, will bury, will live on my flesh; and in the shape of their children and mine, I will escape death. No worm for me nor sordid fly, I will buzz in the dusk like a huge bumble bee. I will be many, buzz even as a swarm of motorbikes, be borne, body by flying body out into the Brazilian wilderness beneath the stars, lofted under those beautiful and un-fused elytra which we will all hold over our backs. So finally I too will shine like a violet ground beetle under a stone.

 
Isn't that beautiful?
 
"No worm for me nor sordid fly, I will buzz in the dusk like a huge bumble bee." Oh, please.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 10:10

Temp wrote:
Whereas for me Price is a classic example of how science can really screw a person up.

You need to explain that remark and why it merits a smiley. Price's mental deterioration paralleled his departure from scientific method and his growing immersion in extremely non-scientific religious abstraction of reality. In what sense therefore did science screw him up?
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 10:15

Oh, nordmann, it was a bloody joke - in poor taste no doubt.



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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 10:19

Oh, I see, sorry.

I've grown up with a strong aversion to finding humour in mental illness - my bad.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 10:24

I was taking the p*ss out of you, you pompous - words fail me - not poor old George Price.


I think I'd better go now, before I exit stage left having been badly mauled by a bear.


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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 10:25

I suppose I deserve that (I think).

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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 17:26


 
Ferval - I don't think the Bishop (Ralph Fiennes) is Pilate - I think that's the gay Archdeacon. I think the Bishop of London (Ralph Fiennes) is God. But, as ever, I could be wrong.


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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 18:51

Isn't there a story that Pythagoras' proof was based on cutting up and fitting together tiles, and Euclid produced a strictly geometric proof? If, that is, Pythagoras and/or Euclid were individuals, rather than approved names to attribute things to!
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 19:13

Temp, Wasn't Liam Neason God? The Bishop surely was the hand washing something-to-do-with the governance of Judea (says she, picking her words carefully), the archdeacon I thought of a kind of Caiaphas figure.

I do, however, agree with you; he did deserve it! I at least understand what you mean about science screwing you up. Facing up to the conclusion that all you love and care about, all you think beautiful and inspiring, every wonderful thing and person is, at the final analysis, the interplay of various forms of energy can bring feelings of awe but equally a sense of the futility of existence that doesn't bear too much thinking about.
Any of that good wine left?
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 20:04

I'm sure you are right, ferval, and Ralph Fiennes is the governor, even the prefect, if not the head boy, of bloody Judea and London.
 
But thank you for that post. These disputes over trifles are such nonsense, especially as we all here probably believe in - and/or hate - the same things - whether we are born again atheists like the Dark Lord himself, or just idiots like me who like a bit of ritual and Cranmeresque liturgy.
 
Have you watched the final episode of Series 3 yet? It's brilliant, so I've been told. I think James Wood is Shakespeare reincarnate. Well, not quite, but he's very clever.
 
@ferval wrote:
Any of that good wine left?
 
Well, there was half a bottle, but it's just been taken off me, with mutterings about "that bloody history web site you're always on". Embarassed 
I'm going to have an awful hangover tomorrow, and I've got to go to Ilfracombe to watch King Lear on a CinemaLink from the National. Ilfracombe and King Lear. What a combination, but how appropriate.


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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 20:11

@Gilgamesh of Uruk wrote:
Isn't there a story that Pythagoras' proof was based on cutting up and fitting together tiles, and Euclid produced a strictly geometric proof? If, that is, Pythagoras and/or Euclid were individuals, rather than approved names to attribute things to!

Oo, I don't know, Gilgamesh, though what you say does make sense.

Now turning to other things than Gilgamesh's quote, charitable donations are of course made by people of all religions and none for diverse reasons. It may be the "tug at the heart-strings" of a TV appeal, the fact that but for luck one could be in a pickle oneself or even the attempts by some charities to make people feel guilty (one had a poster of a kiddie in a wheelchair with the wording "He'd love to be able to walk away from this poster too") or reasons I have not cited. I believe it is as well we have charities - there would certainly be more homeless people dying without them.  Some charities originate to plug a hole in the state system.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 21:07

@ferval wrote:
wood being used for something useful.

Or even less than useful. Wood is likely to stain damp clothes just as the dampness is likely to rot the wood. It seems that George Price really did invite some sorry cases into his flat.

I've never understood why so much effort goes into trying to help humans when quite often they are beyond help and often don't even want it. As Gil has pointed out, there are plenty of charities geared towards the needs of animals, plants and even artefacts.

