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Must philanthropy be publicised?

April 24, 2020

The Government of Rajasthan has reportedly banned photography during distribution of food packets to the poor within the state. Too many donors were probably showing off that they are feeding the poor in a time of a crisis. It is easy in the age of social media to show off, even during a lockdown, when no one is allowed outside their homes. Since an obscene large number of poor citizens are struggling for their daily bread following the precautionary closure of non essential production and services facilities, the government as well as many NGO or individual donors have come forward to help with either money or provisions. While it is a most honourable initiative, the easy access to social media also tempts them to publicise their good deeds. Publicity by means of social media is cheap, and most often free. Digital photography too has practically turned photography an easy and inexpensive option. Almost everyone with a smartphone can shoot a photo or a video and immediately post it on social media these days, within a few minutes, if not seconds, of carrying out a good deed. The Rajasthan Government decision must be welcomed. If anything, it is possible to say it does not go far enough. Other state governments and the Union government may like to consider the feasibility of enforcing a similar ban in the whole country. The ban should have included social media posts too. Someone can still post on the social media that he or she has donated, even though it is going to be harder now to post photographs. The second issue is the ethic and motivation for philanthropy. Rajasthan Government has observed in this context that giving in itself should be motivation enough, and that it is the responsibility of those who have more to give to those who don't. This position makes for a south ethic, though it is doubtful if it will motivate a large enough number of prospective donors. It is not at all easy to motivate people to help others without the promise of a tangible reward. What is to be done, now, so that this decision does not lead to a reduction of the motivation of potential donors? They may be promised deferred rewards, such as a certificate to be issued after the crisis has passed, one that that they can hang on their walls and display to visitors at home. This is based on the familiar principal of delayed gratification. The immediate challenge is now to stop people from claiming immediate credit in a vulgar manner. There is no harm in letting them claim credit later. By then, the world will have emerged out of this crisis and donors themselves will find less reason to show off. The heat of the moment, as the saying goes, will have cooled itself down. They can claim their credit, and the society too will have more attention to pay. Remember Oscar Schindler. Today, after seventy or eighty years after his great deed, his story is made into a film and he is world famous. Would anyone have cared so much if he were keen on posing with his wards immediately after he had taken them home and given them shelter?

Dr. Anirban Bandyopadhyay, Associate Professor, Unitedworld School of Liberal Arts and Mass Communication (USLM)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.

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