Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Case for Charity at Christmas

I find stories lie the Pledge to Give Away Fortunes article on Stuff fascinating. What is it actually saying?

"I, a very wealthy person, pledge to give away my money. But not a pledge in any formal way, like a written will or anything legal. And I will only give it away when I die or otherwise have no further use for it. Unless I decide that I DO have a use for it, in which case, my pledge is not binding anyway. And I never said I would give all of it away either".

I suppose I should not be so cynical, as really, it is quite a generous on their part, considering the millions, if not billions, of dollars that will go to worthy causes, to fund worthy things and help lots of lives.

But the cynic in me can't help itself from raising an eyebrow and saying, "Yeah, but look what their unfulfilled pledge for the future is delivering for them now". A lot of the people mentioned stand to gain quite a richly from the public relations boost such gestures tend to generate:

- Mark Zuckerberg's image as an arrogant d!ck, thanks to the afore-judged movie The Social Network and his own annoying personality, may be changed somewhat. As a billionaire only in his mid twenties, he has quite a few decades to go before he really needs to even think about coughing over any money - though in the meantime, he may continue to solve the world's ills by bringing people together electronically.

- George Lucas is both loved and hated, as the man who brought the original "holy" trilogy of Star Wars to the big screen and then caused the suffering of untold millions by inflicting his unholy prequels on the public. And then, to rub salt in the wounds, he butchered the originals in his Tinkered Trilogy so that Han Solo did not fire first so that... well, who can say, besides the fact it's stupid? Considering the amount of flak he has received for these outrages, perhaps he is not offering this for publicity reasons, as the Beard obviously has pretty thick skin underneath all his facial hair and may not really care what others think.

- Ted Turner... didn't he colourise Casablanca and give it a happy ending? I might be thinking of the Clamp Cable Network, now I think about it.

Verdict: Why (oh why) is it so hard to take these things at face value, or appreciate them for what they appear to be? Again, the cynic in me pipes up, "these people didn't get to where they are by being altruistic". But maybe, just maybe. On a scale of nice gestures, with a 1 being a single-fingered salute and a 10 being a kiss with tongue, lets go for an uncynical 7.5.

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