In a Word . . . Charity

It’s that time of year when thou mayest on TV behold very many images of human misery, particularly the pain of wide-eyed children, as legions of charities seek funding for their administration, staff, and advertising costs.

For lo, do you think these distressing images were filmed, selected produced and broadcast for free? Or, in the case of all those posters in bus shelters, on billboards at street corners and railway stations, in newspapers and online, that they are carried for nothing?

They are there the better to make you feel bad at this joyous time of year and sufficiently so you will dig deep to buy yourself a guilt-free holiday in the weeks ahead. For this is the time of year when the charities’ industry makes hay.

It is that time of year when people are harried and harassed by distressing images of human suffering, a sort of misery-porn, the better to relieve them of their cash even as they struggle to see themselves financially through Christmas and new year.


Even as they have already contributed generously and properly through their taxes for the relief of such destitution at home and abroad.


Why does Ireland need seven major charities dealing with homelessness (Focus Ireland,Threshold, St Vincent DePaul, Simon, Crosscare, Peter McVerry Trust, Irish Council for Social Housing), not to mention the smaller ones?

Why does it need 42 overseas development charities, all members of Dochas the Irish Association of Non-Governmental Development Organisations, with a further 13 associate members? Why does it need 48 separate agencies in the area of suicide prevention/bereavement, with 13 doing so exclusively?

Ireland doesn’t need such over-supply in any of these areas. Each has become its own little empire and must raise funds to supplement what it gets from the state to pay staff, its administration and fund-raising costs.

So, as we enter this season of goodwill let us give selectively, ideally to the man, woman, or child in front of you. Or to a charity where you know your entire contribution will go directly to the people concerned.

Meanwhile, those advertisements featuring starving, distressed children/people beset by tears and flies should be banned from our screens in acknowledgement of the blatant emotional blackmail they represent.

Charity should never go so low.

Charity, from Latin caritas, from carus "dear, valued". Translation of Greek agape, "love of humankind".