Thursday, December 23, 2010

Do It! But do it my way....

I was amused by the news story about Dick Smith and the Christmas grinches, which was plastered across all Australian news stations this week. In a nutshell, Dick sent letters to the bosses of four major Australian banks demanding that they donate 20% of their income to charity. Most ignored this clearly crackpot request, while one politely acknowledged by responding with a letter explaining that he donates privately to charity and won't be meeting the request.

Apparently being a billionaire makes you powerful - who knew? Unfortunately, Dick Smith appears to be under the impression that it makes you so powerful that you get to tell all of the millionaires how to spend their money. Sorry Dick, it just doesn't work like that.

This really made me think about power and philanthropy. I know so many wonderful people in this world who are goodhearted and have powerful visions for how the world should be. The problem occurs when they take their vision so far as to demand that others live their lives according to their determined idealism.

The scary thing is that we're not just talking about religious zealots here. In all walks of life you find people so passionate about what they believe in that they are convinced it should be mandatory. For example, I have a friend who cares so much for the environment that she believes a one child legal policy is the only way forward.

Of course, logic dictates that the problem with any kind of forced compliance is that it's always the will of one group over that of another. Somebody is being oppressed or forced to live their life incompatibly with their own personal beliefs. Which is why the only logical way is either to convince everybody honestly of the "right" way of thinking (good luck with that!) or to accept a society where differences are accepted, and we all get on with living our own lives the best way that we can. Exceptions being crime or other activity that infringes on the lives of others.

So Dick, while your intentions are good, and while we all love to hate the greedy fat cats, STFU. Seriously. It's really none of your business how they spend their money. Complain about it if you want, but trying to force people to comply with your own personal standard is unfair, and also very holier than thou.

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