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Elizabeth Davies argues an act of charity is supposed to be selfless, not a source of pride or bragging rights

Elizabeth Davies argues an act of charity is supposed to be selfless, not a source of pride or bragging rights

By Elizabeth Davies

If you engage with social media on any platform there’s no way you have avoided coming face to face with the world-wide phenomenon that is the ice bucket challenge. If you’re smart enough to avoid Facebook and Twitter chances are that hasn’t kept you completely in the dark either as every news source under the sun has reported on it from some angle.

My news feed has been littered with videos, nominations and beer chugging participants all determined to one-up their mates. My complete lack of social allure has kept me safe from a nomination thus far but rest assured I’ve prepared my answer if the need should arise. It’s pretty simple, it’s a big fat ‘No thanks’.

There’s something inherently hypocritical about this form of socially enforced charity that rubs me the wrong way. First of all an act of charity is supposed to be selfless, not a source of pride or bragging rights. In the same way an act done as a result of social pressure isn’t motivated by a charitable spirit but a fear of judgement or embarrassment if you should decline.

The Ice bucket challenge started off in the US raising money for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) but these days participants donate to a huge range of charities, or at least say they do. Things took off when celebrities started jumping on board, making their own videos and nominating other celebrities ( how endearing, they’re just like real people).

I’m 100% supportive of celebrities using their fame and influence as a platform to raise money and more importantly awareness about important issues. At the 1973 Academy Awards Ceremony Marlon Brando refused to accept his Oscar. Instead Sacheen Littlefeather took the stage in full Apache attire and stated Brando would not accept the award due to the poor treatment of Native American people in the film industry. Brando’s act and public support for an important cause captured the attention of the world media.

At this year’s VMAs ( video music awards ) Miley Cyrus won the award for video of the year. Rather than accepting it herself she sent an unknown young man on stage who identified himself as a homeless youth and drew the audience’s attention to the thousands of homeless people across the United States. Cyrus said when she noticed the stir her twerking performance at last years’ VMAs caused she realised she was in a position to use that attention to raise awareness about a hugely important issue. If people are going to talk about her no matter what, they may as well be talking about homeless youth rather than her arse.

Compared to these huge personal gestures a 30 second video seems like a celebrity jumping on a trend focused band wagon with no more personal motivation than the average participant – wanting to fit in. It’s not so much about wanting to do good as wanting to be seen to be doing good.

Ultimately I know it’s not how the money is raised that’s important, it’s the fact that the money is getting where it needs to go that we should be concentrating on. I can only hope that all these people make good on their promises and follow through with their donation. But I can’t help but suspect there are more than a couple of slacktivists in the bunch. My friend Jamie Small wrote a fantastic article about the discrepancy between perceived funds raised and actual donations made when it comes to these kinds of campaigns. The ice bucket challenge seems like it could fit the bill.

Charity is a fantastic thing. If you want to support a cause think carefully, make an informed decision and donate what you are willing and able to. If you are not able to financially contribute donate your time. An act of charity isn’t about your social relationship with the 647 Facebook friends you avoid eye contact with in public. It’s about your personal relationship with a cause. So don’t challenge others to do what you tell them, challenge yourself to be a better person when no one is logged on.


Elizabeth Davies is a 24 year-old graduate of the Auckland University of Technology post graduate journalism course. She lives with her partner in Epsom and spends her free time refurbishing vintage furniture and attempting to bake while fighting a daily battle against her bank balance. She writes a weekly article for on money matters and financial struggles from a young person's perspective.

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There is an entire industry swimming around in the shadows of the "ambassadors" and feeding off their money trail.
Apart from the usual primetime celebs who front these vehicles, it is not hard to notice that anytime some poor soul suffers a tragedy which is newsworthy in a human interest way, that a charity springs up to "raise awareness".
Countless foundations, organisations and support trusts now exist whose true aim is to collect charity funds from the compassionate, but easily tapped, sympathetic public. Funds which will largely be directed into the pockets of those who will approach the affected and offer to setup and run the charity while they are most aggrieved.

Astute observations.
I've got to say that I really like Campbell Live's use tonight of a text campaign for KidsCan lunches in schools. Great idea - and you can do it from the privacy of your couch - no public kudos, just genuine personal support/concern.

