Weekend Paradoxes Part 1: Sweetheart Auction

It’s not unusual for me to come across circumstances or phenomena that make me seriously question whether I live in the Twilight Zone or not. This past weekend I got a double dose of “Is everyone crazy or is it just me?”

I got invited to a Friday charity date auction organised by Redbandaid Foundation.

Charity. Date. Auction. Need I say more?

Probably. So, here goes:

1.) The Problem with Charity

“We have previously suggested that philanthropy combines genuine pity with the display of power and that the latter element explains why the powerful are more inclined to be generous than to grant social justice.”

– Reinhold Niebuhr

Charity itself is problematic as most people involved in justice work know. If you’ve somehow missed the memo, here’s a brief sum up: Charity generally doesn’t talk about justice. Redbandaid aims to “make the world a happier place for those who can’t manage themselves.” Those who can’t manage themselves. This is the problem identified. Not inequalities of power, economy, status and so on. That’s because the nature of charity doesn’t usually invite questions or encourage critical thinking about social relationships. It does not address structural causes of the tragedies it rushes to “aid”. Charity involves patching up the wounds created by the skewed values and structural injustice inherent in society. Unfortunately, Redbandaid Foundation literally epitomises this idea with a mission to “heal the world one bandaid at a time”. Nevermind the fact that bandaids don’t heal. This is a recipe to treat symptoms, not causes.

2.) Missing the Point

And no one has a problem with this? Well, of course not because, as previously mentioned, charity doesn’t invite critical thinking but also, look at the way the audience is targeted: “Every event will be different and have special extras to keep it exciting…”  and “We wish to raise awareness in a fun way…” Note to future humanitarian entrepreneurs: When the cornerstone of your approach is fun and excitement, you’re in danger of losing sight of the cause.

How come? Well, eventually you’ll find yourself trying to cater to and anticipate the whims and preferences of donors. Eventually, you’ll find that the donors are the focus of your events/projects, not the recipients. Unsurprisingly, the page of the charity date auction was full of the auction. The only mention of the “cause” was the name of the orphanage the proceeds would go to. One guy I spoke to said, in its defence, “At least it’s for a good cause.” I asked what the cause was. He had no idea. So, what about this orphanage then? What’s its story? Who are these girls? Do the caretakers know how you’re raising funds for them? Do they know it involved objectification of persons and an “after party”? Do they know that you’ve taken the opportunity of this good cause to advertise alcohol? I’m just wondering cause the orphanage has a Muslim name…

But I’m going off on a tangent. The point of doing good/the right thing or ameliorating instances of injustice is not fun or excitement. It’s an end in itself. Doing good is the point, the whole point. It’s not an afterthought or a bonus or excuse for yet another party. When you’re trying to lure people in by promising them a good time, you’re sort of bribing people. Bribery is not philanthropy’s best method.

But people aren’t interested in doing good unless there’s something in it for them, you say? You have to trick them into wanting to help, you say? Personally, I think that’s a pretty cynical point of view. I think plenty of people want to do better, do good – they just don’t know how or they feel incapacitated. I’m pretty sure that the founders of Redbandaid want to do good – as do some of their friends – and that’s enough to start with. But when people are only in it because they’re getting something out of it then they’re probably not the best people to be working with. Generally, you find some people trying to work off their guilty conscience or ambivalence or whatnot. Some are trying to lose themselves. Other people are playing the politics game. Some are just following the crowd. Then there’s this sort of event which allows for even less noble sentiments such as: the desire to hook up. I heard two guys talking about the auction and the conversation went something like this: “Budday they selling people – and it legal!” “What where? Let’s go!” Finally, and I’m not sure how anyone can miss this point: when you resort to bribing tactics, you end up compromising the whole endeavour. You, inadvertently or not, accept the status quo attitude of indifference to injustice and seeking to work around it instead of confronting it. This does not help anyone in the long run. It actually contributes to an environment that enables injustice to keep occurring.

