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Chapter 1. Economy 
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I've just finished 'Economy', all four parts.

Be back later in the day to finish reading through all your posts and make some responses.

Carly

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Fri Aug 29, 2008 1:20 am
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Post Re: The Poor Man's Tomato Soup
WildCityWoman wrote:
. . .poor man's tomato soup. . . starving artists. . .


When I saw the cat I said, "Oh no! Not the cat too!" But no, the cat doesn't end up in the catsup soup, as it would have for a starving artist in Paris. But why can't these persons hold a day job? Many think themselves called, but few are chosen.

Tom



Fri Aug 29, 2008 4:33 pm
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DWill wrote:
about "Economy."...2. His animadversion against philanthropy. I think I get his basic point--make yourself good first rather than doing good for others-- but it's surprising that he goes on at such length against it. Either he was truly worked up over people telling him he should do charitable work, as he mentions they did, or there was some great emphasis in the day placed on charity work that just rubbed him the wrong way. He suspects in others a motive for doing good that is not so praiseworthy: "There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted. It is human, it is divine, carrion. If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life, as from that dry and parching wind of the African deserts called the simoom." (1.104) We would be disappointed, I suspect, if Thoreau did not have a contrary opinion about most things. He seemed to delight in that, as Emerson mentions in his eulogy. I can certainly agree, though, with this statement: "I once heard a reverend lecturer on England, a man of learning and intelligence, after enumerating her scientific, literary, and political worthies, Shakespeare, Bacon, Cromwell, Milton, Newton, and others, speak next of her Christian heroes, whom, as if his profession required it of him, he elevated to a place far above all the rest, as the greatest of the great. They were Penn, Howard, and Mrs. Fry. Every one must feel the falsehood and cant of this. The last were not England's best men and women; only, perhaps, her best philanthropists." (1.107)DWill

Good morning. Apologies that I have not found enough time for Walden, but I do want to comment on this philanthropy discussion.
By the way, I have been reflecting further on my affinities with Thoreau. When I was young I read a book "My Side of The Mountain" about a boy who goes to live in a tree in the Catskills, and I always found it inspiring and intriguing, and now wonder how much it was inspired by Thoreau. I saw my dad the other day, who was a professor of English with focus on American spirituality in poetry. He had four copies of Walden in his library and gave me one, which alas I have barely opened (after reading half the book from the internet). My mum owns a stone hut at Bullaburra in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, completely surrounded by bushland next to a deep gorge, and she always used it as a Thoreau type retreat. Once when I stayed there I read An Imaginary Life by David Malouf, which presents Ovid in exile as a sort of Thoreau type figure.

To philanthropy. I agree with Thoreau on this. My day job is managing the infrastructure program for the Australian Agency for International Development, in which we fund major World Bank programs in the transport and energy sectors in Asia. Overseas aid is often seen as charity, but to me this is incorrect, as it should be seen as an investment in security through poverty reduction. The trouble with philanthropy is that it is geared more to the needs of the giver than the receiver, so is often like the Pharisee who Jesus criticizes for praying in public, doing it to get kudos. If we are serious about reducing poverty, then Thoreau's comments deserve attention. The underlying issue here is one I can best present from the thought of Martin Heidegger in his analysis of care as the meaning of being. He says there are two types of care



Fri Aug 29, 2008 5:20 pm
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Robert,
Welcome back, and really interesting perspective on the topic. I think it might be as I suspected: Thoreau sees in the word philanthropy a particular, and to him noxious, form of helping. He doesn't have an aversion, per se, to helping those in need, from fugitive slaves to the poorest citizens in the town. I didn't think that philanthropy is a separate category from other forms of helping. Maybe some consider it to be so. I can't see the negative in efforts to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa, for example. Perhaps philanthropic organizations or NGOs go about it inefficiently; I wouldn't know.

DWill



Fri Aug 29, 2008 6:23 pm
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Every time I find myself reading the discussion of Thoreau's attitude toward philanthropy, I can't help but wonder if he was reacting to the "buy ones way to heaven" philanthropy. The doing of "good works" with the idea of working toward a place in heaven was very popular in Thoreau's day. I will go look for a citation or two, to back up that last assertion. It makes sense to me that Thoreau would find this sort of philanthropy repugnant.


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Fri Aug 29, 2008 7:20 pm
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DWill wrote:
Robert,
Welcome back, and really interesting perspective on the topic. I think it might be as I suspected: Thoreau sees in the word philanthropy a particular, and to him noxious, form of helping. He doesn't have an aversion, per se, to helping those in need, from fugitive slaves to the poorest citizens in the town. I didn't think that philanthropy is a separate category from other forms of helping. Maybe some consider it to be so. I can't see the negative in efforts to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa, for example. Perhaps philanthropic organizations or NGOs go about it inefficiently; I wouldn't know.

