By Polo Munoz, Managing Editor/Publisher
Its easy to fall pray to people who come out of the woodwork when an individual is in need, it is the most effective time for opportunists to insert their brand of generosity. Paulo Freire, the Brazilian educator warned people against what he called “False Generosity.” Generosity offered where the main focus is to maintaining the status quo and also deepening the oppressive ties that some of these “patrons” want to strengthen. Authentic generosity comes with no strings attached, the support is focused on the well-being of the person who is being gifted the help. Authentic generosity does not come with an exchange of allegiance, gratefulness, or commitment to the person that is offering the help. Communities in poverty deal with these “patrons” daily.
It is easy to see and hear the comments folks make about those struggling, many want them to be “deserving” of the help. This type of aggression requires that those that are suffering now accept more aggravation in order to relieve their pain just a bit. That is not healthy for all parties involved, and allows for a cycle of confusion and creates resentment of communities because of the dehumanizing requires to feel okay about this type of “help” requires. This false generosity requires that the person accept help in a way that makes them become less autonomous and more invisible. After all, if the person or institution is giving to either relieve their discomfort or to institutionalize the cycle of poverty, there is no need to change the situation, they just don’t want to feel guilt or feel the nuisance. A real change requires an authentic connection to those that are suffering.
We need to take a very long look about the way we provide support to folks that are struggling. We need to understand that it is not because we need to be better people, but because they are human. We are living a moment where the word “deserving” has become a bat. We provide opportunity for “deserving” students, adults, children, workers, etc., and that word has become a tool for those that give to define what the word means in terms of the person that they are referring to. We have become alienated not by social media, but by the way those that use social media, use it to communicate perverse messages.
We need to choose to look at everyone, including ourselves, through an empathetic lens; we must look for those moments where we say, “there but for the grace of God, go I.” Empathy will be the only way we learn to love everyone.