Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/326

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312
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

sically wrong.[1] Hence it may reasonably be concluded that if private voluntary relief of the poor replaced public compulsory relief, the diffused sentiment which enforces the one would go a long way toward maintaining the other. The general feeling would become such that few, even of the unsympathetic, would dare to face the scorn which would result did they shirk all share of the common responsibility; and while there would probably be thus insured something like due contributions from the indifferent or the callous, there would, in some of them, be initiated, by the formal practice of beneficence, a feeling which in course of time would render the beneficence genuine and pleasurable.

A further difficulty presents itself. "I am too much occupied," says the man of business when exhorted to exercise private beneficence. "I have a family to bring up; and my whole time is absorbed in discharging my responsibilities, parental and other. It is impossible for me, therefore, to make such inquiries as are needful to avoid giving misdirected assistance. I must make my contribution and leave others to distribute." That there is force in the reply can not be denied. But when we call to mind the common remark that if you want anything done you must apply to the busy man rather than to the man of leisure, we may reasonably question whether the busy man may not occasionally find time enough to investigate cases of distress which are forced on his attention. Sometimes there may even result, from a due amount of altruistic action, a mental gain conducive to efficiency in the conduct of affairs.

At any rate it must be admitted that individual ministration to the poor is the normal form of ministration; and that, made more thoughtful and careful, as it would be if the entire responsibility of caring for the poor devolved upon it, it would go a long way toward meeting the needs: especially as the needs would be greatly diminished when there had been excluded the artificially generated poverty with which we are surrounded.

 

But now, from this general advocacy of individual giving versus giving by public and quasi-public agencies, I pass to the special advocacy of the natural form of individual giving—a form which exists and which simply needs development.

Within the intricate plexus of social relations surrounding


  1. A most instructive and remarkable fact, which illustrates this general truth at the same time that it illustrates a more special truth, is that respecting the rudest of the Musheras of India, who have no form of marriage, but among whom "unchastity, or a change of lovers on either side, when once mutual appropriation has been made, is a thing of rare occurrence"; and, when it does occur, causes excommunication. So that among these simple people, public opinion in respect of the marital relation is more potent than law is among ourselves. (For account of the Musheras see Calcutta Review, April, 1888.)