En flagrant délit de générosité ?

PRINCETON – Jésus a dit qu’il fallait se cacher pour faire l’aumône, et se garder de la faire en public. Cette notion correspond à l’idée répandue que si des gens ne font le bien qu’en public, ils sont peut-être poussés par la volonté de se faire une réputation de générosité. Et peut-être que lorsque personne ne regarde, ils ne sont pas généreux du tout.

Ce principe peut nous pousser à mépriser le genre de graffiti philanthropique où l’on voit les noms des donateurs arborés ostensiblement sur les murs de salles de concert, de musées d’art et de bâtiments universitaires. Non seulement ces noms figurent souvent dans tout le bâtiment, mais aussi dans tous les recoins que les collecteurs de fonds et les architectes ont pu dénicher.

Selon les psychologues de l’évolution, de tels étalages de générosité sont l’équivalent humain de la queue du paon. Tout comme le paon signale sa force et sa condition physique en arborant son immense queue – un pur gaspillage de ressources, d’un point de vue pratique – de même les actes coûteux de générosité publique signalent aux partenaires potentiels que l’on possède assez de ressource pour se permettre d’en gaspiller autant.

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