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Relief: is an almost empty vending machine where one can buy stress balls in the shape of the earth (with borders and countries). For one euro people can relieve stress regarding any political situation; any disaster, cultural or environmental; or any money problems. Feel free of guilt at least for a while.

 

For centuries people tried to find ways to relate themselves to problems in which they didn't find direct power to change something. Especially in a very globalised world the fact that we can know so much about what happens in the world, while the distance and therefore lack of personal influence has greatly increased. The re-entry of indulgences has been flourishing ever since, though in a different form than before. It makes us feel good knowing that we give money to charity, that we post a images with a flag-fliter on our social media but we seem to forget to ask the real question: does it really help? Or better put: how can I really help?

 

One interesting example of this form of altruism is the Dutch tradition to donate our old clothes to poor people in Africa: a very noble gesture. But it has some shadow sides, which are hard to see. First it's abstract, one can't see how this process takes place, therefore principally failing to take responsibility of the consequences. Secondly most of the donated clothes first go to vintage shops, who pick out the things they can sell (back to us).  Only the remains go to the designated cause. Thirdly we've been sending so much of our old clothes (or we buy so much new clothes) that many places in Africa have been flooded with them. Most designated people are now satisfied. Fourth is the more negative long term consequence: the communities in Africa which receive our old clothes have lost their own textile industry due to the flood of the market by our old clothes. So by giving to the poor, one keeps them poor. (Think of the metaphor of a fish and a fishing rod).

 

It's so interesting and even painful to see how controversial charity can work out. Of course this isn't the case for all charity, but it does definitely show that the problem which charities try to face lies not in the confinement of effects but in the origin of the problems it tries to fix. It's hard to realise that when you try to do something good, it's actually something bad. Maybe we can rethink what we see as good relating to these kinds of problems?

Checking the profit.