Had you been in Santa Barbara, Calif., last week, you could have shelled out $400 to watch Prince William play polo. A bit pricey, but a bargain because you’d also get to watch Duchess Kate watching Wills, and see the perplexing spectacle of Americans gawking at British royalty. Ironies never cease.
If you were in a monarchist mood, you could have dished out $4,000 for a “VIP ticket,” giving you entry to a champagne reception and a chance for a “hello” from either, or both, of the London lovelies.
If you had brought along your chequebook, and happened to be a polo player, you could have paid $50,000 to play against Prince William. Or, if you preferred not to duel against the duke, you could have written a cheque for $100,000, saddled up alongside him and played on his team.
Those paying $400 and those paying $100,000 did it to help others, of course. After all, it was, according to The Associated Press, a “charity polo match.”
The concept of charity has become corrupted.
Perversely, it is no longer considered perverse to charge thousands of dollars for entry into a charity fundraiser, a charity ball, a charity this or a charity that.
A swanky dinner full of the famed and fortuned? For charity, of course.
Charity used to be a last resort, a final effort to help those who were the most destitute, the poorest, the most needful of aid.
Not anymore. Charity is now big business. Ironies never cease, indeed.
The Canadian Press reported this week that, according to the Canada Revenue Agency, there are about 85,000 registered charities in Canada.
That’s a lot of good works. But it’s not all being done by nuns, missionaries and other altruists who live among the downtrodden. Today’s charity industry employs about a million people, including 6,000 who earn more than $120,000 per year.
In our broadened concept of what constitutes “charity,” hospitals, universities, schools and various foundations can obtain charitable status and give tax receipts to donors.
This might come as a shock to people younger than 30 or so, but there once was a time, within living memory, when the phrases “food bank” and “homeless shelter” had not yet been coined.
A generation ago, when the first food banks were established in Canada’s biggest cities, there was controversy and outrage.
Controversy, because the establishment of food banks signalled a much more unequal and unjust society than most Canadians assumed their country to be.
Outrage, because many Canadians believed collective effort toward alleviating poverty and want was an ideal worth striving for, and food banks were evidence of an abandonment of this ideal.
These sentiments are antiquated.
These days, it is common to be asked, when attending certain events, to “bring an item for the food bank.”
In the newly “have” economy of Newfoundland (and Labrador), there is no reason why we should have to resort to charity to fund, say, the Janeway hospital.
Perhaps the most disgusting aspect of the modern attitude toward charity is its inroads into our schools.
Students should not have to hold bake sales or sell tickets on a draw in order to have a basketball court or upgraded computers.
Conservatives often declare we can’t expect the government to do everything for us.
But we can expect the opposite. We can demand that, collectively, we want certain things done by us, and we want them done through our agent, acting for us — the government. There is a subtle but important difference.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at
The Telegram. He can be reached by
email at firstname.lastname@example.org.