Cultural scaffolding for greedy social roles

We all occupy many social roles. All of them are, as Margaret Archer puts it, ‘greedy’: there’s always more things we can do, more time and care we can give to others based on our existing obligations. Many of the reasons we don’t are personal, reflecting our evaluations of what matters to us but also deeply rooted dispositions about how we orientate ourself to life and how we prioritise. 

But there’s also an obviously cultural dimension to this. In Sweat Equity, by Jason Kelly, he describes the motivation of charity runners. From loc 2577:

For some more experienced athletes, charity provides cover for what’s ultimately a selfish endeavor. A number of runners conceded this to me, asking not to be identified. One says, “It helps defray the being-away-from-the-family guilt.” Another puts it more bluntly: “When you’re riding your bike for five hours on a Saturday, it’s harder for anyone to argue with you when you say you’re helping cure cancer.”

Could we consider charitable running as a sort of cultural scaffolding that can be discursively employed, in relation to self and other, in order to justify prioritising one role over another? What other ideas serve this purpose? For instance this is perhaps the role served by the discourse of ‘passion’. Repeat to self when doing email at 11pm on a Sunday night: “I’M DOING WHAT I LOVE”.

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