Thursday, December 12, 2013

Money Wisdom #233

"But much Roman largesse was quite obviously meant to wound: a favorite aristocratic habit, for example, was scattering gold and jewels into the crowd so as to be able to revel in the ensuing animalistic melee. Understandably, early Christian theories of the gift developed in reaction to such obnoxious practices. True, charity, in Christian doctrine, could not be based on any desire to establish superiority, or gain anyone's favor , or indeed, from any egoistic motive whatever. To the degree that the giver could be said to have gotten anything out of the deal, it wasn't a real gift. But this in turn led to endless problems, since it was very difficult to conceive of a gift that did not benefit the giver in any way. At the very least, doing a good deed put one in better standing in the eyes of God and thus aided one's chance of eternal salvation. In the end, some actually ended up arguing that the only person who can make a purely benevolent act was one who had convinced himself that he was already condemned to hell. From here it's hardly much of a step to the sort of cynicism... ...where any apparent act of generosity is assumed to mask some form of hidden selfishness..."

David Graeber Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value - The False Coin of Our Own Dreams (2001) p.160-161

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