In a time of unparalleled prosperity, general economic and technological advancement and inter-connectedness, how is it that there are still so many people in need?
Today, rather than start at the top and look at notions of wealth distribution and inequality, I would like to unpack the notion of charity as it operates in our modern world.
Charity; “the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need.”
“kindness and tolerance in judging others.”
Charity is voluntary. It is related to our judgement of others. It requires an imbalance of resources, allowing for discretionary distribution of those resources along ‘charitable’ lines.
It is possible, to be wholesale contributing to the suffering of others in your day to day life, your work, or your business while still being ‘charitable’. Therein lies the main problem.
The paternal, hierarchical nature of modern conceptions of charity leave the door wide open for manipulation, misdirection, misunderstanding and worst of all, incomplete, inconsistent and inadequate outcomes for those in need.
A kind of modern day, PR driven papal indulgence where we can transact to save our souls.
If we replaced notions of ‘Charity’ with notions of ‘Justice’, how would that change the way that we made efforts towards improving equality of opportunity?
Justice; “the quality of being fair and reasonable.”
Could we ever consider it ‘just’ that we fail to pay living wages to people? Could it be considered ‘just’ to punish someone for a lack of guidance, education and resources? Could a ‘just’ society unevenly distribute the ways and means for people to advance to be the best of their abilities, hamstringing people who might otherwise grow to be outstanding, productive, contributing members of our communities? Could a ‘just’ society ever allow people to go hungry when there is food, go cold when there are enough roofs or remain uneducated in a time of unprecedented knowledge sharing capabilities?
I am not advocating for a free-market, capitalist, neo-liberal ‘the market fixes everything’ approach as the alternative to charity. I am talking about changing the way we speak about our responsibility to others, to continue to move towards an understanding that everyone needs help at some point in their lives. A society that values justice, “the quality of being fair and reasonable.” would try and ensure that everyone who needs help, gets it, regardless of how and when they come to need it.
It is time to move from a conversation that focuses on paternal transactions for ‘people in need’, a conversation where the emphasis is on the giver, not the receiver. To creating a conversation about the needs of ‘People’ in a just society.
If you are ready to move from a transactional model of altruism to a transformational one, The Just Be Nice Project is the only organisation of it’s kind working to change the way people help people. Get in touch if you’d like to find out more, we’d love to hear from you.
We live in an age where everyone’s able to ‘communicate’, and I use the term loosely, with one another across the globe with more ease than at any time in the history of the world. We also live in a time of unprecedented stress, anxiety and feelings of disconnection.
Why then, in a world that is “flat and hyper-connected” are we feeling more and more isolated and out of touch with ourselves and the world around us?
Michael Pollan, in his docuseries ‘Cooked’ explains how the traditional way of baking bread created a nutritious staple that for thousands of years provided sustenance to many. Hijacked by efficiency, profit and the mass-market, ‘white bread’ came to be popular with the advent of Wonderbread. This highly processed, nutrient poor, very popular item took the place of the more traditional sourdough over time. We then re-introduced exogenous vitamins and minerals into it to boost its nutrition profile, creating a poor facsimile of what was already, originally, a formula for nutritious, tasty and healthy food.
As society barrels towards the deification of ‘apps’, ‘insta-celebrity’ and smart phones, we are attempting simultaneously to reintroduce humanity to principles that we’ve done naturally for thousands of years.
Mindfulness, time alone, wearable step counters, apps for meditation, apps to remind you to say hello to your mother, apps to connect you to people that need help. All of these are poor imitations of things we have been doing for time immemorial.
We didn’t used to have constant stimulation, we operated in daylight hours, or by firelight. We didn’t watch TV constantly. We wouldn’t simply ‘post’ stories to the masses. We would become caretakers of myths and the songlines of people before us for the next generation and share stories with each other. We didn’t need ‘grounding’ we just played outside. We didn’t need an app to remind us to say hello to our neighbours, we engaged with them, cooked with them, ate with them, spoke with them. We didn’t need an electronic device on our wrist to count our steps, we simply walked where we needed to go. Communities and amenities were close, and ironically, communal. We didn’t need apps for meditation, because downtime was a natural occurrence. Seasons of the year allowed for variation in the kind of work we did, the environments we operated in and the challenges we faced together as a community. If we go back beyond the industrial age, ‘single parenting’ fades into irrelevance because the village community took responsibility for everyone in it.
