David Bonnici retorts to the nasty pieces of work who try to justify uncharitableness by claiming that “charity begins at home” and therefore, letting local people suffer somehow absolves us of our responsibilities to those suffering even more.
But that’s precisely what the expression was coined to criticise:
It’s actually part of a longer saying by Sir Thomas Browne, who in 1642 wrote, within his first book Religio Medici:
“But how shall we expect charity towards others, when we are uncharitable to ourselves? ‘Charity begins at home,’ is the voice of the world; yet is every man his greatest enemy, and, as it were, his own executioner.”
Browne’s eloquent prose was a big up yours to the selfishness, yet four centuries later those four words are repeatedly used out of context to justify it by people oblivious of the irony.
Better find another excuse, heartless people.
UPDATE (10/2): Like this former Howard govt staffer in The Punch this morning – he begins and ends with the “charity begins at home” line, and the clearly absurd claim that “We need to cut our foreign aid budget to help for the reconstruction of Queensland and to help Queenslanders get back on their feet” – but then spends the rest of the time bashing specific programs without any detail of what they’re meant to achieve, and claiming that we only really aid poor countries to get Kevin Rudd some kind of position in the UN!
Funnily enough, when the Libs had a go at the aid budget this week, all they could come up with was slashing a program to build schools in Indonesia so that our neighbours’ kids are not being brought up in extremist madrasas. These other things he’s throwing mud at that we’ve never heard of before – somehow I’m dubious about his characterisation of them.