Giving Tuesday: a view from history

Today is Giving Tuesday (or should that be #givingtuesday?); the global day of celebrating generosity. gt-logo-6It has been going for a few years now in the US, where it began as an antidote to the frenzied consumerism of “black friday” and “cyber monday“, the two main post-thanksgiving shopping days.


This year, for the first time, it has come to the UK. And it appears to have really taken off (disclaimer: CAF have been leading the organisation of Giving Tuesday UK). This is perhaps not surprising, as both Black Friday and Cyber Monday appear to have been gleefully adopted by retailers and shoppers over here, so people probably welcome having a ready-made counterpoint in the form of a day given over to helping others.


Giving Tuesday has its own momentum, and certainly doesn’t need me to add my two pence worth of comment. I thought, therefore, that I would leave it to another source I came across while researching for a new book on philanthropy to make the argument about the need for a charitable remedy to growing materialism in the UK:


“… It is true enough that we are a people far gone in the exclusive pursuit of money. It cannot be denied that the material preponderates largely over the spiritual in our intellectual constitution…


We are prone to good dinners, and invest the knife and fork with more dignity and authority than were ever intended for such domestic and everyday utensils.


We are somewhat intolerant in our prejudices and intolerant in our bearing… liberal as the air to the last degree but one, and in that degree, as bigoted and wrong-headed as you please.


But enumerate the faults and foibles of our countrymen until there be no more to name, and there remain still to be noted the great virtues that have made our people what they are…


If Englishmen are eager of acquisition, they are spendthrifts in bounty. Their incessant anxiety to give their hard-earned money for the mitigation of pain, whether of body or soul, is more creditable to them than the greatest victory ever won over human selfishness in the tented field.”


And where does this quote come from? An editorial in the Spectator? A hand-wringing article in the Guardian’s Comment is Free section? Well, no. As you probably guessed from the language, the source is a bit older than that.


It is in fact from the Times of 7th September 1850. Which just goes to show that as is so often the case with many aspects of charity and philanthropy, there is little new under the sun. One might argue that it is dispiriting that we are having the same conversations over 150 years later. However, these things naturally go in cycles and the counter-argument is that it is heartening that people continue to recognise the need to balance out excessive consumerism with charitable giving


Happy Giving Tuesday!


Rhodri Davies

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