Chuggers Offer Their Hand, Take Social Capital

Chuggers – charity muggers – have exploded across our footpaths these last few years. Not literally, though on occasion had that happened it would have elicited cheers from a harried sidewalk population.

This is an especial issue for those of us in the inner city, where the combination of backpackers, greenies and the muso underclass provide an inexhaustible supply of those willing to ask others for money.

A new fundraising technique has emerged along with the tried-and-true use of attractive young women (which, incidentally, raises more funds from women as well as from lonely-but-hopeful men).

It’s the egregious misuse of the handshake.

There is a grand, unstated and quite powerful energy buried in that simple manual action.  It’s based on honour and hospitality.

To refuse to take someone’s hand is quite the offence. It’s surprising just how viscerally-embedded is the sense of decency behind taking a hand when someone offers it.

It’s as though it is a statement of our core civilised values:

No matter the level of our disagreement, by taking your hand I acknowledge you as a person of value in your own right, and I eschew violence in our relations.

Women may disagree, but handshaking has a stronger cultural and emotional impact among men. It’s not overt, or ever rationally stated, but it’s all tied up with the (historically) ever-present threat of violence in male-male interaction.

Withdrawing one’s hand is not only a slur on the value of the other, not only an overt statement of dislike, but it implicitly communicates that any action is on the table. As an example, consider the implication of Danny Green or Manny Pacquiao refusing to shake your hand. Or of you refusing theirs.

So now our chugger friends have latched on to this highly emotional hook. They approach, hand outstretched,  porting whatever cause-bespattered Tshirt of the day they managed to drag over their unwashed heads, forcing people who do not want to be approached to subvert their own social decency and refuse to shake hands.

On occasion they supplement this travesty with:

“Don’t you want to save a starving child?”

as though guilt laden upon social destruction might lead to a more “charitable” outcome.

This is nothing more than sullying a positive social institution that has stood for millennia with grubby marketing, sanctioned because it is for a “good cause”. Doing the wrong thing is fine, so long as there is a brown baby or piece of vegetation somewhere in the background.

This devalues a core piece of our social glue, a part of what makes our society as functional as it is (a low target, I know). This isn’t an overstatement. Every time I refuse to shake hands with some presumptuous little moraliser, the meaning of the handshake in general is eaten away. Soon there won’t be that visceral sense of wrong in refusing someone’s hand when they offer it.

And one more civilising feature that helps maintain goodwill between men will have fallen.

 

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