I was once made aware of a charity which sought to take 'deprived' UK inner-city kids to Premiership soccer matches. No joke. As though professional soccer doesn't have enough money and an overly-high profile as it is. I'd much rather support of the work of the Woodland Trust or the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust etc. This week, for example, the Marine Conservation Society ran it's Big Beach Clean Up where one doesn't even need to donate cash but can simply show up with a pair of gloves to help out. Now that's real giving.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 21:30

Shocked
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 21:52



Plenty of "charity" takes physical forms - here are a bunch of volunteers at Welshpool Light Railway.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Thu 01 May 2014, 08:01

@Vizzer wrote:
@ferval wrote:
wood being used for something useful.

Or even less than useful. Wood is likely to stain damp clothes just as the dampness is likely to rot the wood. It seems that George Price really did invite some sorry cases into his flat.

I've never understood why so much effort goes into trying to help humans when quite often they are beyond help and often don't even want it. As Gil has pointed out, there are plenty of charities geared towards the needs of animals, plants and even artefacts.

I was once made aware of a charity which sought to take 'deprived' UK inner-city kids to Premiership soccer matches. No joke. As though professional soccer doesn't have enough money and an overly-high profile as it is. I'd much rather support of the work of the Woodland Trust or the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust etc. This week, for example, the Marine Conservation Society ran it's Big Beach Clean Up where one doesn't even need to donate cash but can simply show up with a pair of gloves to help out. Now that's real giving.


Is it? Beach clean ups etc. are very worthy indeed, but aren't they also good fun? Like lads messing around with steam engines - hobbies rather than charities (even if the organisations involved are registered "charities")?

The inverted commas on "deprived" are interesting. What is deprivation? Are we just talking about material things here?
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Thu 01 May 2014, 09:01

People used to come from "deprived areas". Now more and more it is the people themselves who are labelled "deprived" in common speech. I reckon this is extremely indicative of a shift in perspective in recent times and how an increasing number of people now view their relationship with society in general. Be it materially or in any other sense (though for the majority I would guess it is indeed materially) they identify a lack that applies to themselves and on that basis suspect, or maybe even are convinced, that they have been "deprived" of something that by inference should have been theirs by right. It is extremely flawed and self-serving logic that shows a fundamental lack of understanding of, or indeed a wish to comprehend at all, what is actually meant when that much cliched word "society" is used, especially the bit that implies a community of which they themselves are members and with all the reciprocal responsibilities this membership entails.

Bearing this in mind then "charities" as mentioned above in which this responsibility is acknowledged by the participants are extremely valuable and worthwhile, and are getting more so all the time. The act of benevolence may not be directly applied to a specifically targeted group of recipients and therefore the true nature and effect of the act might take a bit of thinking to work out, but it's probably of comparable meaning and effect to any "gift of alms" type gesture and arguably of even greater importance in terms of helping preserve or encourage a society in which it is tolerable to live. It is altruism too, in other words, for which society would be very much the poorer should it disappear.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Thu 01 May 2014, 09:23

OK - I'd go along with that: ideally some of the recipients of other "charity" could be encouraged to take part in such activities. Many would not be in the least bit interested in making the effort, of course, but some would. I think the Prince's Trust tries to do this. Getting involved in life rather than giving up on it - something we all have to do.

http://www.princes-trust.org.uk/

EDIT: Just had it pointed out to me that lots of organisations try to do this, not just the Prince's Trust.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Thu 01 May 2014, 09:41

If one rates encouragement through the example of others then such encouragement already exists, not just for "the recipients of other charity", but for everyone. Social interaction and participation is not confined to active engagement in communal activities (the recluse also interacts, just more subtly) so I would have reservations about targeting any individuals, least of all those who might already be feeling the indignity of receiving charity from others, with a view to getting them to take part in voluntary efforts such as those referred to above. It smacks of the puritanical belief that the poor should pay for poor relief and the ethos of the Victorian workhouse, in other words not altruism at all when it comes down to it.

It's enough that the example is set by others, I think. It even helps therefore if the activity is "fun", which you seemed to imply makes it less charitable in your reply to Vizzer. "Encouraging" those people to heighten their engagement with society who are specifically experiencing an extreme strain in their relationship with that society, to put it mildly, sounds dangerous to me - and maybe even not a little pompous?
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Thu 01 May 2014, 10:12

Sigh. Probably a lot pompous.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Thu 01 May 2014, 11:29

Nordmann - I was very angry yesterday and I am not going to apologise for that.

I do however apologise for my rudeness and the lack of control shown. OK?
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Thu 01 May 2014, 11:40

"Sorrow would be a rarity most belov'd,
If all could so become it."

