Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Charity – where does it begin? And end?

By world standards, most of the people reading these comments are wealthy. So, given that we have more than most, how much should we give as Charity? And what is our giving obligation: goodwill or guilt?

Charitable Opportunities Everywhere

Perhaps I have an unusual perspective because I was born in India and grew up with beggars on the street – people in various states of distress who intruded to solicit alms. Sometimes we gave them a couple of coins, but most often we ignored them. Indeed, they were so much a part of the scenery that I really didn’t notice them until much later, when I returned from abroad. Only then did I really see the old familiar faces of beggars that I had known since boyhood. I doubt if any of them knew me, because they gave me the same blank stare that they give any prospective donor. Perhaps I was noticed a bit more because I now had the aura of a more susceptible foreigner.

When I started giving out the local equivalent of nickels, my mother warned me to limit my benevolence to the local norms – pennies. I wondered what she meant till I was overwhelmed by a persistent following, including some who had already received their alms just minutes before. They were simply testing the limits of my foreign naiveté. Evidently, word had spread via the local grapevine. When I ventured out the next day, a beggar’s brigade greeted me. Uncomfortably, I had to end up being quite rude, to escape their attention.

The situation is not different in America, where I live now. Once you give to any charity, you become a marketing target for those who somehow get to know that you are indeed a donor – sharing of information between some, I suppose. You are inundated with junk mail and telephone soliciting which you have to fight off and discard until your information eventually dwindles to the status of a bad prospect.

How much? To whom?

So, what exactly is charity? (1) Is it an obligation, or does it stem from guilt? How much should I give and to who? And, who sets the parameters: Religion? Society? Family? Relatives? Work? Country club? Should I heed the pleas of the preacher, or simply keep up with the Joneses?

Religion is always the first bastion of benevolence. Who better to set the ground rules than the links with the Almighty? You go to church to feel righteous and peer pressure takes over: if your neighbor puts some coins in the plate, why not trump that with paper money? If they have already papered the plate, no one will notice your $ 10 bill, so it may be better to put in a few $1 bills instead.

The salesman – uh, the pastor or rabbi – stresses the rationale: if you give more, you’ll receive more; if you don’t, then you are selfish and you’ll get what you deserve. To test you to the limit, you are advised to “give till it hurts”. To make it easy for you (and for the bookkeeper) the concept of “tithing” was invented – give a percentage of your earnings, and in return you will receive the maximum blessings.

Plethora of possibilities

If you don’t go to church, then secular society has a plethora of possibilities to clear your conscience or goad your guilt.

You can donate to United Way, or the Salvation Army, or “The Y” – secure in the knowledge that your giving is in good hands and indeed is tax deductible. You melt when you see the pitiful, pathetic pictures of poor orphans in some far away place and hear the pleas for your generosity to help them survive on a paltry pittance that you can easily afford.

Does charity apply to humans only? How about those poor cats and dogs in the animal shelter? Perhaps children should be first; but would a starving adult be more charity deserving than a not-so-starving child? Well, you’ve seen that advertising too.

How much of your donation actually goes to Charity?

Perhaps you should know exactly how much of your donation actually goes to those orphans after the marketing and administrative salaries have been paid and the expenses for TV advertising and sales brochures have been deducted. Ask your favorite charity for that percentage. You’ll be surprised. 

You’ll find links below showing America’s worst charities and the salaries of the highest-paid executives of major charities (2) (3) and a regular updated charity navigator. (4) You’ll find similar sites on the web for wherever you live.

Tax deductible?

Most charities take care to remind you that your gift is tax deductible. (5) Does that encourage you to give more, or does it discount the value of your giving? Donating your time or giving to the homeless in the street is indeed charity – but it cannot really be documented and is not tax deductible.

Where do we begin?

The old adage – charity begins at home – is a good starting point. Does that mean just your immediate family, or should it include relatives and their extended dependents? Should you give more to the ones in need, or distribute your largesse evenly?

And where is home? Is it your own neighborhood, or the huddled homeless in the seedy part of your hometown? Should I donate to help people who are victims of all the catastrophes that are regularly on the news? Should I help the flood victims in America first because they are nearer to where I live now? Or should my first allegiance be to flood victims in India because of my origin? If I can afford it why not help both? I’m supposed to give till it hurts. So, how much should it hurt?

Music & the Arts

Some people seem to take pleasure in the recognitions they receive for their public donations to music and the Arts. Personally, I don’t see how helping to pay the salary of the cellist should be considered charity. If the ardent patrons of the arts want so much to hear the symphony, let them simply pay more for their tickets.


Anyone who is truly passionate about any charitable cause can tell you it’s not purely a selfish endeavor. But self-interest does have a hand to play, though perhaps an unconscious, instinctive one. We give because we see a need in the world, and we continue to give because filling that need fills a related need inside of us.

