Rationalists assert that helping others is not necessarily an innate human trait. Instead, as social animals, we developed sharing to maintain peace within our communities. This may or may not be so, but philanthropy, or giving to those who need it the most, becomes a moral choice when it comes down to it. At least, that’s how Iranian businessman Ashkan Fattahi perceives charity in 2022 and beyond.
There’s no such thing as natural scarcity. Nature is a synonym for equilibrium. It does not discriminate nor have preferences based on superficialities. Humans, however, although capable of implementing philanthropy, are equally capable of creating scarcity. One can trace our current shortages back to poor management of resources and the lack of care or thought. For Fattahi, these causes are a matter of concern and can be dealt with in two ways. The options, according to him, are “putting the spotlight on causes that bring scarcity about or by dealing with the situation head-on. I like the latter, and this is why I believe in philanthropy. People’s immediate needs are a matter of real concern. Only when they are fed, bathed, and clothed can they begin to ponder how to rearrange their lives. It’s not easy to generate path-breaking ideas on an empty stomach.”
For many people worldwide, philanthropy is a one-time thing – a yearly trip to the underprivileged sections of society and distributing food and other fundamental necessities. Although that, too, has an impact, it’s not half as much as what is needed in the world today. This attitude also generates a victim mentality in those who receive help. They see it as something that comes to them as a means for people to vindicate themselves of their good fortunes.
Fattahi has found that continuous help, however, restores faith and hope among people who need it the most. When offering support, Fattahi and his team also make sure that people feel like people and continually work to maintain the recipient's dignity. He says, “It’s not easy to imagine what it is like to live in poverty if you’re not poor. You might have little or less than others, but if you can sustain yourself one day at a time and are not completely dependent on someone else to pull you through your day, it’s still ok. The people we help have been dealt rough cards. Somehow, they are also the kindest, warmest people we’ve ever met. To treat them well is something we feel strongly about. And we don’t even have to try too hard. It comes naturally because their poverty has somehow helped them keep their innocence intact. They can be bitter. But they aren’t mean or evil. There’s a lot about resilience and hope one can learn from them.”
2020 showed us all our personal and collective vulnerabilities. It also showed us our strength. Yet, there’s no mistaking that some suffered far more than others. For Fattahi, the lockdown was the perfect example of how individuals who have been blessed financially and are stable in their lives “must extend a helping hand towards those who aren’t as blessed. It’s simply a matter of being human. We are in this together. And it’s not just a metaphor. Science tells us so. The building blocks of life unite us all. What divides us is our sense of what is right and what is wrong. There’s enough money and more than enough love and compassion in the world to outdo the injustice that some people have to experience in the name of fate or luck. It’s a matter of perspective. You don’t owe it to them. But perhaps, when you come to terms with the fundamental principles of life and the laws that shape and govern our fate, we can realize our potential ability and, with time, even our willingness to give a part of our time and ourselves to those who don’t have much to give back in return except an honest smile and a warm hug. And the truth is that is more than many receive in all their life.”
In recent times, philanthropy has somehow earned a bad name. From red tape to how philanthropists use their charitable pursuits to hide things of a less savory nature, they have contributed to bringing down the inherent goodness of the concept. Fattahi hopes to change that and show the world that being moral “is a personal choice and a decision you make with your spirit. Helping others is a genuine way to heal a broken spirit. And for me, that’s the most important job of all. I truly believe that I work for myself, not only as an entrepreneur but in a bid to nourish my spirit. Helping others has certainly helped me with that.”
Ashkan Fattahi’s desire to add quality and quantity to the idea of philanthropy is commendable. As he does his bit, may it inspire others to do theirs as well.
This article was written in cooperation with Digital Nod