dimanche, août 20, 2006

Africa is Now Officially in Style

When I speak publicly about my speculation of Angelina Jolie and her rainbow tribe, I am mostly met with discontent from all people of all colors. But I can't help my suspicions. Africa has officially become "chic". Stars like Madonna, Bono, Lindsay Lohan, Gwenyth Paltrow, Jessica Simpson, Nicole Kidman and, perhaps, most famously Angelina Jolie have dedicated themselves to the continent, many picking specific countries, for which they pledge to alleviate one of more of the social ills that plague the area. Now, in order to refrain from being a complete party pooper, philanthropy is admirable. The root words phil (love) and anthro (human) meaning lover of humanity, philanthropy is indeed a beneficient enterprise, the haves creating opportunities and helping the have nots. But I contend that philanthropy is indeed, by definition, an oxymoron. Philanthropy implies a truly altruistic act, the giving of money, services, opportunities, etc. to those who don't have access. But are human beings truly capable of a completely altruistic act?

Let's take for example that giving aid to or spending time in Africa and kissing Black babies is good PR, a tax deduction, and self-fulfilling, in other words it makes YOU feel better about yourself. Philanthropy, by definition suggests that you GIVE, not receive but, at least in my opinion, that seems to be an impossible task. The giver is always receiving and in many cases receives more by giving than the recipient. I can't help but feel a sort of paternalistic overtone in many of the photos and videos that are splashed over the media of celebrities vowing to save Africa. Take Bono for instance. His work in Africa, especially with respect to AIDS, is admirable I can't help but take note that his celebrity has been a great part of his accolades with respect to his philanthropy. Stars like Bono and Angelina Jolie make millions a year based on their music and films then they go to visit Africa for awhile and then go back to their careers. To me, it feels like a hobby. Its also interesteing to note that while Bono is lauded for his philanthropic endeavors he is also has a significant stake in Forbes Magazine, a beacon of capitalism and consumption. Hmmmm????

This issue seems hard to debate. I'm sure the people in Africa aren't complaining. I mean, does it really matter in the long run why people give money to certain causes, people, etc. so long as the people ge the funds and resources to make significant changes to their quality of life? Seems like a question for New York Times and NPR's regular ethicist, Randy Cohen. Nevertheless, it matters to me. I contend that true altruism and indeed philanthropy, are oxymorons and cannot be achieved. To achieve either one of these concepts, a completely SELFLESS act must take place and I don't think that's possible. Just the idea of feeling good about it suggests that the individual has derived something from the act. Just an idea.

This is not to say that philanthropy is not a good idea. It is indeed wonderful but I feel it should be put into its proper context. I'm just afraid that Hollywood has picked its next chic enterprise and Africa may one day go out of style like Kabbalah.

supposititious -- adj: 1. Fraudulently substituted for something else; not being what it purports to be; not genuine; spurious; counterfeit.2. Hypothetical; supposed

"I wish it to be remembered that I was the last man of my tribe to surrender my rifle"
--- Sitting Bull