Monday, September 15, 2008

Mistaken Philanthropy

There's an old-fashioned, verdant peice of wisdom, altogether unsuited for the enlightened age we live in; fished up, probably, from some musty old newspaper, edited by some eccentric man troubled with that inconvenient appendage called a heart! Don't pay any attention to it. If a poor wretch--male of female--comes to you for charity, whether allied to you by your own mother, or mother Eve, put on the most stoical, "get thee behind me," expression you can muster. Listen to him with the air of a man who "thanks God he is not as other men are." If the story carry conviction with it, and truth and sorrow go hand in hand, button your coat up tigher over your pocket-book and give him a piece of--good advice! If you know anything about him, try to rake up some imprudence or mistake he may have made in the course of his life, and bring that up as a reason why you can't give him anything more substantial, and tell him that his present condition is probably a salutary discipline for those same peccadilloes! Ask him more questions than there are in the Assembly's Catechism, about his private history, and when you've pumped him high and dry, try to teach him--on an empty stomach--the "duty of submission." If the tear of wounded sensibility begins to flood the eye, and a hopeless look of discouragement settles down upon the face, "wish him well," and turn your back upon him as quick as possible.

Should you at any time be seized with an unexpected spasm of generosity, and make up your mind to bestow some worn-out old garment, that will haedly hold together till the recipient gets it home, you've bought him, body and soul; of course, you are entitled to the gratitude of a life-time! If he ever presumes to think differently from you after that, he is an "ungrateful wretch," and "ought to suffer." As to the "golden rule," that was made in old times; everything is changed now; it is not suited to our meridian.

People shouldn't get poor; if they do, yo don't want to be bothered with it. It is disagreeable; it hinders your digestion. You would rather see Dives than Lazarus, and, it is my opinion, your taste will be gratified in that particular,--in the other world, if not in this!

--Fanny Fern, in the Olive Branch, June 5, 1852

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