On the Theory and Practice of Solidarity
The comparison between charity and solidarity justifies an interpretation of duality. There are similar phrases in leftist spaces that inspire similar duos of concepts. “Liberation, not assimilation”, for example. Outside of politics, there is also the duality of sympathy and empathy.
Others before me have used a hole to describe the difference between sympathy and empathy. If a person is in a hole (a difficult situation), you can either peer down into the hole or climb into the hole. If you peer down and simply see the pain, perhaps understand it, you could try and talk the person from outside the hole. Words could be anything from “it sure looks bad in that hole”, to “I’m sorry that you’re in this situation”. This is sympathy. However, if you climb into the hole and experience the pain on some degree, and – crucially – internalise the pain, you have practiced empathy. For example, words of empathy can be the sharing of a similar past experience which you have overcame: “you know, when I was in my hole I couldn’t sleep for a whole week, but eventually, after I…”
The theory of charity can be identified as sympathy and the theory of solidarity can be identified as empathy. The practice of charity, whilst in good nature, doesn’t challenge the relationship between those in capacity to give and those who need charity. They are individual, unsystematic acts that actually maintain hierarchies. Solidarity in the forms of aid is also unsystematic by nature, but allows for the progression into systemic change and the flattening of hierarchies.
Oh, and if you’re capitalist enough, you can just leave them die in the hole. Under this assumption, charity is better than nothing as a form of harm reduction. But in another sense, all hole-dwellers might necessitate solidarity between each other if no one gave any charity, ending in the filling of all holes. This has also become the question of reform or revolution, to which I say: why must we only have one?