We are not more connected, we simply have an inappropriate amount of availability masquerading as connection. We aren’t creating environments that curate connection, we are promoting environments that curate attention.
The problem with availability and isolation as a result of the industrialisation of human interactions will not be solved by an ‘app’. More niche variations on the deference of human interaction to screens will not improve our mental health or understanding of each other.
The answer lies in taking responsibility for one another. Taking responsibility means taking the time to understand the challenges and opportunities faced by people outside of ourselves. Taking responsibility means an active engagement with the people and places around us. It means placing a priority on human connection, not digital attention.
Let’s not try and add the vitamins back into the white bread of human interaction, let’s take a moment to slow down and do things the way they have been done for the vast majority of human history, let’s take responsibility for one another, look after one another and of course, just be nice.
If you wish to support our work bringing tangible support to communities and individuals in need, or need help with strategies and programs to look after those in your organisation, get in touch, become a partner, book a workshop or subscribe and be a part of changing the way people help people.
What if supporting children made them lazy and dependent on help from others?
What if they only look for help and support because they want to avoid hard work and responsibility in the future?
What if by helping, guiding, supporting and building up children we are only teaching them to be reliant on others, bludge and take no responsibility for themselves?
Obviously this is ridiculous. We know that children need support and care, they need help, encouragement, love, food, education, shelter, safety, clothing, friends, activities to maximise their physical and mental capabilities and engaging moments.
Why then, do we not simply remove the word 'children' and replace it with 'people'.
People need support in various moments through their whole lives, support from loved ones, support from community, support from government institutions and safety nets, support from people they interact with.
If you delay that environment for humans, if they grow up in disadvantage, in fear and without support, it can take longer to fill those gaps when they are older.
Supporting people doesn't make them weak, it doesn't make them bludgers, it doesn't make them reliant on others.
Supporting humans helps them to be the best they can be, and a world full of people being their very best is one we are constantly striving to create.
We believe that everyone deserves comprehensive, long-term support, when they need it. Building an infrastructure that ensures everyone in need gets the opportunity to relevant and engaging employment, housing and good mental health outcomes, regardless of how they came to need help in the first place.
Possibilities to live into, not expectations to live up to.
Still, we need your help. Subscribe, support or get in touch to get involved in changing the way people and businesses help people.
If you are looking to improve your character as individuals and culture as a collective, you need to be looking in the right spot, asking and answering the right questions and building understanding in a way that makes sense to you. It’s not always easy, it can be confronting, but it is always worth it.
Get in touch to begin the process now and kick off 2019 with open minds, open hearts and a commitment to excellence as humans. You deserve to be the best you can be and we believe the world needs you to be the best you can be too.
We aren't here to demonise for-profit or non-profit organisations. We are here to demonise waste.
We don't believe that good will is more important than good skill for people in need.
We believe that we can change the way that people help people, but we need your help, if you or your organisation are looking to have a more significant and relevant impact in the world, get in touch.
We've come a long way with encouraging men to speak up about their poor mental health and to let people know when they are struggling.
But what are we doing after that?
The Just Be Nice Project is committed to not only improving the conversation around mental health, but also improving the access to the material support required to create environments where people can flourish.
You can support our work by subscribing and becoming a JBN Legend Here, we can't do it without the support of our amazing partners and subscribers.
Helping people feel good about doing good is an important element of engagement, but it cannot be the end-game to getting people involved in positive impact.
Is it easy to feel good about things that don't do that much good? Absolutely. Is that the best we can do? Absolutely not.
The end game, and point of help, should always be about what happens for the person in need. Teaching people what effective looks like for people in need, rather than finding ways to make people feel good about attempts at help, is the real future of helping people, help people.
Our work at the Just Be Nice Project is about harnessing the potential of every organisation and individual into effective impacts for those in need, while remaining engaging, relevant and worthwhile to those providing the help. There is a better way.
