I do not often read the site Mumbrella but I gather that it is a much-loved hub for Australian media professionals.
Anyhow, I have seen a few people link to a piece there on the “aggressive” new fundraising techniques of charitable organisations. The author, long-enamoured of the Amnesty logo, is so troubled by its collection M.O., he now sees the famous candle as representing a
Basically, he is annoyed with tin-rattlers and asks, more or less, “Why just I can’t be left in peace to make my perfectly rational and conscious choices as a consumer which are no way impacted by billions of dollars worth of marketing?”
On one level, I understand his revulsion. I too dislike talking to strangers and having my emotions pressed quickly into the service of profit. I am still smarting from an ambassador from the adolescent cancer support organisation Canteen who scuttled up to me wearing a “chemo” bandana.
Dude. Cancer cosplay is uncool.
I have also, let it be said, written to the Red Cross for the hauteur of one its employees who refused to listen when I declined her kind offer of signing up for a regular program of giving. She didn’t seem to “get” that my modest annual sum had already been committed to others and kept declaring “We’re the best!” as though charity was a competitive market practice and not a private exchange.
But, the thing is, charity is a competitive market practice, It is not as it is described in Corinthians and it is silly for me, or anyone, to expect that it is any longer the thing that Paul hoped that it would be. It is both a conspicuous act of compassionate consumption—no longer the quiet caritas that binds me to my neighbour—and very much something that must be actively sought.
This is not a criticism. Just a statement of fact. There has never been such a time that places so many demands on our capital; both cultural and financial. There has never been a time when our hearts are forced to break in so many directions. So it only makes sense that charities would use the rational tools of the marketplace. Who can blame them?
And this is the myopic thing about this piece; and probably the reason I don’t often visit that site despite, as a media professional, being its intended audience. (This is not a broad critique of Mumbrella; as I said, I am not that familiar with it as whenever I have visited it never seems to explain media in a way that makes any sense to me. I’m sure it makes sense to other people in the business.) The author—who is walking around a shopping district—feels moved to critique the market when it is soliciting his donations for charity. I don’t understand how this analysis can overlook an account of a market that is always asking for his money.
We cannot expect “better” behaviour from those soliciting our money for charitable ends than from those soliciting our money for purely commercial ends. This agression is surely the only way in which organisations can meaningfully collect funds. How else to compete with billion-dollar branding designed to land in my dreams?
It strikes me as a bit rich to get all Aquinas on the purity of charity and give the free market a free pass. How else are they supposed to get dosh? In quiet humility? It is the market that has created this kind of “crass” behaviour.
This sort of “aggressive” fundraising doesn’t work for me as it doesn’t work for the author. But that is kind of irrelevant. It works, as marketing techniques that are regularly practised tend to, on large number of people so I am not going to suddenly get all New Testament on how charity should fund itself.
Look. I just see this sort of shit a lot. The invasive, near-criminal techniques of the market we accept as inevitable. It is okay to pump shit into my brain and turn me into a money-giving, thing-buying irrational actor but it is not okay to ask me for a dollar.
What the actual cock?
I totally get that none of us likes to think the tenderest parts of us have been attacked by the market. Our giving should be “real”. But the thing is, our compassion is bought and sold every time we step into a supermarket.
Fair Trade. Free Range. I have even seen a brand of breakfast cereal called “Thank You” which dares me NOT to buy the ONLY MUESLI ON THE MARKET that gives some of its profits to non-specific feel-good causes. If this isn’t a poisonous invasion of my unconscious, then my id is called Simon.
This charity technique is just a more visible, and therefore more consciously manageable, way of taking my money. And, you know, it takes my money very often to a better place. It is so easy for us to criticise crude systems and break down obvious walls. Really, it is the walls we can no longer see that condemn us.
The author is in a shopping centre. And the greatest assault to his liberty he sees is someone rattling a can. Mate. Look around you.
FFS. We are SO fucked. As I’m told they say in the Territory, it is not the crocodiles we can see that are the greatest threat.