I couldn't bring myself to watching tonights Campbell Live. I'm a regular viewer and appreciate the impact of their stories on ordinary New Zealanders.
On the issue of KidsCan I struggle with this concept.
Tonight, I see New Zealanders being asked to donate 50 cents per day to KidsCan. I am deeply saddened and embarrassed to be a New Zealander given the fact so many of our children live below the poverty line.
How did we as a country and society allow this to happen?
The irony of this advertisement is that a wealthy citizen of India or Brazil or even Vietnam could, in effect, be sponsoring a New Zealand child.
I agree with the notion of putting the child first. However, I don't entirely agree with "free" school breakfasts and the fact New Zealanders are being "guilt tripped" into helping the young and vulnerable. We are a generous nation which is probably why the media have caught hold of this idea.
Unlike many countries (including those mentioned above) we have a Social Welfare system that "should" provide for our most vulnerable. Our government are ultimately responsible for where spending is needed most and if a growing number of our population are falling under the poverty line then perhaps greater resources should be allocated accordingly.
The problem is, no government has really sorted this problem. One tends to throw a little too much money around and the other takes away their dignity by removing them from their homes.
The problem is, there will undoubtedly be those who pass on judgment such as "7 bloody kids and $120 per week for groceries!...well, they shouldn't have so many kids!!" and then the sterotypes begin directed at our Maori and Pasifika communities.
The cartoon a few months back was a fairly accurate depiction of what many New Zealanders were thinking "Yes, its wrong, but somewhat true"
I won't be a supporter of KidsCan even if the impact in the short term is positive for those children. Children learn from the adults in this world and soon enough you'll see this concept like many others misused by the very people who need it the most.

With regards to kid's breakfasts. It has not to do with where governments spend their money. It is where parents spend their money. I kid you not.

Do you have any data to back that up?

Of serveral observances the parents have been seen with positive incoming revenue.

Of their offspring many have been reported to not having received breakfast.

In some cases, yes the parents are lazy and do not provide for the youngest or teach the oldest how to prepare breakfast.  Sometimes it's not only laziness but also ignorance as the parents have not seen the need to find out what this mysterious "breakfast" thing is all about (or why their offspring require proper nutrition)

There is a dependant relationship between offspring and parent.

Thus if it is a money problem the responsibility lies with the parents to provide for their offspring.

Why do you require "data" for a rather plain and trival technical relationship?  (technical as in mathematical/engineering, rather than social)

I am curious about your statement that "we are a generous nation". In what way?
Also, "children learn from the adults in this world" - indeed. And the adults who teach them in the schools are unanimous in their observation that children learn better on full stomachs. For some children it might be the best adult role models they have might come from outside their immediate families - i.e., their school teachers, the folks in the corner dairy, the folks that drive up with boxes full of lunches etc. Why not give those good role models the opportunity to be the most effective that they can be?
Granted the government is best placed to prioritse all children, but in the absense of it doing so, I think every NZer with an ability to help with the war on poverty should welcome such an easy opportunity as pledging via the simple sending of a text.  Tens of thousands of texts which are effectively saying the government isn't doing good enough sends a very powerful message to those in Wellington.  

According to the Act Party website both income inequality and poverty have been declining.  "Child poverty rates has been declining for nearly 20 years, falling from 35% in 1994 to 16% in 2007 and recently returning to pre-global financial crisis levels in 2012.
Throwing money at people might alleviate the symptoms of poverty but it doesn't change the underlying behaviours, attitudes, beliefs and thought processes that bring about poverty in the first place.

Your particualr viewpoint has been around since the turn of the last century and its proponents who also believed in eugenics.
Fortunately for the UK at least others saw this as wrong and worked to alieviate it. It may well have saved "us" considerable unrest and maybe even revolution. 

I take it you didin't view the link and the information and statistics.....instead preferring to make personal attacks and innuendo......a rational thinking person would view the information as providing a declining level of inequality and poverty......while an irrational thinking person would provide a declining level of conduct and commenting.
The fact you mentioned eugenics is most interesting......I am firmly coming to the opinion that you would have a preference that only people who shared your beliefs, thoughts and opinions should be allowed on the planet..........this is directly opposed to my beliefs, thoughts and opinions which is that there is enough room, space and resources for everyone to achieve what they want........have you thought about changing your blogging name to thedeceptor?
It is a social philosophy advocating the improvement of human genetic traits through the promotion of higher reproduction of people with desired traits (positive eugenics), and reduced reproduction of people with less-desired or undesired traits (negative eugenics).[

" saved "us" considerable unrest and maybe even revolution."

So the "Occupy" movement never happened?  If you're going to re-write history why stop there?

Unfortunately, his Statistical spin was a sideline to what he really wants to push. Charter Schools. I lived in the UK and saw first hand in the classroom his ideolgies and denial of the societal issues affecting many. These areas were known as the "underclass" and the people within them labeled "CHAV'S" (aka. Council House and Violent)
Educating them was farcical. 
Jamie Whyte, ignores these facts while he preaches his own Statistical findings.
I hope those National voters in Epsom vote National.