Creating extraordinary positive change in the world, by helping people make ordinary positive change.
People in need with cancer.
People in need facing extreme prejudice.
People in need of mixed abilities.
People in need without employment or a chance of employment.
People in need growing up in disadvantage.
People in need who are suffering economic distress.
People in need with mental health issues.
People in need without a place to live.
People in need who live overseas.
People in need who have inadequate education.
People in need who are sick.
People in need who fear for their lives.
People in need who look after people in need.
People in need with empty bellies.
People in need who have had a life of privilege and find themselves facing tough times.
People in need who have never had the privilege of a resource rich environment.
We see people in need.
Rather than fight about what cause is the most important, and argue among causes, we believe in creating an eco-system that works to help people in need.
It starts with an acknowledgement that people find themselves in need in many different ways, at many different times, for many different reasons. Rather than take the needs of any one community as more important than another, we consider the knowledge of one community about the most effective ways to help that particular community as important.
Fighting for causes too often means causes fighting against causes. We are here to fight inefficiency. We are here to fight inequality. We are here to fight for people in need.
We are not here to fight inequality with only a spreadsheet and a calculator, but we are also not here to fight inequality with only misguided good intentions and a short-lived peak in emotive interest. We are not here to do things the way that they have been done in the past, because we know that we can do better. We are here to fight alongside people who believe that we can do better. We are here to fight alongside people who are tired of seeing wasted money, time and good intentions.
We are here to fight for those in need.
We would love you to join that fight.
The notion of the feckless poor is a common narrative among conservatives the world over. The persistent insinuation is that people are poor or 'under-performing' because of a lack of morals. Poor because they don’t work hard. ‘There is opportunity everywhere’ the conservatives say, you simply have to take ownership of your life and pursue it, if you don't, there is no one to blame but yourself.
This week, after a series of circumstances and events that one could not describe as anything but farcical, dishonest and lacking character, Scott Morrison was installed as leader of the Liberal party and Prime Minister of Australia.
Among the values espoused in his first press conference, the common call to arms for conservatives of, ‘if you have a go, you’ll get a go’ featured.
If you have a go.
The reality is, in action, there are plenty of people who ‘have a go’ and don’t ‘get a go’ in this country. The asylum seekers imprisoned on Manus Island, having a go, seeking asylum, as is their right. Is undertaking a treacherous journey to protect your life and that of your family not really having a go?
People on the NDIS, leaving about half of the people with disabilities worse off than they were under previous schemes, despite the government spending twice as much. Are these people not having enough of a go?
The 2.9 million Australians that live below the poverty line, including the 36% of them who rely on wages as their main source of income, are they not having a go? Should they simply, as Malcolm Turnbull put it “…seek to earn more”?
Is the renewable energy sector, with it’s huge strides towards creating cheaper power than fossil fuel sources by 2020 not really having a go?
Are students in under-performing schools not having a go? Hamstrung by funding cuts and a teaching profession that treats teachers so poorly that 50% of teachers leave the vocation within a few years of starting, are we sure that these students not having a go?
We need to beware of claims of equality that aren’t matched by the relevant social and legislative supports -
…in societies which claim to recognize individuals only as equals in right, the educational system and it’s modern nobility only contribute to disguise and legitimise in a more subtle way the arbitrariness of the distribution of power and privileges which perpetuates itself through the socially uneven allocation of school titles and degrees. – Pierre Bourdieu & Jean-Claude Passeron.
If we are really serious about giving everyone a go, then we must be serious about improving equality of opportunity for everyone. Not demanding contributions upfront from the most vulnerable, but making it our job to help them get to a place where they are able to contribute.
Regardless of our ability or circumstances, we are here to make a contribution, rather than take one; that in order to you to do better, you don't think someone else has to do worse – Scott Morrison
The real test of the government will be to see how serious they are about building an environment that does, in fact, foster growth and opportunity for all, and not simply a chosen few. We will be watching closely.
Just Be Nice
A collection of articles relevant to pursuing the effective execution of altruism in the search for equality of opportunity.