Cynics point out that charity brings its own rewards. The good feeling you get when you serve the needy is itself the benefit you derive. Anyone who has his or her name posted as the benefactor of the new library or hospital wing already receives the benefit of recognition. Still, it is called charity and is tax deductible in the bargain.

Charity is something within

I have come to the conclusion that charity is only charity when you give goods, services or money without personal gain, benefit or recognition of any kind. True charity is anonymous. It begins and ends within your self.


  1. The Meaning of Charity:
  2. America’s Worst Charities:
  3. Top 25 Compensation Packages for Charity Executives:
  4. Charity Navigator: Guide to Intelligent Giving:
  5. Tax benefits of giving:
  6. Giving as Receiving - The True Rewards of Charity:
Jim Pinto
24 September, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

Benefits of Blogging

I must tell you that I'm enjoying using the new blogging style to publish
my writings. I’d like to share my reasons for changing from email to

Problems with email:

1. When I send email to my list of about 6,000, I get hundreds of
   immediate bounce-backs: “Not in the office”; “No longer at this
   company”; “Deleted as suspected spam” - etc.
2. I’m not sure how many of the 6,000 recipients actually read my eNews;
   I don’t know how many simply ignore or delete. I get lots of good email
   feedback (I respond to each one). But, many simply “delete” and I never
   know. In any case, it’s a time-consuming and arduous process for me.
3. The “old” eNews had 5 main items and 3 feedback – became the usual. The
   problem was each item could not be very long (target 300-500 words).
   I had to edit out a lot of very good stuff.

Blogging is better:

1. My columns can be longer – target 1,000 words. I can write without
   undue length limitations.
2. I can focus on just one topic at a time. This will allow me to publish
   about one a week.
3. Inserting into the blog is easy-breezy: I write in Word (or any other
   text program) and simply cut-and-paste into the blog.
4. Feedback comments can be inserted by readers immediately. If the
   comment is not appropriate, I can contact the blogger, or simply
   delete. I don’t really expect to delete or edit anything.
5. I won't get the flurry of hundreds “out of the office” and other
6. I get a ton of immediate statistics via the blog, run by Google:
   Page views; traffic sources; referring URLs; number of views per
   country - and a plethora of other stuff.
7. My email within the Blog is:
   My email: is still valid.

Problems – which YOU can help resolve:

1. Some have asked,“How do I know you have published a new article
   on the blog? Will I be informed?”
2. Solutions: The latest couple of articles will be be on my homepage: (bookmark it). Earlier items will be listed
   in the index:  There will be links
   to the blog everywhere. You can go directly: Make it easy by bookmarking.
3. Sign up for RSS. RSS allows you to easily get the latest content
   directly. You save time by not needing an email newsletter.
   The number of sites offering RSS feeds is growing rapidly:
   Apple iTunes, Yahoo News and many others. Several people have
   already been reading eNews via RSS.


I’d like YOU to help me with your feedback and comments directly
via the blog: Go the the blog via
and insert your feedback comments. DO IT NOW – it’s easy-breezy!

Of course, you can always do it the old way: send me an email!

Stay in touch. Happy blogging!

Jim Pinto
Carlsbad, California, USA

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Logic Versus Prejudice

·      Why do sincere, intelligent people sometimes strongly disagree?
·      Why are some willing to fight and die for what they believe?
·      Why do racial and religious conflicts persist?
·      How do bias and prejudice develop?

It’s generally believed that the quintessential quality of the human mind is to think logically. But, the patterns that are embedded in our thinking warp our logic and it is almost impossible for anyone to be immune to bias.

Intelligent, rational, patriotic, reasonable people can disagree strongly, sometimes even violently, each insisting that the other side is unreasonable, unpatriotic, misguided – and even stupid.

On television, we witness sincere, intelligent, elected US Representatives and Senators openly abusing each other with rhetoric that pushes the limits of decency and decor. How is this possible? Are they sincere, or is it just a part of the role they are supposed to be playing?

Many people typically cannot give rational reasons for their convictions or biases other than,  “I believe this”. In trying to try to explain bias and beliefs, one must recognize that the reasons are often innate human constructs.

Individual & Group Reality

Human Constructs are the psychosocial construction of reality, the inherited knowledge, the teachings and the experience that establish our conscious and subconscious organization of the world. It includes meaning, motivation, education, media, emotion and thought processes.

Understanding, significance, and meaning are developed individually, but in coordination with others in our society. The elements most important are: (a) human beings rationalize their experience by creating a model of the social world and how it functions and, (b) language is the most essential system through which humans construct reality. (1)

People clearly have different views of the truth because every individual thinks using their own unique perspective. Primary constructs are embedded in the human brain from infancy – religion, culture, love (family and country). These are all linked to our place of birth and surroundings, where we grew up and how we are taught. It becomes part of who we are. These can, of course, be over-ridden and even eliminated through later education and experiences.

