NOT using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, Finland in August 2017 (to which I be unable to go (until I retire from education)), I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. But not today. This explanation is reserved for when I dash “off topic”, sometimes reviewing movies, sometimes reviewing books, and other times taking up the spirit of a blog an old friend of mine used to keep called THE RANTING ROOM…
The waves of horror as non-profit organizations predict the death of charity because people can no longer write their donations off on their taxes has reached tsunami proportions:
It also seems that granting tax break for “philanthropy”, while the law will celebrate its Centennial this year, has hardly had a unanimously benevolent history and been without criticism: http://www.taxhistory.org/thp/readings.nsf/ArtWeb/972168BEA0B68D8585257B160048DD4A?OpenDocument
In fact, I never really thought about how “benevolence” might have a powerful political impact. Stupid me…
I am reminded of the reason my daughter withdrew from working toward a full International Baccalaureate Diploma. There were a few reasons, but one was that while she had done hours of volunteer work of her own accord, there were too many hours that she’d done that were for our church. The Program wasn’t interested in people volunteering for causes they supported. The Program wanted volunteers for the causes THEY supported.
Another name for forcing individuals to work for a cause not their own in order to meet the requirements of an educational reward is conscription. Indentured servitude might be another phrase. Her question was, “Are you volunteering for something if it’s something that is required?” In other words, isn’t “mandatory volunteerism” an oxymoron?
She didn’t get the Diploma.
National Honor Society also has such requirements as well – along with doing volunteer work for causes a student personally believes in, they are required to “volunteer” for causes that the organization has deemed worthy.
Another thought, is philanthropy limited to wealthy civilizations? According to Wikipedia, there doesn’t seem to be any record of philanthropy prior to Europe in the 17th Century. Also, there appears to be a distinctive difference between philanthropy and charity, with philanthropy being much better than charity: “Philanthropy has distinguishing characteristics separate from charity; not all charity is philanthropy, or vice versa, though there is a recognized degree of overlap in practice. A difference commonly cited is that charity aims to relieve the pain of a particular social problem, whereas philanthropy attempts to address the root cause of the problem—the difference between the proverbial gift of a fish to a hungry person, versus teaching them how to fish.”
Charity has a far more ancient history dating back to (quite possibly) the dawn of recorded history; certainly since the Pharaohs instituted the construction of the pyramids (NOT a charitable act, BTW). The infographic below notes that charitable giving has been growing since then and has become foundational to western society.
So, why do I bring this up here? Aside from the fact that charitable giving is likely to survive the elimination of the tax credit and that there is something to be said for reducing the influence of donors over organizational policy…
I bring it up because I’ve never seen mentioned anywhere in a science fiction story or novel the possibility that aliens or alien civilizations might consider charitable and philanthropic giving – perhaps even SACRIFICIAL giving – to be the mark of mature civilization, one that indicates that the society in question has overcome its biology with mind.
Maybe aliens haven’t contacted up because we are, as a planet, as a species, entirely too selfish? I mean, English speakers can read a book called, THE SELFISH GENE (by Richard Dawkins, world-famous atheist, author, and speaker) in which he expands and popularizes the ideas of WD Hamilton, to wit: “Despite the principle of 'survival of the fittest' the ultimate criterion which determines whether [a gene] G will spread is not whether the behavior is to the benefit of the behaver, but whether it is to the benefit of the gene G ...With altruism this will happen only if the affected individual is a relative of the altruist, therefore having an increased chance of carrying the gene.”
I’m adding this new answer to the list of answers to the Fermi Paradox (simply stated: “…a simple question that anyone looking out at the night sky has probably asked themselves: Where is everybody?...it’s a big universe, so why can’t we see life anywhere but here on Earth?”) https://cosmosmagazine.com/space/what-is-the-fermi-paradox I’ve written on Fermi’s Paradox before (http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2017/06/slice-of-pie-post-ideas-is-this-like.html)
So maybe aliens are waiting for us to start giving selflessly and when it seems that an unselfish gene has entered the pool, we’ll be contacted by an advanced civilization…
Just so you know, I have a story in mind that might explore this.
Resources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charity_(practice), http://blog.winspireme.com/a-brief-history-of-charitable-giving-infographic