3. Thoughtlessness

I’m not saying that the organisers aren’t smart ladies. I understand that people sometimes think that if something’s fun, it can’t be harmful. Even though I’ve never met these women, I can’t help feeling that they’re big sweethearts who want to do a world of good. Gut feeling. However, it has to be said that sometimes fun is harmful. So, I’m going to throw out a few words on my thoughts on this concept of a charity date auction:

  • objectification of persons
  • self promotion
  • sexing up a very non-sexy, very somber situation
If you’re one of those people who finds Facebook breast cancer innuendo memes acceptable/something you knew right away you had to take part in then you are not going to understand why any of the above is problematic. I’m running out of time and steam here so let me just say that objectification paves the way for sexism and violence. Most especially affected are girls and women. It shouldn’t need to be said that obsession with body image is detrimental to the self esteem of girls. Focusing heavily on “hunky Bachelors and sexy Bachlorettes” is tacky, in my opinion. Not my taste. If that was it though then okay. Different tastes, right? However, it’s not just tacky. It’s irresponsible. It’s irresponsible because it plays into society’s skewed value system (image image image, you’re worth something because you’re good looking). Self promotion is fine as long as it’s not overdone by, you know, totally redirecting the focus of a good cause from those in need to ourselves. Lastly, we don’t raise awareness by ignoring the seriousness of matters. Maybe it helps us cope with a huge feeling of guilt we’re experiencing when we consider the problem (unless you’re a sociopath, of course) but guess what? It’s not about us and our feelings. I know, I myself forget that a lot sometimes.
No one gets a pat on the back for simply having good intentions. We have to bring more to the table than that. We have to ask ourselves: what is the motivation behind our actions? How would we best serve that motivation? Are we making things better or worse?
***

All that being said, do you forgo charity completely? Not at all. It just needs to be accompanied by an understanding of the structure of injustice – how far it reaches and how we ourselves perpetuate it. It also requires humility, research and is hopefully part of a greater plan to address root causes of problems.

I think Redbandaid has good intentions and its heart in the right place. I’m really glad to know that some people my age are trying to do something more meaningful than just pleasing themselves 24/7. I would love to see them revise their approach and go at it with the enthusiasm they currently have. They are in a unique position amongst their peers to really make a difference and I hope they seize the opportunity. Best of luck to them.

Update: The featured photo has been cropped at the request of one of the “sweethearts” who didn’t want her face to be seen. Some information got cropped out as well as a result – at the bottom of the page was the name of the orphanage proceeds went to (Shaheed Girls’ Orphanage). 

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23 thoughts on “Weekend Paradoxes Part 1: Sweetheart Auction

  1. Obviously you fail to see the point of this event!! The fact that you asked one fickle human being what this event was about and they fail to know is not the problem of the people who are making an effort to do something for a good cause!! Did you happen to see the amount of money that is being DONATED TO THE ORPHANAGE?? Or do you write crap based on your own biases?? I feel I must ask this question of you, what have you used your blog for other than airing your dissatisfaction or tearing down others. Clearly you didn’t do your research on redbandaid before publishing this load crap written here! Your blog here is filled with a lot of hooahh about the morality of fund-raising. Is there really any need for critiquing any form of fund-raising??? Giving that you live in a corrupt environment that is guyana i am sure that you have more subject matter to focus on rather than shed negativity a charity that is trying to give back.

    1. Hey Vera,

      Thank you for taking the time and energy to thoroughly read, connect with and respond to the post. And thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify what the blog is about. I don’t think I’ve made it as clear as I could.

      Seeking El Dorado is my attempt to start conversations about Guyana (its history, what’s currently going on) and its people (what they’re doing, thinking about). Anyone can contribute and I encourage people to do so if their busy days permit it. If you have a piece of writing you would like to share, feel free to email it to me at mzkbizz@gmail.com

      Have a lovely weekend,
      -k.