Morality is a human construct. It evolved as humans developed increasingly more complex social interaction. It is a tool that serves to help humans survive in a social environment.

Religion & Cultural Conflicts

Perhaps chief among human constructs is religion. It has been the most influential and also perhaps the most abusive, and it broadly continues to control and influence human relations. Religious beliefs are faith-based, not subject to any logical justification.

Organized religion is the attempt of humans to codify a particular interpretation of the communication with us of a presumed almighty being.  The way organized religion reacts to threats to its existence is just like any other human institution or human being. What organized religion needs to understand is their doctrines are just the feeble attempts of humans to understand the infinite. (2)

Somehow, religious constructs seem to have allowed and motivated humans to exercise total control and abuse over other humans over many centuries. And even today, war is declared over religious differences. And horrifying slaughter is committed in the name of religion.

Genetic Predisposition

Humans have always considered it important to develop and maintain a cultural identity that aggressively defends against influences that can change or replace them.  Some think that the best explanation for these behaviors and constructs is genetic factors – genetic hard-wired patterns in the brain.

History demonstrates clear patterns for this behavior. The victor typically enforces cultural and religious changes on the vanquished. And the conquered typically emulate the customs and beliefs of presumed superiors.

Closed societies demonstrate prejudice, bias and ethnocentrism as means to safeguard the conformity of their cultures. Interbreeding with different cultures leads to genetic dilution and loss of cultural traits. (3)

Racial Prejudice

In a multicultural, multi-racial, multi-religious society, bias (example “racial profiling”) comes from an individual’s family (perhaps several generations), and upbringing (school, church, community, country).

In America today, many dissimilar cultures and races have co-mingled and it is not acceptable to be openly prejudiced. Politicians and others in the public eye cannot simply stop being prejudiced; they merely pretend that they’re not. It’s been estimated that some 48% of Americans are still prejudiced against blacks. (4)

Many Americans deny that racism still exists in this country. It is incomprehensible to some white Americans that their president would openly identify with black people, despite the fact that he himself is black.  Consider this: How much of anti-Obama rhetoric is fueled by prejudice, as opposed to genuine objections? How much is real patriotism versus illogical bias? (5)

One intelligent and sincere friend from the Deep South told me, "I was born and brought up to believe that Blacks were the next best thing to vermin. Now I have to over-ride my own embedded thinking."

Clearly good, thoughtful people can be motivated to over-ride culturally developed bigotry. It’s very difficult, but prejudice can indeed be overridden. It needs great objectivity, intelligence and determination to overcome one’s own embedded constructs.(6)

It’s interesting to note that perhaps the last remaining overt prejudice in America is against obesity; grossly overweight people are often openly ridiculed.

Repetition Manipulates Truth

Any action that is repeated regularly becomes a habit. And habits can become bias and prejudice.  This is why advertising is repeated over and over and over, so that the viewer accepts that the message as true and it eventually becomes a construct, perhaps even a prejudice.

Political advertising generates biased viewpoints. People can begin to believe grossly partisan “facts” that may be significantly against their own interests. Wealthy individuals and organizations spend enormous amounts to promote their messages, giving credibility to even outrageously prejudiced opinions. This is why spending on advertising for US presidential elections keeps increasing. It has become a TV bonanza.(7)


Modern societies run on the premise that everything must be logical. But that’s not a valid presumption. This article has brought up many examples of widespread, illogical behaviors. Hopefully, this provided some understanding, though it offered no solutions for human constructs that are often prejudiced.

Over the millennia, theories of human behaviors and constructs have belonged more in the realms of metaphysics and philosophical discussions. (8)


  1. Wikipedia – Social Constructionism:
  2. Religion Is a Human Construct:
  3. Genetic Determinism & Prejudice:
  4. AP poll: U.S. majority have prejudice against blacks:
  5. Race & Prejudice in America Today:
  6. Studies Find Rational Part of Brain Can Override Prejudice:
  7. Wikipedia – Media Manipulation:
  8. Logic – Its Laws, Premises and Limitations:

Jim Pinto
16 September 2014

Introducing the new JimPintoblog

After 14 years of publishing eNews, the final issue was published on 3 July 2014.

This is the new JimPinto weblog: . You'll read all my future articles, writings and postings here, plus you can also view them on my website: .

Thank you for your interest and loyalty over many years. I trust you'll continue to read my latest stuff - articles and commentary - on this blog, plus post some direct feedback and commentary.

Please stay in e-touch:

Jim Pinto
Carlsbad, CA. USA