Grrrrrrr. Not happy. I’ve just been to the off licence (bottle shop; liquor store) to buy two bottles of beer to smooth the dissertation marking evening that will occupy my Saturday night in the big city, and the smug South African bastard who works in my local ‘Odd Bins’ insults me when I decline to put my change into the cardboard box he has on the counter for some fair-trade charity he has started. I had politely, just said ‘no thanks’ to his request, and then he goes on about how ‘many people have already shown that they care and what was wrong with me…’. Now mostly I’ve given up on responding to this kind of moralistic baiting, and do not rise the provocation unless I’m already a few beers to the good. But having just spent the afternoon working on my Paris talk on travel and work, after having to leave the Migrant Rights rally early… well, still politely, I said I was ‘opposed to charity and think time would be better spent building a political movement that can win, rather than miniscule gestures that just make the charity giver – and in this case the charity organiser – feel good about themselves’. Or something like that. I am not sure exactly why this guy riled me up so much, since I’ve been having this argument for years. I remember recently in the New Cross Inn talking to an Action Aid guy who was also in the Labour Party (he freely admitted) and after an hour of debate got him to burn his Labour Party membership card in the ashtray (some kind of triumph, even if also pretty lame). But to be forced into this kind of reaction everywhere an anywhere – even when just buying a beer or two – on a Saturday night just seems obscene. That and the plethora of pro-war iconography I see about the place these days. Films and plays celebrating battle, brotherhood in arms, the spirit of the blitz, promotions for the latest Imperial War Museum exhibit (from where the Migrant Rights rally started today) and Jack idiot Straw with his veiled campaign to insult Muslims so as to position his middle of the road little Britain conservatism in a way sure to let him be deputy of the moribund aforementioned Labour Party (at least the Tories are so pathetic they cannot contain their internal ruptures when New Cameron came out in favour of forcing all people to get married, even – hush hush – gays). Grrrrrrr grrrr grrrr. Nasty times.
So why do I insist that charity is rubbish? I’ve long argued that it’s a way of deflecting attention from what would be politically required to achieve the very sentiments (the problem is they are just sentiments) that charity-givers might support. Redistribution of wealth; justice for all; equal share of resources and opportunity. If charity were capable of undoing global inequality, poverty, exploitation, inequality, surplus value extraction etc., then I’d be all in favour. But its not. It is the secular version of the Christian aesthetic, turn the other cheek (Bellamy) and ignore the ongoing extortion of those kept on the nether side of capitalist development. ‘Oh but my, we must do something for the poor’ and ‘at least it’s a start’. It’s a start that stops short. We’ll be all happy and fine so, long as we don’t have to see their sorry arses except in a few supplicant charity adverts promising that our few pennies would save said waif from the life of drudgery and privation that our comfy beer-swilling lifestyle means someone somewhere has to endure. I’ve no doubt there is a direct link to my wanting a beer after all this. Of course. But I do think building a political movement rather than a crypto-religious one (give, turn the cheek, embrace the higher power) is the only way that there can be any chance of wresting power from the likes of Bush, Blair, the Democrats/Republicans and their military-entertainment profit regime. Murder death kill will not be stopped, only ignored, by popping a few coins into a cardboard box on the counter of the local shop. Something more organised than that is needed. I loved the red umbrellas at the rally today. Brought to you by the activist-feminist-unionist rabble rousing chorus of red brolly weilding folk that also do serious long duree ground work stuff, such as X:Talk. Read about that in the Feminist Review – but be warned, if you just search Xtalk (without the colon) you get some kind of babbleforum on and on about Jesus, which is the very reason I was looking for beer in the first place. Crikey.