I was just thinking about words to day, and how we use them and what they actually mean.
Like the word "insult". I ocassionally lurk at right-wing sites, and occasionally post. I find it interesting that "cunt" "bitch" and "slut" are perfectly legitimate slurs, but if I say what you said was "sexist" or "racist" I'm the one being insulting.
This always confused me until my friend Pretty Eric pointed something out to me: when people hear these words, they don't hear a critism, they hear "a generic word meaning "bad"".
"Sexist" and "racist" doesn't mean that you are a horrible, evil person: it means you need to examine your prejudices and your motivations. If you say "all women are.." and I say that it was sexist, I want you to examine how you can say "all women" as if we were cookie cutouts. If you say "all blacks" I want you to think about this, just like when I was first introduced to race-orientated blogs, I had to grow accustomed to how uncomfortable they made me (as a white women).
"Mercy" and "gift" are other words that I think that people need to examine. When people talk about the "deserving poor" I think they misunderstand what mercy is. Mercy, by definition, does not need to be deserved. When Katrina hit, and people were talking about how these horrible black people were not "grateful" enough I clenched my jaw. Gratitude has nothing to do with why you give charity. You help those in need because it's the right thing to do: you do it for yourself and your own ethics, not other people's gratitude.
This is why charity is supposed to be given anonomously. Because, for some reason, it is still seen as a matter of "pride" not to get charity. The person giving the charity gets to be self-righteous and smug, and the person recieving has to be humbled if you give charity in public. The person recieving charity now "owes" the other. Giving charity isn't about stripping someone else's dignity: in my mind it's about truly enlightened self-intrest: you help others because they will help you when you need it. You help others because the world is a better place when others' needs are met. You help others to make the world (sap alert) a better place to live for everyone.
The same thing with "gifts". "Gifts" mean that you give it with no strings attached: it is an expression of affection and joy, not of trying to get something in return. When you give something with the expectation of getting something back, it becomes a "bribe" not a gift.
For instance, when I first moved out of the dorms, my parents said that they would pay for my rent. This was a gift, because they loved me. Well, that "gift" ended when I decided that the most economical thing was for me to move in with my boyfriend. This was not a "gift" this was a bribe: a bribe to get me to pretend to believe in their values.
It's the same thing when a guy takes a female out to dinner, not to be nice or give a gift, but because he expects he will get laid. When he doesn't get that sex, you would be surprised (or not) how quickly the female becomes a "greedy bitch".
We need to quit have an expectations that do not match up with good morality. We need to realize that we are interlinked, and what you do to other people, it will happen to you. Call it karma, call it the Rule of Three, call it Christ's call that "what you do the least of my brethern you do to me" call it enlightened self-intrest; the end result is the same: when we help others, we help ourselves.