(previous Blogger post, November 27, 2006, Monday)

It’s Christmas season and acts of charity are all around us once more. I have no issues with giving to the less fortunate, of course. What I don’t like is simply doling out cash every now and then. This is precisely why I don’t like noontime variety-cum-game shows. One of the best sayings about giving illustrates my point: “Instead of giving fish, teach them how to fish.”

Let me first say that I have never watched one of those noontime shows from start to finish. I only catch glimpses of it, but what I see always makes me cringe. Fans of those shows may argue that I have no right to say these things since I don’t watch anyway so I don’t fully get what the show is all about. Granted. But it’s really a no-brainer. The show’s concept is to entertain people – I’m ok with that provided that entertainment is provided by artists and not studio audiences and contestants who are wittingly or unwittingly forced by the producers and the hosts to make a spectacle of themselves. Along the way, games in which people can easily win various amounts of money are played out. We have already seen the bad effects of this. One of the most tragic (in my opinion) events in the entertainment industry occurred because the masses so badly wanted the easy money that they’re giving away. The show continued to breed a culture of dependence on dole outs.

Also, the highest cringe factor for me is having balikbayans and foreigners in the audience who “donate” dollars. One time, while switching channels, I even saw the host with a wad of dollars fanned out in his hand. Ugh! Tacky, tacky, tacky. No matter how badly shows like this defend their concept by saying that they only want to help, I would never agree. It is an abuse of the less fortunate masses and an insult to the intelligence of the viewers. I think it’s also somewhat taking advantage of the balikbayans and foreigners in the audience. I don’t know, maybe I was just raised in a family that has a very conservative and discrete view of dealing with money, but I really don’t like the tackiness of it all.

Ok, I’d better stop the ranting now. My point is, enough with giving away money that is only good for one time. What is much, much better is to give less fortunate people the capacity to earn. Otherwise, they will just learn to depend on dole outs. These are not incapacitated people. They have limbs and brains (yes, even if they didn’t finish, or didn’t even go to, school) to earn a living. In fact, dependence on dole outs may even be what will make them turn to crime when no more ready help is available. Livelihood programs or small business loans would be the better way to go.

If the TV networks are worried about ratings, why not come up with really great PURE entertainment shows and use the income to give livelihood programs and LOANS to start small business like sari-sari stores, internet cafes, etc. I emphasize loan so that the recipient will be motivated to keep the business running – and running well. This doesn’t just apply to TV networks. It applies to every single person and organization carrying out charitable missions. Cash endowments are fine if it there is a specific purpose, i.e. educational fund, infrastructure, etc.

I remember something that a client told us one time. She was talking about their company’s Community Relations program and how the community residents started to complain and even become a bit belligerent when they stopped their dole out policy in favor of livelihood programs. She said that they changed their policy when they noticed how the residents were becoming dependent. I salute that. It’s about recognizing the capability of people. Simply doling out money undermines people’s physical and intellectual capacity. The recipients may never realize it, but it’s actually insulting and degrading to them. I believe that if you make the right approach and tell them that you’re training them because you believe that they have the ability will make them feel better and therefore be more willing to learn and, more importantly, use what they learn to earn a living.

Look at it also from your point of view. Don’t you feel better when you have given more of your time and your skills than of your money? Don’t you feel like you have helped more if you spent your time teaching that person something or just simply talking with that person? Don’t be deterred by those who act like they would have appreciated it more if you had given them money instead. It’s just a reaction. The point of giving is not to get reactions. What happens next in their lives is more important.

I know it’s all too idealistic, but then again it’s way better than cynicism and apathy. This may all be just words, but this is the crux of why I write – to express my thoughts and emotions and to somehow inspire and get even just one person to act.

The pen is mightier than the sword