Thursday, July 13, 2006

A couple of months ago, Mr. Bono (with the popular music band U2) was made the editor of a UK newspaper (The Independent) for the day, in an effort to generate funds and awareness (or so I imagine) for AIDS victims in Africa. He, and some others including Motorola, GAP, Armani, American Express etc., have launched a brand called RED, part proceeds of which will go towards AIDS victims in Africa. (Or are supposed to, anyway) Why can't these rich organizations and people just give their all (if they are so inclined) and leave the rest of us alone? What if another personality, perhaps a World Wrestling Federation champion, or a princess, comes up with another brand called BLACK (or CREAM), for the same cause? Should we then buy those products and services instead? Perhaps we can pick our favourite colour. What about other competing causes and charities? Should the best marketed cause win? Or the one with the prettiest ambassador, wearing the coolest sunglasses? I find it in appalling taste that style and ostensible charity have so been twined together.

However, if it does lead to good (some good anyway, for only part profits are to be sent to some organizations in Africa), perhaps it is better than nothing - if, that is, one does not take the holistic view. For these enterprises might put others out of business, or cause them losses, perhaps depriving Africa of revenue from that avenue. Let us not forget that large businesses pay taxes to regional and federal governments, and that individual nations will ultimately ensure that their own interests (security, energy needs, etc.) come first? So one might inadvertently finance wars undertaken for the sake of cheap oil, or the dumping of hazardous waste in habitable regions, or the perpetuation of violence and civil war with a supply of weapons.

Instead of buying cellphones, price plans and T-shirts from those participating in schemes like these, I would suggest that we work hard, vote knowledgeably and buy underwear according to our fancy. For those who wish to, there are plenty of ways to donate money, or even to travel to Africa and help with skills.

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