Celebrity philanthropy: The battle between goodwill and public masturbation

It doesn’t take a  room full of economists and finance experts to tell you that there is an unequal balance of wealth between the rich minority and the poor majority in today’s world. One of the big questions since the dawn of this inequality in economic distribution has always been how much exactly the rich owe society’s less privileged. Though the arguments have wavered over the years between entitlement and selflessness, the recent evolution of the world into an information data bank where everything is stored for future usage has altered the perspective given to philanthropy and all other forms of charity.

 

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As in the case of Bill Gates who is unarguably one of the biggest philanthropists alive (in comparison to how much he has) and coincidentally one of the most influential people in the world, there has been a question of the grand idea behind cheerful giving. Are the rich just giving away because they feel a pressing sense of urgency to make the world better with their abundance of resources, or are they just using the empathy of the public towards the poor to improve their individual brands, thereby impressing their cult of personality on the world and society around them?

Let us build context.

In many countries, one of  the classes of people who belong to that minority higher echelon of society is entertainers. These people have amassed fame and wealth over the course of their career, often to the disdain of the public who mostly belong to that lower income bracket. This begins the start of an endless but inherently fruitless battle to gain acceptance from the public over what they do with the money they make. But there is a glitch somewhere in this equation.

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In a country like Nigeria where the gap between the rich and the poor is wider than many miles, it becomes easy for politicians to rake support off money thrown to the public. From Don Jazzy’s airtime give-aways to Wizkid’s money throws into the audience and Davido’s orphanage visits, Nigerian artistes seem to have found a way to do a bit of their own philanthropy. The intent, however, seems to be shoddy.

Celebrities are aware their wealth makes them an easy target for demands from the wanting eyes of the public. But they are also aware of the level of support they would get from an audience with access to (or possibility) of an awoof from them especially in an information-obsessed society where these supposed selfless acts of philanthropy make blog-headlines the next day.

Resources that could otherwise be diverted into making real changes in the society are converted to gratuitous PR goldmine for the artitste’s brand to milk other people’s misfortunes for their own personal image gains. But maybe this view is too simplistic.

While the intent may seem selfish enough to invalidate the goal, the wide economic gap in Nigeria society makes it impossible to completely fault the end game. Celebrities may be purposelessly driving their wealth to self-gratifying  I-am-richer-than-all-of-you publicity stunts, but that shouldn’t make their awareness of  the backdrop of many who can barely feed themselves any less commendable. Besides, the people who have benefited from these dash-offs don’t seem to be complaining. So it’s an odd 70-30, win-win situation for both audience and celebrity where one party is clearly gaining more, but the other isn’t losing too much either.

 

 

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