Sunday, May 25, 2008

Humanity's hopeful signs: Disaster causes outpouring of charity in China

Columnist Paul Jacobs notes that the recent quake in China has stimulated a culturally unusual outpouring of personal and private charity, outstirpping government aid:

Alan Qiu, a Shanghai investor, puts it like this: "We grew up reciting Confucius saying that all men are born kind, but it takes a disaster like this to bring out the innate kindness of everyday human beings."
I am glad that the Chinese are permitted once again to recite Confucius. The injunction to charity could be very important for China's development. Years ago, I read an experienced aid worker's view that most people who are rescued in disasters are not rescued either by national or international agencies but by their own neighbours.

His view certainly makes sense on the face of it, because neighbours know about the illegal tenant in the basement apartment (and the government doesn't, right?). They know that an elderly woman cannot climb stairs (a fact she does not admit to the district nurse because she does not want to be pressured into a seniors' home far from the comforts she values).

I suspect that one reason that human beings have become so numerous as to generate "population bomb" scares among the elite is precisely the ingrained - or else easily developed - habit of rescue.


Incidentally, spiritually minded people are far more likely than others to be charitable. See, for example,

Altruism: Why it can't really exist but why it does anyway.

Social science: Why are the religious more charitable?

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