In his New York Times op-ed titled “The charitable-industrial complex,” philanthropist Peter Buffett describes how charity alone fails to address the root causes of systemic inequality.

Martin Luther King Jr. stressed this point and said, “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice that make philanthropy necessary.”

In “The charitable-industrial complex,” Buffett points out the urge to “save the day.” This is referred to as a “savior complex” or “rescuer identity.” Those who experience it are inclined to enable dependency in others because they attach their idea of self-worth to their craving to feel needed.

When legislation allows for the private sector to override the public sector, people are stripped of their agency and voice within their own communities. This is how economic inequality is exacerbated and poverty becomes increasingly harder to escape.

The prevalence of the problematic rescuer identity among the 1 percent is a significant hindrance in passing necessary economic self-sufficiency measures, such as an increased minimum wage and collective bargaining rights. The end of poverty is possible through policy changes and honest self-reflection. By paying close attention to our own motivation, we can discover whether we are focusing on true transformation or ego-driven gratification.

Sable Knapp


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