I was talking to this comrade one time, and we were discussing some revolutionary type stuff, and I mentioned a “serve the people” type idea where I envisioned helping the Free Range people on the street. Helping with food, clothing, medicine, or whatever, and this comrade says to me “Sounds more like charity work, and not serve the people work”.
Although I can appreciate the criticism, around trying to build mass organizations, or social movements around “charity work”, I’ve had time to reflect on the comment, the past two years, and have delved into a deeper innerstanding of what charity is.
Charity in the capitalist, consumerist, dog-eat-dog world, is usually associated with NGO type organizations, who often times receive large amounts of grant money from, gov’t funded agencies, who then instill a whole list of “non-political” things one can or can not do with the money. Therefore, these NGO’s are not really that interested in party building, or funding revolutionary movements. These people especially those on the frontlines, may have the best of intentions and seriously want to help those most afflicted, but are in large ways limited by the bureaucratic policies that are placed upon them. Like I said, I can appreciate the comrades criticism for not wanting to do “charity” work, but alas, there is something that gnaws at me in the pit of my stomach. Something that tells me, THERE IS A NEED to do charity work.
As I’ve been meditating an praying about my roles and responsibilities, as a Bear Clan, a Man, and an Anishinabek, I contemplate the roles of all of them. To simplify things, I’ve singled it down to, “what does the Bear do?” Well the Bear is the Medicine Clan, which is why I probably have that innate sense of wanting to help, sick, and or ailing people.
As I’ve reflected on the 14 Grandfather Teachings, I think about how under the Grandfather of Love, that that there are many many Anishinabke words to describe actions of love. (I am not a fluent speaker of Anishinabemowin, but this is what I have been told). So, if there are many Anishinabek words to describe actions of love, then similarly, there must be many ways to describe actions of Love in the English language. One needs only to arm themselves with a thesaurus to get many different synonyms and antonyms.
Charity, is an act of kindness, generosity, and compassion, all of which can be described by using actions of Love. Therefore, under the Sacred Teachings, Charity is in fact a necessity of life.
Back to what that comrade was saying, about “charity work”, and how that comment was made to kind of dismiss the notion as “not an area” of work that people should be focusing on, I am reminded about what revolutionaries have said about the vanguard of the proletariat being the people who are most oppressed. If the people on the streets are not a large part of the most oppressed, then I don’t know who is. Understandably from an Indigenous perspective, I do not know off hand, of any nations that have committed strictly to charity work. However there are many cases and instances, where I can reference where in fact Anishinabek people are charitable. I can reference Chistopher Columbus when he washed up on shore, and how the Indigenous people saved them from scurvy. Or there’s an Anishinabek teaching about helping people. It goes that long ago, if you were paddling your canoe, and you saw some people starving and in need, by Traditional Law you were required to help them. But you should never give them anymore then 1/3 of your provisions.
When I think about all the people, and all the agencies, NGO or non NGO who have helped me, who either did it out of their love, compassion and kindness, I can’t not in good conscience, in my sobriety ignore those acts. And as such, I feel a spiritual and moral obligation to help those who may in fact need my help. Call it charity, call it love, kindness or compassion. Call it for what it really is. Its the right thing to do. Its the Mno Bimaadziwin way of life.
When I think about what the comrade had told me about “charity” service, I think it should be a criticism that all revolutionaries should undertake. Perhaps too much time is spent trying to organize among the “work class” and not enough time is committed to “charity” work. I say the word “charity” facetiously.
As a member of ACTION we don’t mind doing charity work. But understandably, the majority of our work can not be just charity. Our teaching tells us, that we can in fact commit 1/3 of our provisions help those in need. Maybe this should serve as a reminder to the vast majority of people who have the ability to give, but fail to do so, only during the holiday crunch when its socially acceptable to do so.
None of my relations