(King Lear, ACT IV, scene iii)
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Thu 01 May 2014, 17:41

Since I retired, I've started to work here as a relief driver - perhaps that comes closer to your idea of a charity by action rather than by finance?
http://opencharities.org/charities/514167
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Fri 02 May 2014, 01:45

Charity by action works well on an individual or local level and makes the giver feel more involved (giving cash feels a bit easy - which is why I do it) but large organisations working overseas need cash to provide health products (sugared water etc) and help with the clean-ups in natural disasters.  There have to be people prepared to work in these areas, but they also need money. The Solomon Islands aren't going to get back to normal with only individuals' help.

This morning on our radio a woman was talking of giving loans to people in developing countries, rather than donations as such.  But I wasn't listening properly, so can't give details. There are many examples of various ways to help.  I remember years ago hearing of a wealthy man who was to give the end-of-year speech to a school in what I assume must have been a deprived area.  He stood with his notes at the lectern and looked at the students, then threw away his notes, and told them he would give them individually a considerable amount of money if they wanted it.  It presumably came with some strings attached, but what he did which was the most important part, I think, was follow through with these kids, kept in touch, had them in his house, helped them generally as well as with money.  And they were fine.

Just yesterday I was reading an account of a NZ man (managing director of Mahon China, whatever that is) who writes in the NZ Listener from China.  He had taken his kids round China when they were young and they hired a horse and cart with a young driver who talked of his 'owner'.  When queried he said he had to do anything for the boss's family that they wanted. David Mahon's son wondered if that meant he was a slave. Mahon later visited the driver and found he had given up his education and got work so his silblings could be educated. His horse and cart cost about $800 and Mahon eventually persuaded him to accept a horse and cart from him (as long as it was paid in front of the police so he couldn't be accused of stealing the money).  They corresponded over the years, and the driver did well.  "About two years later, a letter arrived with a drawing of a grinning face. It began with the usual courtesies, then said, "Thanks to your generosity I am now doing even better, I have bought a second horse and another cart, and hired a driver. Now I also own a man."

I suppose that's the same sort of 'problem' that people objecting to others sponsoring a child overseas.  Though, personally, it seems to me that objecting to one person in a village doing well and/or leaving is akin to saying no one from Scotland or England should have left their poverty-stricken towns to seek a better life in the colonies, if everyone couldn't.  

And Vizzer's objections to the kids being given tickets to the football seem to be focussed on the motives for it rather than the benefits.  I think that one of the worst aspects of poverty in a first-world country is that people don't get any treats, and if they do treat themselves people object to beneficiaries spending their money on cigarettes or alcohol or sweets, or anything that might make them feel good.  Poor children in Britain are as likely as anyone to be aware of the importance of the Premier League in the nation's life and doubtless want to join in too.  And unlike Nordmann I think it does help kids to be able to join in what the rest of the community enjoys.  In NZ the make-up of our national rugby team has changed radically over the last thirty years - from generally  white farmers who could afford the time and money to be away for months on end to a team that has roughly half its members with Polynesian flowing locks and not usually from wealthy backgrounds.  And the fact that immigrants are encouraged to join in their new community as well as bring their community into the wider NZ one has meant we don't (as yet anyway) have the sort of problems with disaffected Muslim youth that seems to be the case in Britain. (Though perhaps that impression comes from too many people pointing me to Daily Mail articles to prove their point.)
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Fri 02 May 2014, 05:26

Food handouts are only beneficial in the short term and in times of natural disasters, they certainly don't solve anything long term nor do they solve the core of the problem.

But the micro-loans given in developing counties are a brilliant idea, people don't usually like having to receive charity as such (understandably) and these loans of only 100 or 200 quid have enabled many to help themselves, to begin small businesses and lift themselves out of abject poverty and with their self worth intact. Like the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, who have made small loans to 6 million people so far and 96% of the loan recipients are women, although I'm not sure why that is. 

And yes Caro, there are far too many attacks on the motives of a donor these days which are completely immaterial but they successfully distract from the problems and needs of the beneficiaries, who wouldn't give a toss about whatever motives there may or may not be anyway.  Not sure why that is either, seems nothing more than sour grapes in some cases.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Fri 02 May 2014, 07:45

@Caro wrote:
And unlike Nordmann I think it does help kids to be able to join in what the rest of the community enjoys.

I did not imply as much either, and said nothing at all about "kids" - my objection was to "charity" extended with strings attached, in the specific objection I made this being an implied obligation on the part of the recipient to repay the "kindness" by upping their involvement with social activities (normally recommended and sometimes even enforced by the charitable agency). Charitable acts which enforce a unity of purpose on the recipients are being made based on generalised presumptions which most likely are faulty regarding the target beneficiary's actual status and needs and therefore almost bound by definition to exacerbate rather than address the real problems giving rise originally to the requirement for aid.

