Charity Muggers

Everyone hates charity muggers it seems. Richard Herring told one to “fuck off” this week and The Guardian reports that the entire enterprise may soon be illegalised.

I have trouble deciding where I stand on this. I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon of hating them like everyone else seems to. Yes, they’re a pain in the ass with their intrusive tactics but they’re probably doing good in the long run and the chuggers themselves are probably in it for morally commendable reasons. Moreover, perhaps we deserve to be antagonised and deserve to feel guilty about our lack of charity. A Freudian might argue that these guys are are probably even doing us a service: by catharticly making us aware of our guilt, it no longer festers cancerously in the back of our minds or comes out in other more destructive ways.

The ethics of it all is quite confusing. There are so many urban legends about how much commission the chuggers themselves receive and concerning how long it takes for any of your donated money to filter through to the people you’re actually supposed to be helping. et cetera. But I suspect these ‘facts’ are just ways of people tangling with their liberal rich person’s guilt.

There’s also the argument that it’s ineffective and that TV campaigns and the likes are better strategies. But (a) TV campaigns are expensive and exclude smaller charities, (b) TV campaigns are also quite morally dubious with their images of fly-covered, skeletal children in the most extreme of third-world environments and (c) if chuggery was so ineffcetive, they wouldn’t do it. I guess the TV campaign alternative, when done right, is able to stimulate a culture of positioning charity as ‘the done thing’, which is undeniably good.

I must admit, however, to finding them extremely pushy and on occasion unpleasant. I am already a member of Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth and I consider myself a morally healthy individual. I recycle. I vote Green. I buy Fair Trade and frequent small shops above large supermarkets despite being on a minuscule income. I’m vegetarian! So why should I be made to feel guilty by the chuggers? It quite often gets to the point where I have to say “I’m not signing up, so fuck off”, which seems crazy considering we’re both on the same side.

So what do people think of chuggers? Do people have a right to get militant and confrontational when it comes to saving the world?

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