  2. In response, I do think what the writer is asking for is more thoughtfulness to the mission statement and organization transparency. Aside from having a facebook page, that as of this moment does not include an actual foundation website; it does include what charity they are currently sponsoring. Though I do not come from Guyana, other countries do have specific processes for the formation of non-profit businesses, as well as licensing. Of course through appearance this all seems to be a rookie mistake for a new foundation that is being started from the ground up. I would like to give the benefit of the doubt and think that any charity or foundation that ascribes to be a donor foundation for other charities will also have an experienced board of supervisors/employees/volunteers who have knowledge on how to distribute funds, and take care of any tax/legal issues that would arise, as well as take an aim for donating to programs that help increase sustainability.
    I do agree that the statement “join us in our efforts to make the world a happier place for those who can’t manage themselves,” is definitely a loaded sentence. It assumes the perspective of an upper class casting down on those below them saying “those poor, poor people- they’d be nowhere without my generosity.” No human wants to feel like a charity case, there is such a thing a dignity- even for orphans. It is removed when you look at others with pity rather than thinking how best can you contribute to making a solution for the long term.
    Lastly, not every youthful person is willing to volunteer their own personal time at an orphanage or charity. I sometimes think that donating money is a way for people to not really directly have to deal with the situation but to hope others will. And yes, it is known that giving to charity has the effect of making the donor feel better about themselves. People are allowed to have club parties, let them label it as they like. I’m glad to see that instead of going to any regular club and spending money on drinks, fancy clothes, some of the proceeds will be used for something good. However, the forms of fundraising used speaks volumes about our consumer based societies – which essentially means in order to lure donors to donate to a good cause you will sometimes need to provide them with incentives- the generosity of one’s own heart cannot simply stand alone for some. With that in retrospect, I think there will always be a need to critique how fundraising is handled. If all people care about is that there is money, and not how it was obtained, you could therefore justify things like hate organizations being financial backers, people with special interest/political interests using their donations as a way to hostage a foundation, or sway influence of a foundation. Take the Kony 2012 campaign that went viral not less than a month ago. Some of the major donors were anti-gay, creationist, and Christian right organizations- which in the end they help to undercut the legitimacy of the Koney campaign- who on paper had a fanciful mission statement, but in the end failed to think critically of their actions and the effects of their executions.

    1. “I do think what the writer is asking for is more thoughtfulness to the mission statement and organization transparency.”

      Yes! Thanks, Rob for summing it up so neatly. That’s exactly it. I agree fully with all your points.

      On the question of youth participation, I wonder how it would be possible to generate more interest/compassion for good causes. Do you appeal to emotions like Kony 2012? That felt like a cop out. Maybe you appeal to reason? A sense of responsibility? Important conversations to be had…

  3. Its true that a charity event like this seems a bit like a “patching-up”, which isn’t very effective if we want to really overhaul everything. But I think the event is a good start to thinking about charity in a novel way..after all, if we really want to gain a bigger audience in the project of social justice, we have to be open to getting these other people on the basis of their primary interests, rather than forcing them to meditate on the good needed in the world. That said, social entrepreneurship is the new way to go – its advantage is that it addresses the two problems you have about such a charity event in a very innovative way. It separates the “marketing” side from the “charity” side such that one supports the other without getting into the moralities of the two approaches to be mixed up. So you can, on the one hand, think about gimmicky ways to get people in to buy your product or tickets to your event, and on the other, you can have a pure, undiluted effort towards working in the spirit of social justice.

    That said, rather than criticizing current approaches, I think its more useful if we identify what’s wrong about things and what could be a better direction in which to head instead.

    1. Great points, Maya!

      Definitely need to be innovative and we don’t want to force people into anything – it would be contradictory, wouldn’t it? I’m wondering if there isn’t an in between though between the gimmicks and the “pure” efforts? Maybe that would involve more community building though – so you have a space where you can educate people as well as entertain them?

      I agree that it’s best to talk about what we could do instead. I’m hoping Redbandaid is willing to have that conversation. 🙂

  4. There is often a divide between fundraising and awareness-raising. Both can be done poorly in their own special ways. When combined, they can be even more problematic (Kony 2012?). This appears to be simply a fundraising campaign with very little awareness included. That said, even when fundraising it should be done in a method that is in accordance with the values of the organization you are raising money for. I find holding a date auction to raise money for an orphanage for girls, particularly one with a Muslim name (although, I have no idea the actual ideological or philosophical beliefs of the orphanage), to be in poor taste. It strikes me as little more than people looking for a way to get drunk and objectify each other while still feeling good about themselves in the morning.

  5. Nice thought-provoking piece Krysta– keep it up.
    It would have been more informative if Vera told us the amount that was donated to the orphanage instead of just ranting mindlessly as it would appear that she is on the Organising Committee. Granted that she’s living in her little bubble – maybe she should join the ‘real world’ and inform herself about concerns regarding things done in the name of Charity– so stupid statements like these wouldn’t be posted: ‘ Is there really any need for critiquing any form of fund-raising???’

    1. Thank you, Dionne 🙂

      I agree that it would have been useful to know the amount donated and can only guess that somehow Vera’s perspective doesn’t currently allow for the idea that fund raising can sometimes be done wrong.