Unfortunately people still believe in this day and age that having children is a "right" and that the GOVT should pay for it.

oh god here comes the eugenics brigade.
I actually agree with you, however finding a solution to this problem still seems to be evading us as a society, mainly because no one is prepared to do the hard yards it seems.

why do the people have no bread...

In response to your first question:
I believe this has increased to 2nd in 2013. I suppose other anecdotal incidents such as raising money for the tourists who suffered a crime against their child and the event of the young couples home being replaced through the kindness of others. This is unique to NZ.
I work in the teaching profession (secondary) and see the knock-on effect of neglectful parenting.
I also have two children under two and even the thought of sending them to school in later years without lunch is unthinkable.
If in the event I sent my children to school without lunch and hungry I would expect two things to happen:
1.The teacher/principal would contact me immediately asking me why my children have been sent to school hungry and without food for 6 hours.
2. An invitation to meet with the school to discuss the situation.
I don't view this as a "war on child poverty" sounds like a Bushism.
I view this as an opportunity for the school and wider community to come together to support all in sundry through a collective solution. Perhaps even resulting in "subsisidised breakfasts/school meals" through a locally run charity run by those in need themselves.
Ultimately, I don't believe teachers nor the school should be held responsible for feeding their students. It is the responsibility of the parents and community. They used to be called Churches.

No matter how good the cause, if we took up Campbell's rallying call we'd effectively be agreeing to a 50c a day tax and accepting that our elected representatives have failed to represent us effectively.
And addressing this last point is best carried out on the 20th September at the polling booth. Not by getting citizens to make up the shortfalls in government policy/spending.
As previous posts have pointed out , it's embarrassing for our "rock star" economy to be one where the weakest and most vulnerable parts of society (children) rely on charity.
And while I agree that parents have responsibilities, there is a widening gap between the haves and the have nots.  Some parents will neglect these responsibilities but is it fair for them to suffer in the short term?

The problem with "is it fair for them to suffer in the short term?" is its only good to say no if the medium and long term fixes are also made.  Otherwise the next generation of kids in poverty will be bigger and take yet more money to be thrown at a short term fix.
Of course now we get into taboo territory np political party will go in on.
Quite interesting studying UK history 100 years odd ago on this subject (the poor), same problems, not quite as bad today as then, same ignorance, false claims etc from the right and "softy" fixes from the left.  Hwever we now cannot grow any more.

Can you please supply your data on the widening gap between the haves and have nots.
Your statements appear to be at odds with other published data which shows a decline in both poverty and inequality.

Unless its earlier I see no claims on poverty and inequality widening as a stat.
However the data is there showing a huge change in inequality in the late 1980s/early 1990s.
and "download the key findings"
Plus then things like this,
"Middle and lower class workers saw their incomes fall sharply, while the rich saw their earnings increase.
Incomes for the richest New Zealanders - named as decile 10 earners - rose the most sharply.
The median income for all workers fell three per cent in real terms after going up little from 2010 levels.
It is the first time the average household income has dropped since it hit a low point in the early 90s, the report said."
"The evidence shows that in very unequal countries about half of your income, as an adult, can be predicted from what your parents earned."

So if you had not been politically prejudice then you would have read the link I supplied further upstream which supplies the same data.......from the Ministry of Social Development.
In regards to the incomes in the decile 10 arena rising....this could be seen as a very good thing....they are making higher incomes of which they will reinvest which creates employment etc.
If you are concerned with inequality and poverty in NZ then you will have realise that Green Policy is incongruent with sustainable income and poverty level improvements for all NZ'ers.
Act Party is the only party who have policy that delivers more to an indvidiuals pocket according to the taxpayers union.

Citizens (with children) have been making up shortfalls in government policy/spending for years in our education system by way of school fees ("voluntary" donations).

That I think is un-true as far as fees goes. What is education and what is nice to have?  So Im paying for extras, no problems.  I am also paying for consumed materials, my parents did as well I think. 
Otherwise the voluntary donations are just that, so when the present school put 20% on last year's fee's I stopped paying.

when they started upgrading past the point that private industry was at, and running down the hands that feed them (private industry - profit and economic sensibility) they totally lost my support.

Is that the first 50c I'm already paying for this service, or the last 50c I'm already paying?

The reason the "rock star" economy isn't helping the weakerst and most vulnerable is that there wasd no "rock star" economy in the first place, and children can't eat media spin.

