In a deli this afternoon, I saw a donation box for a charity for autism beside the register. It read something like, "Donate today, and help a child with autism," with a picture of a bald kid on the side.
And then I thought - supposing this was the most efficient charity in the world, and I was slipping a dollar bill through that hole right into the child's hand,
Then I looked back at the picture of the bald kid, and started laughing.
In fact, the employee getting me my coffee thought I was laughing at her, and she was a little brisk and hostile giving me back my change.
But let's think of it. Am I /really/ doing something "selfless" if the absolute most efficient the act of putting a dollar into a jar could be is moving the dollar undiverted into the hands of a kid? Otherwise, what sort of amplification effect could a plastic box with a slot on it have? How should I believe so much in human beings, that as a matter of ordinary reality, the best you could hope for - getting the whole of that dollar to the kid - is not only exceeded, but is amplified to the point where so much genuine good is happening for kids with autism, I don't even have to think any further.
If it's said that there are people who care so much about these issues, it's their whole job and passion to make the lives of kids with autism better... then I'm free to doubt that, as any sensible skeptic does about any ideal claimed manifest in the world. But even if someone or some organization does live out the ideal, then the whole of the glory is theirs. How am I allowed to cheat? I'm not. I'll learn nothing through a life of donating money, while someone who actually gets involved grows throughout their involvement with the activity. Isn't this how the omnipresent sweat = yield equation is maintained here also? What is this marketing pixie dust they then sprinkle over donating to charity, anyway? That I will somehow be a better person, without doing or feeling anything?
I guess it all boils down to the absurdity of money for me. Money is unutilized potential - a blank you can fill with whatever humans can make. The bigger the bill, the bigger the blank. But what that bill is translated into is still a creative decision, which can be made well or poorly. Before then, the money doesn't really exist. So in a way, donating money just defers that decision to someone else. Is doing that a "good" thing?