Friday, April 27, 2007

Consumer charity

I watched the last three weeks' worth of American Idol over the past couple of days, which means that my avoidance of entertainment news can end (thank God, because I was really starting to miss TMZ). To be honest, the strike wasn't really worth it, especially considering the cop-out "no one gets voted off" schtick that they pulled on Wednesday. The charity thing was hokey, somewhat grotesque, and slightly reminiscent of being in a zoo, but according to an article on their website, it has raised over $60 million already. That's about how much the initial grant from USAID was to fund the project that I work on that was initially designed to spend five years addressing TB, malaria, and AIDS, the same issues that Idol Gives Back is focusing on in Africa. You know it's for real when even the Gates Foundation (through Nothing But Nets) is involved.

On some level, it seems wrong that such massive campaigns to help dying people only ever seem to be generated when linked to consumption and profit, like the Red campaign. But it's not as simple as demeaning marketing ploys. It makes sense to donate money that people would be spending anyway. It makes sense to encourage people who would otherwise not even think of donating to do so by selling the idea of charitable acts along with whatever products they are already consuming. This is the idea that Bono has bought into wholeheartedly.

It is upsetting on a broader level to think that people can buy a red phone instead of a silver one and then tell themselves that they have done their part to help save the world. And it is upsetting to think that choosing the charitable product over the non-charitable version that you were already going to buy is the extent of many people's charitable giving. But given that those people weren't going to give anything before, and given that the money is badly needed, I think it makes sense to attempt to channel consumption that already exists into actual dollars that can go to people who really need the assistance.

I guess the thinking goes that it would be great if everyone who could afford to do so spontaneously opted to give money to important causes. But since they don't, and since their money is sorely needed, it's impossible to accept only those donations that stem from pure goodwill: beggars can't be choosers.

And it is absolutely true that many people are just genuinely unaware of the great need for these things, even if it's because they've created their own impermeable bubble to spend their lives in. So if anything that can be done to pierce that bubble, it should be. Especially when you get over $60 million in two days.

I'm aware that this post sounds somewhat sanctimonious and probably overly serious. And it's not like I'm sending off piles of cash to Africa each week. But it is a complicated issue, and a somewhat depressing highlight of what nearsightedness a consumer-based culture like ours can engender. But at the same time it's encouraging to know that consumer-based cultures aren't synonymous with selfishness as much as they are with an inward focus. People don't look around them and see what they can do, but if someone makes them aware of it, they are unselfish enough to do something about it.

And I also believe that pure unselfishness does not exist. Any time we do anything good, even if we don't get any material benefit from doing it and even if it's an extremely challenging thing for us to do, we do it in part because we think we should, or because it makes us feel good. We do it because of our own motivations. It's natural, it's human, it might be depressing, but ultimately I think it's okay. And I'm glad that when people living in such a culture are shown images, even grotesque ones reminiscent of colonialism, that they react and reach out.

18 comments:

  1. acer laptops have much brighter lcd screens compared to other brands` Buy HGH

    ReplyDelete
  2. After study a few of the blog articles in your internet site now, and that i really appreciate your strategy for blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark web site list and you will be checking back soon. Pls look at my web-site also and figure out what you consider. 꽁머니 3만

    ReplyDelete
  3. I observe there is plenty of spam on this weblog. Do you need assist cleaning them up? I might help among classes! doves for sale

    ReplyDelete
  4. well of course, everyone loves to get rich but not everyone would love to do hard work“ smart watches

    ReplyDelete
  5. While at her sister’s fitting for a wedding dress, June is approached by a man known only as Agent Fitzgerald, and asked to accompany him inside his vehicle. app modernization

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nice post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed! Very helpful information specially the last part I care for such information a lot. I was looking for this certain information for a very long time. Thank you and best of luck. 토토사이트

    ReplyDelete
  7. You have some real insight. Why not hold some sort of contest for your readers? quality backlinks

    ReplyDelete
  8. Aw, this was quite a good post. In concept I have to place in writing similar to this moreover - spending time and actual effort to make a excellent article… but what / things I say… I procrastinate alot and no indicates often get something carried out. sugaring hair removal

    ReplyDelete
  9. Just wanna input on few general things, The website design is perfect, the articles is very great : D. buy steroids online

    ReplyDelete
  10. This would be the proper blog for everyone who wishes to check out this topic. You recognize a great deal its almost challenging to argue with you (not too I actually would want…HaHa). You actually put the latest spin on a topic thats been written about for decades. Great stuff, just excellent! buy hgh

    ReplyDelete
  11. Attorneys… [...]just below, are some totally unrelated sites to ours, however, they are definitely worth checking out[...]… clenbuterol for sale

    ReplyDelete
  12. Nice post. I learn something harder on diverse blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to learn to read content off their writers and use something at their store. I’d opt to apply certain while using the content in my small blog no matter whether you don’t mind. Natually I’ll offer you a link for your internet weblog. Appreciate your sharing. Sulfate Free Hair Conditioner

    ReplyDelete
  13. The the next time I read a weblog, I hope that this doesnt disappoint me up to this one. I am talking about, I know it was my substitute for read, but I just thought youd have something intriguing to state. All I hear is usually a few whining about something that you could fix should you werent too busy seeking attention. situs slot online

    ReplyDelete
  14. It’s perfect time to make some plans for the future and it’s time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I want to suggest you some interesting things or suggestions. Perhaps you can write next articles referring to this article. I wish to read more things about it! pelangi toto 888

    ReplyDelete
  15. Attorneys… [...]just below, are some totally unrelated sites to ours, however, they are definitely worth checking out[...]… Yoga

    ReplyDelete
  16. Good day! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with SEO? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good success. If you know of any please share. Many thanks! thor endgame jacket

    ReplyDelete

  17. That is one of the main reasons that I am very much interested in knowing the history of the things. As most of the time their names are greatly related with their history. Also sometimes you can realize the importance of the thing just by knowing its name like this one here shows its squid game tracksuit importance by its name that is “cure all”

    ReplyDelete
  18. Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything such as this prior to Samsung Service Center

    ReplyDelete