Wednesday, February 07, 2007

So I've Been Thinking

I've been thinking for some time about the idea of "giving back". One of my remaining moral misgivings about this big life change is the fact that I have left a fundamentally humanitarian profession (and one within which I invariably gravitated to caring for the neediest and least privileged segments of humanity) for something that consists, on the face of it, of making pretty baubles for folks with a decent disposable income.

In all fairness, the Other profession was also a large bureaucratic machine, in which the opportunities for individual difference-making were far more limited than one might imagine. (Not to mention the fact that it was not-so-slowly destroying my health.) And I have been pleasantly surprised, and at times even astonished, by the degree to which the love and passion and meaning which I pour into the things I make transfers to and affects the people who purchase and receive them. But I also cannot escape the fact that the ability to choose to do something I love, and be paid for that, is a rare privilege, and one that depends on circumstances largely not of my own making.

The majority of the world is concerned with basic survival - finding food and water for themselves and their children, avoiding armed conflict. They can't afford to be choosy about "fulfilling work" - they struggle to find anything at all that will generate enough to barter for their next meal. I think I have learned enough rudimentary economics to let go of the belief that hanging onto my own misery would somehow atone for theirs, but I absolutely cannot accept this happy life as though it were somehow all mine to keep.

So, starting now, 10% of all my net sales profits will go to Medecins Sans Frontieres. (And of course, as a knitter, I will send the numbers to Stephanie for Tricoteuses Sans Frontieres.) I suppose it might be prudent to wait for the end of the year, tot up the numbers, see if my business is in the black overall, etc. etc. but I feel a sense of urgency to just get on with it.

Which brings me to one other small ethical dilemma: should I advertise that fact? I see folks advertising that "a percentage of all.... goes to...... charity" all the time, but to do it myself feels uncomfortably like a marketing ploy. I'm not even sure if it is truely an ethical issue, or perhaps simply reflects my innate discomfort with self-promotion.