Sadly we aren't allowed to hold those parents responsible for their neglect, and the popular PC society supports their failure to act responsibly in their breeding.  So is it fair?  Yes.  Sadly it is fair that those who neglect their families responsiblities with have families that suffer the consequences of their choices.   Is it fair that their irresponsible actions are detrimental to other families who have been responsible?  Is it fair that others fighting the good fight have an even harder battle to make ends meet because they have to support those who expect others to carry them?  Is it fair to make those who have declined to have children be made to pay for those who have them and can't be bothered to provide adaquate care?  Is it fair that we, as a society, prove the neglectful parents morally right, that it's not their problem to care for the children their choices have made?  No, these things are not fair.


The question is not whether charity is good or not, but whether why it is needed. The ideal is to live in a society where charity does not exist, because everybody is taken care of.

With regards to children: again, the question is not just whether people should only have as many kids as they can afford, but why raising a child in today's world is so expensive and unaffordable.
(my parents had 3 children by the age of 28, house paid off, new car every 10 years, and their kids have university degrees - could you see this happen in this day and age? Thy both come from working class parents themselves, and were the first of their families to obtain university degrees)
Having a child is, for most people, an emotional decision. Not an intellectual one. if we want to reduce the number of children born in poverty, we should tackle this on more then one level. Education to reduce the numbers of children born, reducing the poverty the parents are living in, breaking vicious circles of whatever kind, and giving the children themselves help to fulfill their potential.

My parents had three children before they bought their first house - my Dad was an enlisted serviceman when my brother and sister were born and as the youngest I was born on the university campus whilst he was completing a physics degree - fees and family accommodation on campus fully paid for by the Air Force. They bought their first house when he got his first job post-uni. All three of us went on to fully paid for university education as well. All our cars were paid for in cash - never had a brand new car however. Family holidays included Europe, South America, Tahiti and Canada - all on what would have been an average/middle income at the time. Both parents thought travel to be an extension of our education on life.
You are quite right - I just don't think it happens today on an average income.  

Holidays when we were lttle were spent at te beach - there was no money for visiting other countries....but apart from that we had it pretty good.

Our first holiday was when I was 12.  Of course it wasn't "paid leave" like employees get, and I thought people were kidding when they said people got paid to take holidays.
 Previous to that Dad had represented NZ in Judo in Japan, and got to visit UK and US.  He was away almost a month and it beggared us for about two years.  We had a second hand morris minor car until I was 8. When my second younger brother was born we upgraded to a cheap Holden Kingswood.  The parents farm was paid off when I was 30something, so no way was cash for purchases an option.  They got their first overseas holiday as a couple 6 years ago, on my 40th year - the possibility of paying for children to travel was simply ludicous 

"why raising a child in today's world is so expensive and unaffordable."
Peak oil, energy is no longer cheap and never will be again.
"Having a child is, for most people, an emotional decision." actually you mised "oopsie"
Otherwise, last para, totally agree, I'll add in providing free and easy access to contraception also.

No, energy is not cheap at present, but I don't think that that's the sole reason why raising a child has become unaffordable.
The oopsies are classed under emotional decisions. Women can choose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, and the choice not to do this is very much an emotional one, not an intelectual one (no judgement either way, this is not a debate about abortion).
I think we also need to look at how girls from a very young age are being sexualised, and boys are being taught that a girl's only worth are her looks and her body. It makes for a sex-obsessed society - and then we blame our teens for having sex and getting pregnant?
And then for having the audacity to actually HAVE the child without having any money.
Jesus wept - the hypocrisy....

If you look at the effects of energy on an economy it works its way into every pore, I think its greatly under-estimated by many.  Beyond taht what else is there?
The rest, agree.

actually energy is pretty much always cheap.   Just last year it was cheaper....

.... we've stopped dunking our kid in oil .... fair do's , it made her all slippery , great in the playground when playing ba-ba-dor with the other children ....
Not nearly so expensive and unaffordable to raise her now ... smearing the wee ones with duck fat is a far cheaper option , and we think , better for the environment too ... keeps the heat in , less need for imported Chinese made oil based clothes ...

Thanks, that made me laugh

The ideal is to live in a society where charity does not exist, because everybody is taken care of."

that is so incredibly wrong!!!

The ideal is to live in a society in which people can afford to provide for themselves and their families.    That means higher rate of free resources, lower population demand, lower overheads from the first and second estates.  The most straight forward way of doing this is make majority of overheads "opt in" vs "compulsory"

The totalitarian Socialists would *love* a society where they get to "take care" of everyone :(  .