    2. @Donnie! I am the one living in a bubble? I don’t even live in that toilet called Guyana and I am aware of both the charity and the funds raised!! I am very happy in the bubble I live in. I am also very proud of the efforts of redbandaid. They are the next generation of decision makers in guyana! It was quite cleaver of redbandaid to be able to access funds from their circle of friends which clearly you nor the blogger are part of which leads me to believe its what is truly bugging you both! The bloger wrote about something she knew nothing of and lack of her research needed to be address. What you both accomplished is showing how out of the loop you are!! But of course you both are entitled to sit in your seat of judgment on religion and morals. While I didn’t see a muslim organization stepping up to give computers or aid to their beloved orphanage and I didn’t see the benefactors objecting to the source of funds lends to my point “do we really need to criticize any form of fund raising!!”. Especially in GUYANA!! I am not sure why I should have been to one to let you folks know how much money was raised! You were already passing judgment how come you didn’t know? Shouldn’t we know the facts before passing judgment! Oh also to address your other conclusion that you made that am on the organizing committee you couldn’t be more off base! Just an informed individual who observes and responds only when necessary .

  6. Reading all the above comments and being someone who actually went to the event, I can see a lot is being assumed here about the brand new foundation. I have seen that it was only advertised within their own social network and the dates actually bought were by friends of the participants themselves. I suggest the writer get facts straight from the founders before writing something so negative about their efforts and mission. Krysta, you claim you were at the action, did you ever think to listen to the first 15 minutes intro done by the MCs about the orphanage? Did you even know that the administrators of said orphanage were invited? In all your “constructive criticism” did you think of talking to the organisers while you were there or after? Everyone’s entitled to their opinions, but in the end it’s the facts that truly matter…. By the way it was announced that the auction raised $1,014,000 GYD that night and I heard everyone had a great time… Sweet dreams all… 🙂

    1. Thank you for your much needed contribution to the conversation, Amelia!

      Just to clarify, I was not at the auction. I’m not sure which bit of the post reads as a claim of attendance but I’m sorry for the confusion. I was invited but wasn’t inclined to go owing to everything I’ve written above. Which is why your comment is most welcome.

      For safety purposes, it was prudent of Redbandaid to only advertise an event of this nature within their own circles. They should, however, be wary of even those connected to them – friends of friends, for instance, such as one of the young men I mentioned above who had also been invited either directly or through a friend.

      If folks were “bought” by their friends then it seems it was a pre-arranged affair. That is, that people went knowing who they would bid on or who would bid on them. That must have been really cute for all involved. Is it usual for Redbandaid’s activities to only target their friends?

      I’m glad that they spent some time talking about the orphanage. I hope they spoke about some of the causes of orphanhood including, but not limited to, poverty. I hope they talked about the importance of economic justice and understanding that poverty is the result of unequal structures of our society. I hope they talked about how excessive consumerism perpetuates disaprities between rich and poor. Come to think of it, how about you just tell us all what was said in those 15 minutes?

      Did the admins who were invited attend? If they did that would be very interesting. It would, of course, signify their approval of the event. If they were there, could you tell me if they stayed for the entire thing, after party and all?

      I’m truly glad that the orphanage will be receiving such a good deal of money. I’m sure they need every bit of it. Redbandaid is obviously very capable of raising lots of money which is a useful skill.

      One thing that I had no doubts about whatsoever is that Redbandaid and their friends would have had a great time. 😀

      Looking forward to your responses.

      Thanks again!

  7. As a sweetheart of this auction, Your opinion is most welcome, however sad that you feel the need to judge without doing proper research or even attending the event yourself. Also, because of privacy rights I kindly request you to remove the flyer as it has my face on it.

    I would also like to further state that the views expressed in this comment does not represent those of Redbandaid Foundation in anyway.

    1. Since the image isn’t copyrighted, I actually have the right to publish it, faces and all. However, since you would rather I didn’t, I’ve cropped it to take the faces out. Just so you know, there is a link to Redbandaid’s page which currently has the flyer, faces intact, as its cover page.

      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  8. Your piece to begin with has so many assumptions, wow I thought you were actually there! Talk about judging a book by its cover. It isn’t my responsibility to let you know what was said about the orphanage or if the administrators were there. That is yours as a writer; you really should show more tact in your reporting and once again as I said, get facts before jumping to conclusions. I could easily dissect your piece and point out all where you went wrong; but I am much too busy to teach children how to go about simple blogging. Anyway I do believe you my friend have had enough air time. My only advice to you is to exercise a bit more tact.

