Celebrity, Charity, Chicken

Before I learned the complexity of this world, just like most children, I had a naïve notion that everything in the world can simply divided into good or bad. When I thought about philanthropy, I thought it was established by people with good will to do good things. But what is the truth behind philanthropy?

It’s impossible to define something simply as “good” or “bad”, the world can not be boiled down to black and white or 150 characters. Philanthropy, NGOs, nonprofits, charity…. Whatever we call it, the reasons behind these establishments are not as pure as we thought it was. During the cold war, philanthropy institutions in the United States tend to align their activities abroad in order to combat communism, after the cold war philanthropy was used as a tool to promote capitalism and civil society as engines of democracy (Zunz, 2011). Even in modern days, there are still many political or financial or other reasons attached to philanthropy.

In the 21st century, celebrity led philanthropy projects are becoming very common. From Michael Jackson to Bono, from Oprah to Lady Gaga, celebrities certainly raised great awareness towards their cause. These celebrities’ great influence was able to make the public more informed about issues they were not aware about; meanwhile, engaging in charity work also helps to build the celebrities’ public image, or in some cases, regain public attention. To be honest I did not know who is Bono until yesterday I read about product RED. This is a win-win situation, there is nothing wrong with it. However, some would argue that “these celebrities do not truly care about children dying of hunger in Africa, they just want to look good with their action”. It’s difficult to tell the actual motive behind every celebrity’s action, but the results of their charity work is usually positive, thus I think projects like product RED that involves celebrity and corporate is a great idea for philanthropy. What I do not like is when celebrities sometimes “trying too hard” to engage in philanthropy, joining certain movements for reasons they don’t even fully understand. Something I never fully understand is PETA, as much as I respect animals’ rights, I respect human rights even more. A few months ago, there was a group of animal rights extremists rushing into a restaurant to “rescue” a chicken and caused many troubles. For most people, this is called “robbery”; however, for the chicken rescuers, perhaps they feel like heroes. No matter what, there should be a limit on how far people can go with philanthropy.

Zunz, Olivier. Philanthropy in America: A History. Princeton University Press, 2014.