Cute Puppy or Cute Donkey?
June 22, 2011 Leave a comment
Given a choice, there are probably very few people who want to go shopping. Not the ‘retail therapy’ kind, where you get the chance to visit all those shops that only have one of anything on display, but the more mundane grocery shopping where you spend hours trying to park the car, force a shopping cart to go in a straight line when all it wants it to turn left, perform advanced mathematical analysis to establish if two smaller bottles are better value than a large one with 20% off, get smashed ankles from being hit by other carts and strollers, spend five minutes trying to work out exactly which of the 20 different types of ‘milk’ is actually normal milk and then argue with the cashier over the merits of paper or plastic grocery bags. Because you know that when you leave the supermarket, you have another gauntlet to run and even harder ‘shopping’ faces you.
Outside your usual supermarket will be a charity stand, usually one of those flimsy wallpaper tables with posters stuck to the front and a pile of envelopes or a clipboard on which you can give your credit card and bank account details to donate. But outside the shop next door will be another similar stand, but this time it’s for a different charity. And if you are in a large retail area, there will be others, together with the people who accost you with a clipboard and sad story. So now you have the difficult choice to make: is that poster of the really cute puppy with sad eyes having shampoo dripped on him worth more than the poster of the really cute donkey with sad eyes and ribs poking through its skin or do you go with the poster of the really cute little boy with sad eyes, a teddy bear and empty bowl? (I know the answer, most of you will pick the sad eyed puppy because a donkey is just a failed horse and we all know what cute little children can turn into.)
So you are faced with a choice, animal testing, animal rescue or famine relief. You have to select which of the air-brushed and staged photographs is the best, so which cause should you donate to? Do you try to take a more holistic approach and rationalize in your mind that if you save the world from climate change or buy a goat for some farmer in Africa, the world would have enough to eat and everyone would be able to drive around in their electric Smart cars? No, because then you would have to give even more money to support all the out of work charity workers and the scores of unemployed photographers, publicists, campaigners, banner makers and lobbyists. (This is Samantha. Samantha had a home and an income and used to spend all her time flying to conferences all over the world staying in five star hotels to talk about saving the planet. But now the Earth is saved, its time to recognise Samantha’s sacrifice and help her regain the twenty foreign trips she used to take. Just one dollar can help buy her an airline ticket to Fuji ………….)
Let’s assume that you have chosen the environment as your cause. How do you decide between saving the lesser spotted greater white stripped pelican or saving the habitat of the lesser spotted greater black stripped frigatebird? Why is Samantha’s species of pelecanidae water bird more worthy than Annabel’s on the stand outside the shoe emporium? But then, what happens when charities actually contradict each other? For example, there are numerous organisations trying to encourage the use of renewable energy and seeking your donations to help teach us all that nuclear energy is really bad and that a nice little windmill can produce enough energy to power twenty million homes (why are homes always the measure? Don’t shops, offices and factories use electricity?). The American Bird Conservancy (another charity) quotes a government report that states 440,000 birds are killed annually by wind turbines. Another report stated that one type of eagle in southern California was now at the point of extinction because the number of deaths per year was higher than the number of hatchlings, again because Annabel wants to use her electric toothbrush with energy from a windmill and not a nuclear power plant.
There are countless examples of charities working for diametrically opposite causes. The charity that provides grants for farmers to improve production of palm oil contradicts the charity that campaigns for farmers to stop cutting down rain forests to grow palm oil. The charity that campaigns for more cycle tracks so we can reduce obesity will run into the charity that insists that we should not cover the countryside with asphalt and more development. The list is endless. If you accept that most arguments and fights start over what someone called your life style or mother, then it is not hard to foresee a day when the united forces of alternative power charities will be on one side whilst the united forces of wildlife charities will be on the other. With all the monies they can collect by showing pictures of a cute little kitten with sad eyes and nails in its head, will they start arming themselves and who will blink first and resort to internecine warfare? Don’t worry though, we still have real agencies like the Red Cross or the Red Crescent or Médecins Sans Frontières who will help us poor civilians who are caught in the crossfire of the battle of the charities.
Today, your shopping trip doesn’t end at the cashier. It ends when you finally reach your car and have got past all the petitions and collecting tins of every charity supporting every cause. Charity is not a bad thing and I am grateful that such organisations exist. But please don’t force me to choose yet another suffering animal to help or debate the merits of fighting a disease of the brain, spine, chest or whatever when I have 16 plastic shopping bags full of defrosting ice-cream and all I want to do is get back to my SUV. In the absence of a store guide to the equivalence of the nutritional value of each collecting tin, I am more than likely to walk past all of them. Then when I get home I will feel guilty about the really cute puppy with sad eyes having shampoo dripped on him, the really cute donkey with sad eyes and ribs poking through its skin and the really cute little boy with sad eyes, a teddy bear and empty bowl.
So to alleviate my guilt, I am going to write 1271 words on the subject, throw a cow on the barbeque to avoid global warming and insist that the power for my patio lights comes from nuclear power stations to save the birds. I will also buy palm oil to support the farmers in where ever but not use it because I like rain forests. And as I nail a goat into a small box to send to Africa I will vow to stop using plastic or paper bags and order all of my goods online and watch as 30 trucks drive to my door instead of just my SUV. All to help the thousands of charities in the world and because I can’t face yet another photograph of the cute puppy, kitten, horse, orang-utan or child, even though over the years I have adopted all of them and they send a card every so often to mark their progress.