DWill
AIDS in Africa is a good example of the problem with philanthropy. In some countries HIV infection rates are 40% of the population, so the epidemic is a major deadly human crisis which has Africa reeling with inability to cope. Loss of productive people to AIDS is a main factor in Zimbabwe's tragedy. However, the question is how to respond. Charities each have their own approach, and are accountable to their donors for policy. As a result, while they often help people in good ways, they also produce a disjointed confusion in the overall health system in the receiving country, with some places getting help, others not, and a messy debate about abstinence, condoms, faith, prevention, care, etc. This can all make it harder for health departments to plan and deliver budgets and programs. Better results require harmonised and coordinated approaches which build local national systems, and which set priorities according to evidence and need. Philanthropy is mostly much better than nothing, but it is generally incapable of the sort of harmonised input which is needed for sustainable development. In many African countries, aid money is available for HIV, but not for malaria, or for that matter, for road accidents, which is among the largest preventable causes of death and disability, but is seen as a dull topic by NGOs.

The lack of response to the epidemic of road crashes in poor countries is an example of the policy distortion resulting from philanthropy. In Cambodia, road crashes are estimated to cause seventy times as much health impact as land mines, but the NGO campaign on land mines struck a popular nerve in the west, resulting in disproportionate availability of funding to address the much smaller problem. Paul McCartney's ex-gold digger lost her leg to a car accident, but campaigned on land mines. Just think if Princess Diana had become a pinup for the benefits of wearing seatbelts, as this could have saved her life. Systemic approaches require analytical study of costs, benefits and options, not marketing-driven efforts to separate rich people from their charity dollar. Another thing that would help is recognition by rich countries that reducing world poverty through sustainable development is a vastly better way of building their own security than spending trillions on weapons.



Sun Aug 31, 2008 8:15 pm
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Last edited by Thomas Hood on Sun Aug 31, 2008 9:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sun Aug 31, 2008 8:38 pm
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Thomas Hood wrote:

A hard question: Doesn't giving AID's medicine to Africans (or anybody else) increase the rate of infection by prolonging the time period in which they can infect others?

Tom


How could anyone even suggest such a thing - withholding medications from all because a few might infect others. Even more offensive to me is singling out Africans.


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Last edited by Saffron on Mon Sep 01, 2008 5:49 pm, edited 3 times in total.



Sun Aug 31, 2008 8:48 pm
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Saffron wrote:
How could anyone even suggest such a thing - withholding medications from all because a few might infect others. Even more offensive to me is singling out Africans.


Sorry to rub you the wrong way again, Saffron, but get real. I didn't single out Africans and there's no "might" about it. Infectious sexually-active persons stay sexually active. In much of Central Africa there is no law and order, so any kind of responsible health service is impossible.

But considering your reaction, maybe it would be imprudent for Robert to respond to my question. I will delete it.

Tom



Sun Aug 31, 2008 9:29 pm
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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Mon Sep 01, 2008 7:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sun Aug 31, 2008 10:22 pm
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In much of Central Africa there is no law and order, so any kind of responsible health service is impossible.

In much of inner city areas such as Anacostia in Washington DC, there is not much law and order, either. I don't see, Tom, where your view allows any rationale whatsoever for AIDS treatment. Of course any treated person MAY infect someone else.

DWill



Mon Sep 01, 2008 7:01 am
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Will, I do not believe you have any appreciation of the chaos that is Africa. When I lived there, the trucks loaded with corpses came through the town at night. Surely there are no trucks loaded with corpses coming out of Anacostia. Africa will not cease to be a place of poverty, disease, and brutality until there is some form of social discipline.

Tom



Mon Sep 01, 2008 9:52 am
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Post Test post . . .
Well, as was suggested by Chris at Book Talk's message, I've cleared the cache - cookies too!

I just successfully entered a post on Chris's 'Florida' storm post . . . maybe that's the problem solved.

But really . . . do I have to log out of every other forum I'm on before I post here?



Mon Sep 01, 2008 11:17 am
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Post OK - I'll return to discuss Walden
I'll return later in the day to discuss Walden.



Mon Sep 01, 2008 11:18 am
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I have been reading and following this discussion over a week or two (in short bursts) because there is a lot to think about.

I was most interested in your posts regarding philanthropy and charity and thought a lot about George Bernard Shaw's views in comparison.

I do believe in corporate responsibility and that we need to all contribute to the good of the whole social system, because that is the attitude I was taught and grew up with. However, I have encountered some very lazy socialists...who just let the government look after those in need. I have also met some very caring and socially responsible 'conservatives'.

I think the question I wanted to ask on reading the posts on this thread is:-

Was Thoreau advocating 'corporate responsibility' when he criticised the Philanthropists and the Charity Workers.

Because GBS was highly critical of the 'good' ladies who gave out blankets to the poor, but would not agree to the organising of society to really make sure the poor were adequately educated and had adequate health care, so that they did not need to rely/fall back on charity.

I am not intending to be provocative....I am just wondering if Thoreau shared Shaw's attitude.


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Mon Sep 01, 2008 3:38 pm
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