Struggle Between the Right and Left Hands

Oxford May 2013

Oxford May 2013

The first is Dorothy Day’s views expressed around the time of World War II (1939 – 1945):

One of Dorothy’s main themes was that the works of mercy – all that we do for the most vulnerable members of society – are the polar opposite of the works of war. Why undo with your left hand what you do with your right? Clothing the naked one day – and burning them alive the next? Giving drink to the thirsty on Monday, only to destroy the water works on Tuesday? Housing the homeless, then incinerating the city? The Catholic Worker way, Dorothy said again and again, was the way of the Cross, not the way of the crucifiers. “War is the continuing passion of Christ,” she wrote, “and Christ did not come down from the Cross to defend Himself.”

~ All is Grace: A Biography of Dorothy Day by Jim Forest (page 158)

The second is the view of Peter Buffett (Warren Buffett’s son) via an op-ed in The New York Times a few days ago:

Because of who my father is, I’ve been able to occupy some seats I never expected to sit in. Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left. There are plenty of statistics that tell us that inequality is continually rising. At the same time, according to the Urban Institute, the nonprofit sector has been steadily growing. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. Their growth rate now exceeds that of both the business and government sectors. It’s a massive business, with approximately $316 billion given away in 2012 in the United States alone and more than 9.4 million employed.

As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.

~ The Charitable-Industrial Complex by Peter Buffett, The New York Times, Published: July 26, 2013

And so the struggle between the right and left hands continues. Through decades and centuries…

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