Yes, cowboy, we both more or less mean the same thing:
"can afford to provide for themselves and their families" - this means jobs that pay more than the minimum wage, an education system that makes sure everybody gets educated to a level where they can actively participate in the job market, regardless of their ability to win a scholarship or not. Access to affordable healthcare.
Higher rate of free resources - yes, but then those aren't really free in a "free market'. thjose free resources you ar referring to would be susbidised by tax payer dollars, and smells suspiciously like a socialist economic mde you seem to be abhorring so much.
Lower population demand: couldn't agee more: how do you propose to implement this policy? Do tell.
Not really sure whay you ean by 'lower overhead from the first and second estates, though...yo'll have to elucidate.
And I did not have a totalitarian state in mind when writing my comment - that notion is entirely in your head.
When I say a society where everyone is taken care of, I mean a society, community, that looks afterall its members, makes sure nobody is left behind. I do not mean by that a life on welfare and of dependency. Rather the opportunity for everybody to be valued for the skills they can bring to the community they live in, even if they do not fit in today's straight jacket that is the free market capitalist economic model.....

No, we're talking completely opposite things.
you say "jobs that pay more than minimum wage"
- I'm saying "reducing overheads so that minimum wage can afford to live"
you say "education system that makes everybody gets (forced) to be educated to a level where they can actively participate in the job market
- I'm saying a job market that will pay a wage to a working person and education available to those who want it.  Not education that isn't going to be used or education as somebodies profitcenter and forcing people to compete with irrelevant qualifications

you say "acess to affordable healthcare"
- I'm saying going to the healthcare and saying why/how are you charging so much, that your customers can't actually afford your services without resorting to insurance and subsidies?
Higher rate of resources.  no-one saying "free" as in no cost, we're talking "free" as not owned by the State regulations or corporations.   Free as in available to people, animals and plants.  So not subsidised, subsidised would mean government ownership and allocation quotas, tax payer pays, entitled consumers consumer - completely opposite of available.

The first and second estate are the ruling classes and the adminsitrative/service class.  The former is the royals and aristocracy, in NZ that's politicians and Executives of Government. the latter is the services to population (eg clergy) and to the State (eg military, government administrators, judges).  The most notable point is that the First and Second do not produce anything, but they run things and set the rules, and most especially set the rule that everyone else owes them first and they can do no wrong.   Hence the need for philosophies such as "Rule of Law" vs NZ's "Rule by Law" where in the latter the First makes rules about what regulations and taxes are owed by everyone else to keep their system going.  the former Rule of Law implies a State to serve people (contract security, military security, personal safety) where all people are to contribute.  What has happened in NZ is that the system has mutated to the State and it's wards as being the people, and the Third Estate, the productive sector, being constantly pushed to support them and obey them.   The more recent term for this is "Microserfs", government forces reign, everyone must obey - the Sheriff of Nottingham would be proud.

I am aware of what you mean, however the things you propose are the blueprint for exactly that kind of socialist oppression for their own benefit.  Deviance is officially wrong and will not be tolerated, to not follow and be seen following correctly is suspicious behaviour and will result in government legally examining your affairs.  After all _everyone_ is looked after, and _nobody_ will be left behind, and if you do not pay your fair share then others are suffering, so if you are not following your correct spending pattern, and not hiring the correct certified (and hugely expensive) personal then you are fighting the system and not complying.  The system cannot spare resources for individual operators to be indviidual monitored so you must keep to the standards, you must use the certified personal, you must wait for them to be available, you must follow their advice, you must charge no more than you are allowed, you must hold correct levels of insurance, you may not take "unnecessary" risk, you must pay all fees, levies and taxes as local and central government deem necessary.   The government is responsible to see you are provided for, and that people less fortunate have full resources and access (whether they want or can use it is irrelevant).
 As they say - in the capitalist system, it costs money to protest against capitalism.... but how do people protest about oppression in a government dominated system "for their benefit"

There is a Universal principle in this, a link and trend here, see if you can spot it.
The fact we need to subsidise this, and to a growing percentage of the population highlights something is wrong and getting worse.
Subsidising people into home ownership (a la National, Labour and the Greens) will cause housing to become more unaffordable, and therefore more people will need housing subsidies.
Subsidising (free) school lunches mean that this will need to be done more. Even parents feeding their kids (many struggling to do so) will be encouraged to stop doing so. After all, they will save money by doing this.
By all means give free lunches as a form of triage (it’s not the kids fault), but acknowledge that there is something wrong by the very fact that we have to do this, and then fix it.
I wonder if housing was more affordable if kids would go less hungry?  Nah there could not be a link, surely. 

Days to the General Election: 28
See Party Policies here. Party Lists here.