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  • Dr. Purna Bikkasani

Charity is a Moral Obligation

Updated: May 6

Sir Isaac Newton, a founder of the theory of gravity and the laws of motion, recognizes the value of the contributions he gained from various sources for his discovery. Everyone in society stands on the shoulders of others for making their living and successes, so we are all obligated to help each other. Therefore, charity should be a moral duty, not a casual choice.

Giving takes many shapes and forms: food, shelter, monetary donations, volunteering, counsel, comfort, and mentoring. Offering hugs, kisses, smiles, showing of gratitude, support, or a word of praise is also giving. Helping others is purely voluntary, even when it is altruistic. I implore all of you to consider charity as a moral obligation rather than a choice.

The time of modern humans began about seventy thousand years ago when the Earth was covered in thick layers of ice. About ten thousand of our surviving African ancestors settled close to the Equator to escape human extinction. The population then grew in numbers and spread out to the rest of Africa. About 50,000 years ago, the first wave of Africans ventured across the Red Sea to Yemen and along the coastal ways to India, Southeast Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands. A few hundred years later, a second group set out on an inland track to the Middle East and Southern Central Asia, later spreading out to the northern latitudes of Asia and Europe. About twenty thousand years ago, a few thousand of the East Asian Arctic hunters ventured into the American continent across a land bridge that surfaced when oceans dropped 300 feet below sea level during the Ice age.

After making their way across the bridge, they spread out to both North and South of the American continent in a matter of a thousand years. Anthropologists may differ in their narratives, but all accept the truth that our skin color and physical features are a matter of natural selection. The latest paleontological, anthropological, and genealogical evidence safely concludes that all people around the world are cousins, anywhere between the first to the three-thousandth cousin.

Our ancestors began to live in small groups. They had a strong sense of community: they lived and moved together, helping and protecting each other sharing the natural resources and opportunities equally. They shared food, shelter, survival tools, and skills, which paved the way for gradual human progress. Their discovery of fire and its benefits led them to migrate to the colder continents.

About ten thousand years ago, they realized the domestication of animals and plants and settled down in the river valleys to cultivate and build civilizations and cities. Agricultural society remained stable for centuries while politics transformed communities into city, states, nations, and empires. About four hundred years ago, human minds delved into the scientific realm, unleashing the power of reason to great awakenings in political, social, cultural, philosophical and economic domains. The Industrial Revolution brought about automation, efficient production, and wealth creation. It fostered infrastructure, transportation, and communications that would later develop digital technology: computers, smart phones, and finally the Internet, landing us in today’s global village.

Each generation from man’s beginning has passed their knowledge and wisdom to the next generation. The modern world has evolved through the pooling of man’s resources, skills, tools, life, and living. This collective consciousness is the culmination of all the collaborative work of all of us. This intellectual property is our common heritage — a human bank of knowledge to which all of us have equal access. We can use it to enrich, and improve ourselves with a promise to return it all back to society for the benefit of future generations. Human knowledge and wisdom circulates through the cycle of eternal life. No man or woman is an island. Together, we either float or sink. Ergo, no single person can be safe and happy without a conducive social matrix.

A common dilemma debated among givers has been about giving of handouts to the hungry, homeless, and panhandlers. Does it help to rebuild their lives back into society’s fold? On the other hand, does it induce lazy and dependent lifestyles? If these concerns are keeping you from helping, please consider directing your charity to education, research, rehabilitative programs, and environmental protection. Another criticism I often hear from concerned citizens is how fraud and abuse of the welfare system drain our tax dollars that it is creating a class of lazy people permanently dependent on the welfare net. Conflating what seemed to be a bad outcome of the policies intended to help the needy should not be a relevant argument against helping people presently in need.

Building a stable, healthy, prosperous, and harmonious society assures us an equally good life for posterity. Your prosperity handed down solely to your children and grandchildren is risking that it will be forfeited in a generation or two. Creating a harmonious and stable society helps each of us to build our cherished lives. All of us share the national wealth: fresh air, water, open lands and seas, pristine nature, infrastructure, national parks, libraries, etc. Every American is rich because the nation is rich. The world’s intellectuals and talents gravitate to America for a good reason. If we let the people suffer strife, the conflicts could drown us in a crisis that could drag us down in a competitive world. Therefore, my friends, helping a fellow human blends your self-interests with that of the society– a purpose of life. I beseech you to consider giving as a moral obligation.

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