10 June 2013

"Aren't you going to recycle that?"

I'm terrible about remembering to recycle. It's partly moving about so much and not keeping up with the different rules in each city. It's partly just laziness.

Andrea reprimanded me for forgetting last week, and after some debate I realised that though she was right about the recycling and my excuses were lame, I was annoyed about the reprimanding. Or rather interested - how and when did it became socially acceptable to reprimand people for forgetting to recycle, or for wasting food as the pope just did (by the way, it's great that this new pope is such a do-gooder, but wow is he a naive do-gooder for someone who has presumably been in the do-gooding business for... how many years?).

And why is it not socially acceptable to reprimand people for wasting money on crap they don't need when they could be giving it to charity and saving lives? Sure it's annoying, but so is being reprimanded about recycling.

In the UK at least I think a lot of this is our squeamishness about talking about money in general. As Kate Fox writes:
Our distaste for money-talk in everyday social life is well established: you never ask what someone earns, or disclose your own income; you never ask what price someone paid for anything, nor do you announce the cost of any of your own possessions. In social contexts, there is a sort of ‘internal logic’ to the money-talk taboo, in that it can be explained, to some extent, with reference to other basic ‘rules of Englishness’ to do with modesty, privacy, polite egalitarianism and other forms of hypocrisy.
But at the same time it is kind of nuts that there are such good giving opportunities out there to make the world a better place and we're not allowed to talk about them. In the UK only 39 percent of people give more than fifty pounds a year to charity (NPC 2013). Of those, the average amount for "mainstream" donors is £303 a year, for high-income donors £1,282 a year. Meanwhile, you could be saving a child's life for as little as £1500.

I have a bit of an advantage here because I'm from Yorkshire. As Kate explains:
There are pockets of stronger resistance to the money-talk taboo, particularly in Yorkshire, a county that prides itself on being forthright, blunt and plain-spoken, especially on matters that mincing, hesitant southerners find embarrassing, such as money.
Also it's much easier to type things into the internet ether than to actually say them to people in person. So consider this an annoying reprimand. We have the tools. We have efficient, low overhead, transparent, charities that have proven impact on poverty and child health. Excuses about waste and corruption just don't cut it any more. Aren't you going to recycle that?


I waste money on crap I don't need all the time, and it's annoying to be reminded of that. But is it bad to be reminded? Shouldn't I feel guilty? Andrea owes me some money, and so I'm making her give it to poor Kenyans via givedirectly.org instead of back to me, mostly just in order to annoy her or something. Which had instant positive results - she writes "excellent punishment actually. I started searching "bobbi brown cream eye shadow" and had to close it because the givedirectly page was open right next to it". How about that for a nudge - keeping a givedirectly tab open in your browser all the time?

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