Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Deepak Chopra makes some good points, then completely blows it

Deepak Chopra has an article on CNN about giving to charity in a smart way, and I was surprised to see that a lot of his advice was very good, if you leave aside the supernatural nonsense.  Normally anything he says is complete nonsense, but most of his commentary and advice was useful and well thought out.  But he then makes a single comment that completely pisses me off.

First, the good.  The premise is that charity is a good thing, and that giving helps us improve as a person.  The problem is that it's important to make sure that what you give is used wisely.  Blindly giving money away leads to it being squandered, and not enough people follow up on where their money went.  I completely agree with all of this. 

He also had a few suggestions about how to make sure what you give really is used effectively.  Giving time first and money second is effective, since you control more of how you spend your time.  Demand accountability when you do give money.  An interesting suggestion is to give to people who have aspirations, rather than just those who are needy:

The most hopeless people in the world aren't the poorest; they're the ones who can never fulfill even a tiny dream.

I must say that this is excellent advice.  People with dreams usually also have plans, and a well thought out plan means you know how your money will be used, and that its more likely to be used effectively.  He mentions micro-loan agencies as an example of good places to look for this; places such as START Fund and (where the Atheist group has donated the most money and have the most loans of any group, by the way ;-).  Of course it's important to try and help others in need as well, but well-thought out plans, either by the recipients themselves or by a charity distributing money and goods to those in need, are a necessity if you want your money to be used effectively.

So far, this is an article that I think is very thoughtful and important for people to read.  The problem is that Chopra then goes on to make a ridiculously sexist statement:

As a group, women are the largest population of the helpless, so I look to help them any way I can.

What a ridiculous thing to say.  Of course there are women out there who are helpless and in need, and I'm not suggesting that sexism doesn't exist and that women are on completely level footing with men (although they should be).  But to suggest that somehow women as an overarching group are typically helpless reeks of arrogance and stupidity. 

Perhaps he meant something else, and his language choice was incredibly poor.  But you'd think he would have even the slightest ability to understand how others would construe this statement.  Either way, he needs to think about what he's saying.  By not doing so, he really cheapened what I thought was otherwise a very good article.


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