One Brand of Philanthropy

Disclaimer: By no means is this an endorsement of the work of Russell Brand.

In his recent Comedy Central special, the crass British comedian Russell Brand made one point that I found rather astute. The joke he framed as "Reciprocal Altruism" or thereabouts.

He commented on giving to the homeless and how that generosity is generally not the end of the action but is instead meant to garner a type of cosmic reaction. More correctly, the kindness of giving a dollar or two to a homeless person is, for some, more a form of "karmic" insurance, where one good deed might sort of cover the giver for the rest of the day, thus bestowing a reciprocal amount of good luck for the remainder of the day.

I thought that idea was clever and amusing, but also farily poignant. Is that the only reason we give, to feel good about ourselves? This notion may even apply to large scale philanthropy. You can be sure that Bill and Melinda Gates are feeling pretty lucky considering what they give to the world's impoverished and underserved communities, and they rightly should feel pretty good about it. He's the epitome of extreme dorkiness in most circles, but in the karmic sense, he's like an ancient repository of good luck waiting for the right juncture to be used to the greatest effect.

Indeed, it's a cynical view of doing good deeds, but I did get "a bit of a laaff" out of it.

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