ID, your comment about micro-loans is very relevant. Strictly speaking this does not really fall under the category of charity at all, though the provision of the service is indeed altruism operating at its most effective and most worthwhile level. Christopher Hitchens (think what you like about him, it is irrelevant here) was a tireless proponent and supporter of first world initiatives designed to enable third world countries to instigate and run such services. Moreover, he always added, it was essential that they be made available first and foremost to the women in these societies. The reasons for this are complex and many but it is absolutely undeniable that poor societies in which women are the prime beneficiaries and main administrators of micro-credit (or any other investment-type capital extended on such a basis) are the ones which will rally and prosper first. It is actually very telling that areas in the world where the introduction of such fiscal policy has met with the most vehement and vitriolic opposition are those in which religion and politics have become poisonously and extensively mixed, as well as other places with rigidly enforced patriarchal male-dominated power structures.
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Sat 03 May 2014, 06:57

@ferval wrote:
Temp, Wasn't Liam Neason God?


Of course you were right, ferval. I hadn't watched the Easter episode when I wittered on about Ralph Fiennes. Dark stuff, those last couple of programmes. You and others might be interested in this article from the New Statesman. That last paragraph (quoted below) is perhaps relevant to the thread - sort of.


http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/04/praising-altar-rev-why-does-religious-sitcom-work-so-well-atheists

"At the end of the penultimate episode of this series, Rev Smallbone’s inner conflict came to a head, and he quit. Without giving away too much, the final episode features a dog funeral, Colin in tears, everyone talking to God and Adam Smallbone coming completely unstuck in some kind of grief. This is not the stuff of comedy, by anyone’s rules. Given that it’s set at Easter, and that they’ve never shied away from religious parallels, you may imagine that “the worst vicar in the world” will rise again for series 4. But as they present that final tableau with all the main characters – Adam’s “crowd of lost, hopeless and annoying people” – gathered togther, you realise why the show works for anyone, religious or not. It’s because that crowd has become community, and being part of a community is something that we all seek.

So let us end today with a heartfelt prayer from Colin: 'God bless Adam and his family, even though he’s a twat.' "


No more of the heavy religious stuff from me, I promise. I'm sticking to Richard III and the Moggy Thread in future - with possibly the odd Rant now and again.


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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Sat 03 May 2014, 15:36

@Temperance wrote:
No more of the heavy religious stuff from me, I promise. I'm sticking to Richard III and the Moggy Thread in future - with possibly the odd Rant now and again.
Temperance,  if you feel you have something to contribute to the thread you should not hang back about expressing your thoughts.  I don't feel that one should have to feel ashamed of having a belief as long as one is courteous to those who do not share one's belief - and hope that they would reciprocate the courtesy.  I'm RC and in honesty I think I have endured more put-downs from persons who adhered to other branches of Christianity than from outright atheists.  I tend to keep off religion in conversations.  I know I rather upset (unintentionally) a young, somewhat fundamentalist man once by saying I didn't believe everything that was in the Bible word for word.  Actually, some of my non-religious friends are people who were brought up with a religion but fell away from it.  One lady said she thought the story of God testing Abraham by wanting him to sacrifice his son was awful.

I was working at the Natural History Museum when the Charles Darwin exhibition was on there (got in free, one of perks of the job) and remember that before he went on board The Beagle Mr Darwin was marked down to become an Anglican vicar.  Of course it never happened.  I also remember that his wife was saddened that his faith diminished over time. This has drifted away from Charity rather.  If we have a gene that makes us "feel good" if we donate to a charity box or whatever it must be a recessive gene in some persons I feel.  Also "charity" can (in my view) extend to other things besides charitable giving - there is treating people with courtesy for example.  Mind you, I don't always practise what I preach.  I can have a bit of a temper and be snappy, though in my latter years it is more under control than when I was younger.  But please don't stop posting in this thread if you believe you have a valid point to make.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: As Cold as Charity?   Sat 03 May 2014, 17:44

Oh, I'm not ashamed about expressing my belief, LiR: I am ashamed that a) I have not been courteous (you will have gathered the delicious irony in my choice of name by now) and that b) all this is actually about intellectual pride (using the word intellectual very loosely), not belief.

Moggies and Richard III are probably wiser things to discuss, for me at least. (I'll still make the odd snide comment about PG too, given the opportunity.)

Quote :
 I tend to keep off religion in conversations.


That's what we were all taught, of course. It's hard to discuss history without mentioning it though; religion crops up all the time. The trick is to stay on topic and not become emotional. I'm hopeless at doing either, I'm afraid.
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As Cold as Charity?

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