Just As I Thought

Give a man a fish…

For no very good reason, other than because it’s on, I am watching “Oprah’s Big Give.” And what is really annoying me about it is that it is typical Oprah-style charity: giving people stuff. Contestants on this show wandered through a hospital giving cash to various people or taking people in need to a spa. A contestant threw a party at the Boys and Girls Club, giving kids iPods and PSPs, both items that really require them to go out and spend money to use; in the case of an iPod, they need a computer to sync it with. That said, one group of contestants did exactly what I would have done: they multiplied the usefulness of their money by getting in-kind donations for a children’s home, providing not just cash but donated work for renovations, their charitable work left the place better and the items they donated will continue to work for the children’s home for quite some time, much more helpful than mere money.
I hate this idea that the way to help people is to give them some bauble or a pile of cash. But that’s what Oprah is usually all about — giving away products from companies that provide them for publicity, promoting new-agey, feel-good fads such as “The Secret” that don’t ever help people but do line the pockets of charlatans, building schools that purport to provide much-needed education but money is spent on style and amenities, not the students. It all makes audiences feel warm, but aside from an instant gratification, what does it really accomplish in the long term?
It is very telling that the contestants on this show are judged on the “presentation” of their charitable work.

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