Giving Back Is The New Black

If I hear one more high-earner talk about “giving back” I’ll punch them in their self-obsessed mouth.

One of the joys of being involved in politics is the opportunity to see, and work with, great NGOs operating on the frontline of social service delivery.

It also exposes people like me to the eternally unnoticed who actually make the world go round: the guy who’s brought the nets to the club’s soccer matches for 20 years; the car pool mum who ferries kids around every weekend; the carpenter who gives an unpaid three weeks a year to the SES.

What strikes me about this latter bunch is that they never utter any words about “giving back”.

There’s no assumption that they’ve taken in the first place. No assumption that they need to apologise for whatever life success they’ve had. They just do what they think is right, and what over time they have come to enjoy.

It isn’t some conscious, conspicuous choice to donate themselves, as if that was the greatest gift imaginable. No, they just bog in and get shit done. Doing it is part of the person they are, not some add-on to increase their moral standing.

And while there are plenty of examples of people in civil society who build empires and become obstructive, for the most part people do stuff because they think it is right. It may be too grandiose a term for those involved, but it seems that they have an implicit sense of civic obligation, and even honour.

That is a long way from the self-focus and conspicuous charity of those who grandly claim they are volunteering to “give back”.

It may be obvious but I believe there is a fundamental class difference operating here.

That difference isn’t necessarily driven by birth and or by income. It’s a difference between those who focus on their identity and those who focus on action. If there is a dividing line it seems to be based on the level of exposure to university education and white collar work.

I’m struggling to avoid saying that professional and semi-professional white collar workers are wankers. That would be a cheap shot, and something of a Pyrrhic victory.

Rather, I want to take this to the broadest generalisation possible. Identity focus is a mark of the Smart Class.  Action focus is a mark of that group so culturally maligned that it has no name at all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.