Charity and solidarity: Is there a difference?
For the past few years the Greek society is immersed in a deep economic crisis and recession. Someone could certainly say that before we were living in a perfectly healthy society but suddenly things changed and many people in middle and lower incomes have become poorer, to a point that many cannot even sustain themselves and their families anymore.
In these difficult circumstances that we have not experienced before, at least the last few generations, I personally feel, and I think many would agree with me, that something must be done. Unfortunately, nobody seems to know exactly what.
Can we possibly think of what was missing during the last fifteen years from the Greek society? What is that thing that most of us who managed to have a fairly good life forgot about? I think that the answer can be given just with a single word: Solidarity. But what exactly is solidarity and how can we define it at this time? Who are those people who need it most and who are those who can give it more easily?
A common misunderstanding between the charity and solidarity difference
Usually in Greece there is generally is common misunderstanding of the concept of solidarity.
From my discussions with others and from what I can see, most mistaken it for Charity. In my opinion, charity is just a way for some wealthy people to buy some of their remorse for what they have possibly deprived from all those who are financially much weaker compared to them.
This of course is not something found only in Greece. It really happens in any social setting and every single country around the world. Many rich people make donations to hospitals, they build houses, they finance social events and occasionally offer money, probably aiming to break the record at a telemarathon and be famous for that. This is unfortunately done with profit in mind most of the times, since donations and sponsorships, until recently at least in Greece, also meant tax exemptions for businesses and individuals that offered them.
Other people with not much money to spare, just give a euro of two to a beggar, collect old clothes and donate them to NGOs and institutions. The most daring are maybe those who participate in voluntary work and assistance programs for the weakest. In my humble opinion, all these actions are not a compete form of solidarity and even more than that, they maybe allow the problem to remain unsolved, because no substantial effort is really made to actually help those who are in need.
Those who volunteer or offer things that do not need, even the small amounts of money we probably give to someone at the traffic lights every now and then, believe that they are better off the people they help. But this I think is a condition of charity rather than solidarity.
We actually show our solidarity to people who are equal with us, people who understand the position they are and know that helping or understanding their reactions, will make us all benefit in the future. We do not really understand that those who are affected today, if we do not stand by their side today, can certainly be an image of our own difficult position in the future.
How can we express our solidarity?
Therefore, I think that solidarity means to get out on the road for the worker who was fired, to get out on the road for the teacher who has no other option but to work for 600 euros per month while he or she is also a parent, because in the end you should know that their own prosperity is also yours, as their despair can also easily become your own despair.
We should therefore demand higher taxation of the rich and lower for the poor, protect our social benefits and ask for more assistance from the State to people with lower incomes. Also, those who are fortunate to be more wealthy should at least try to show off less and not provoke the others with their unneeded consumption in a time when people living next to them are starving. It’s not so important to become philanthropists, but rather once again to become humans.