    All the best.

    1. I know, it’s pretty thorough right? I can’t take all the credit – I basically used Redbandaid’s info on itself and the event as it was available at the time. The rest was critical thinking. I have a feeling you’re not quite familiar with the concept given your assumption that physical presence is necessary to begin a discussion on…anything.

      So, fyi: “Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.”
      http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766

      (Pay special attention to “reflection” and “reasoning” – those are the two I used in this case.)

      At its most basic, responsibility means “the ability to respond”. Since you were there and I wasn’t, you are the most able to respond to my questions. That makes you responsible. I’m confused as to why you began this conversation in the first place if it wasn’t to get at the truth. I would have loved for you to point out “all where” my piece goes wrong. But you’re a busy person – I get it. That’s cool.

      Tact: “Acute sensitivity to what is proper and appropriate in dealing with others, including the ability to speak or act without offending.”
      It is my understanding that it is proper and appropriate to alert others to the possibility of their practices being unethical. I try not to offend by being crass and resorting to name calling or throwing around bad language or insinuating that certain persons are “children”. I also try to reflect on the actions of those involved and not on the persons themselves. In this instance, I gave the persons involved the benefit of the doubt in assuming (and it is an assumption as I’ve never met them) that they are good people. I’d be surprised if I was viewed in a similar light by Redbandaid & friends. But I’m not offended if not, no worries. If my critique is found offensive by mere fact that it is a critique then there’s nothing I can do about that. You ought to know the importance of criticism as that is what you have been doing thus far here in the comment section. Redbandaid did something I didn’t like, I criticised them. I did something you didn’t like, you criticised me. It is important to criticise that which we know, feel or think to be on the side of wrong. This is how we foster conversation and critical thinking about the society in which we live – well, you have to be willing to have the conversation if you engage in criticism but that’s another matter.

      By the by, I am not “reporting” on anything. This is not a news item as you may have noticed by the lack of newspaper attached to it. As far as I know, blogging involves putting stuff up on a blog which I seem to have done well enough but thanks anyway. Coincidentally, writing involves writing stuff (ditto on that).

      Take care of yourself, Amelia.

  9. I must ask why is it you and some of your fellow bandwagonist don’t ask for these very same high standards of fund raising from your government, are you even aware of the large amount of so called charities driven events occur overseas and yet the implied benefactors never see one dime of those funds raised. So if you are going to ponder thoughtfulness, accountablity, moral fiber and the long list of all of the offensive things that redbandaid did that caused you gall to erupt, lets start with the leaders of courption that froce people to step outside the relms of the norm.Also, since when did becoming creative about how you raise awareness or charitable funds a moral crime subjected to scorn by ill informed folks. I guess for people like you its better when the Imam or the preist reach into the pockets of its congretion whilst raping their sons. My suggestion to you is to use your blog for better things if want to have a voice. Topics of moral and immoral acts are redundant discourse. I would like to see you blog about the fact while you were seeking a fictional place you found a group of people with hearts of gold a quality so rare in todays youth.

  10. It could simply be a question of “those who can’t manage, themselves”, which does not imply that the recipients are somehow at fault. The problem, first of all, is that it doesn’t seem to be a representative quote. Secondly, conscious-raising is great but must be accompanied by action. Action itself helps with consciousness-raising. I am glad to see that action is being taken.

    At the same time, the points about sensitivity and dignity are very important. Alcohol advertising to raise funds for an Islamic girls orphanage don’t go together.

    In general, we all have to avoid ad hominem (feminam?) arguments to get real issues discussed properly.

    1. Possibly. I copied it as I saw it on their page.

      Totally agree on the necessity of both consciousness raising and action.

      Avoid ‘ad hominem’ arguments – you can’t see me but I’m nodding emphatically at this one. YES.

  11. Get a life sweetie cause clearly you don’t have one 🙂 Its obvious you get pleasure out of bashing people, with the time on your hands why don’t you write a piece on domestic violence that would do well 🙂 or another issues, or better yet read a book!! it was awesome stopping by.

    PS If your a bitter Guyanese Girl who would rather look at frivolous details of what was a worthy cause I suggest you pack up and ship out.

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