Lemonisms and Donaghisms: 30 Rock’s definition of charity

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There are so many lovely, nice, kind-hearted people out there. Seriously, if you did the math, I’m certain that there are proportionally a lot more nice people than bad people out there. If it were only dependent on that proportion, we would live in a wonderful world. And yet we don’t.

Why bodes the question: why? Why is it that at my former job, a group of 50 people who were, as individuals, lovely people, couldn’t create a great work environment, eliciting a constant turnover that decreased the quality of the work we did?

One of the reasons seems to be that people don’t know how to channel that ‘niceness’ into making the world a better place. And one hilarious yet sobering episode of 30 Rock demonstrates that perfectly.

Warning: 30 Rock final spoiler!

In a bid to save the man who might or might not be his father, Jack Donaghy calls in a few favours from his celebrity friends (including Mary J Blige, Clay Aiken and Sheryl Crow) to participate in the ‘Kidney Now!’ charity event aimed at finding his father a (you guessed it) kidney.

First of all, I found it a little ironic that Jack Donaghy, who himself wasn’t all that enthused at the idea of giving his potential father a kidney (were he to be a match) is now so eager to find someone else to go through the entire (rather painful) procedure to save the life of a complete stranger.

Then we come to the heart of it: what people actually do as charity and what they should be doing. Service is about doing what needs to be done – not doing what you want to do. There are so many causes out there that to find something that not only needs to be done, but also interests us is quite possible. But then again, it’s not just the cause that matters. What we actually do matters a lot more.

It reminds me of a drive done by college students here in Quebec. They were raising awareness about child labour in sweat shops and collecting signatures while wearing clothes and paraphernalia from brands known to use child labour. It might be argued that most big brands use child labour and/or sweat shop labour, and that the brands that don’t usually are not affordable by the masses. To this I answer: first of all, non sweatshop brands are affordable, they just aren’t considered cool enough to spend money on; and second of all, shouldn’t then the event be about raising awareness and creating environments in which we can address the cause of this problem, i.e. the intense consumerism that is affecting our society?

Another example of good intentions veering slightly off track is yet another college student initiative. The UNICEF chapter at Concordia organised a Karaoke night to raise money to buy bed nets in Sub-Saharan Africa. While it’s great that they are going to be sending money for bed-nets, the event didn’t raise any awareness, nor did it answer a couple of very important questions, like: why is malaria such a big problem in the first place? Why aren’t there already bed nets available for these people? Why hasn’t more research been put into malaria by pharmaceutical companies into developing more efficient and cheaper preventative medication, as well as more efficient treatments? Why are the conditions so unsanitary that the mosquito population explodes, so much so that the incidence of malaria sharply rises? How are we, as North American consumers, perpetuating a society in which this situation has been created in the first place and isn’t being resolved?

Wow. That’s a lot of questions.

On a lighter note, it also reminds me of the pilot of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; Hilary Banks is participating in an event to raise awareness about the environment. The event requires her and many other celebrities to drive around Los Angeles in a bus all day and ends with a giant bonfire. Will Smith’s puzzled expression is priceless – and probably mirrored my own.

I sometimes feel like Scrooge when I talk like this; after all, like I already mentioned, none of these people are mean, and in no means am I against them or what they are doing. Quite the contrary: they really want to help, which is why they are involved in these charity events. But let’s face it: it’s definitely not enough. If it was, the world would be a better place. And while we should continue our current charity and service endeavours, we need to reflect on why they aren’t working proportionally to the energy we put into them and consult with like-minded people about how to improve our endeavours. Through a process of action, reflection, deepening and consultation, we can further our understanding of the world around us as well as the effect of our actions on it. And because we will slowly become more and more successful in making the world a better place, one little step at a time, perhaps more people will join this process of action, reflection, deepening and consultation – and, even if we are a bunch of 7 billion imperfect human beings with lots of issues, we will figure out a way of living in a great world.

It’s worth a shot, no?

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3 thoughts on “Lemonisms and Donaghisms: 30 Rock’s definition of charity

  1. Very interesting blog post!
    I particularly enjoyed the depth of the comment : One of the reasons seems to be that people don’t know how to channel that ‘niceness’ into making the world a better place.

    Good question that requires a lot of answers.

    PS. I am appalled at what UNICEF Concordia is doing – especially when they are representing an organization with a relatively good reputation

  2. Interesting post. People are doing what they can to make the world better but it’s like they only want to do something that they like for it. The university students are willing to raise awareness in other but they don’t want to change who they are by not putting their money where their mouth is.

    1. I think it’s only a matter of raising awareness of what they are doing, and also, of having a vision of how a little thing – not buying sweatshop items for example – can make a difference. Part of the reason seems to be exactly that: people either do not understand, or do not have any hope in making a difference with seemingly small acts.

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