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Saturday, December 18, 2004 

Re: Charity, Anyone?

Marilyn, I've also had my fair share of bad experiences with 'good-willed' volunteers. All right, on 2nd thoughts, most of them are actually hesitant, apathetic, uncompassionate teenagers who put on a facade while doing CIP ( Community Involvement Project, which is compulsory in Singapore and part of the Singapore 'Education' System). Most of them in reality are just a bunch of ignorant, materialistic teenagers who are totally oblivious to the sufferrings of the less privileged. But I don't really blame them, because being raised up in Singapore has such an adverse effect on Singaporeans, especially the Gen-Y-ers.

See, we're often fooled by so-called Advocates of charity work. We see the countless of donation drives on TV... Like the NKF, President's STar Charity... etc etc. We're often spurred on by this facade of overwhelming compassion to also do our part as human beings with a heart. I mean, all the celebrities on those shows you see, they have larger than life statuses in Singapore and have an astronomically huge influence on the viewers. Half of the people you meet, when asked about such donation drives, will probably construe these 'donation drives on television' as shameless fund-pimping on the part of the charity organization. Of course, as a Christian and a human being, I feel for those afflicted with certain infirmities, but I for one definitely disagree with the whole idea of fund-raising on television, with the main pull-factor being celebrities clowning around executing lame stunts.

I'm not saying that it is wrong to have donation drives on television. But everyone knows that charity organizations' constant utilisation of celebrities to 'pimp' for funds is definitely an improper modus operandi for fund-raising. It's not a bad thing to raise awareness for certain organizations by electing a celebrity as a spokesperson. Certain disadvantaged groups with no outlet of expression whatsoever need a voice for them to reach out to the masses and bring awareness to the general public on their plight. Television is a very powerful tool to carry out that commendable deed. Still I lament the fact that the NKF and President's Star Charity have to resort to celebrities executing well choregraphed and rehearsed stunts to pull in funds. Maybe it's because they believe that by normal standards it'll be impossible for them to raise the amount that they have in mind. And that I totally agree. However, I believe that slowly, this ruse of theirs is going to lose its appeal and even with the biggest celebrity appearances, audiences would not even be spurred to budge and reach for that phone of theirs.

The root of the problem is education, and the imculcating of strong morals and compassion within the youth of the nation, especially the kids. It's a cliche to say that we in Singapore are so blessed we are barely exposed to the sufferring of the less privileged in the world ( which includes our tiny little island). We see all the caricatures of poverty everywhere: dirty, shabbily dressed, starving, chopstick-thin bald headed people in Africa with a cringe on their face all the time... some even begging incessantly for food. We grow so desensitized to their pain and plight that the plague of apathy invades our hearts. I believe more than anything else, we need education. We need to KNOW the kind of pain that these less-privileged people face... we need to know the pain of those starving, those parent-less, those abandoned, those dying of cancer and of some other malicious incurable disease. We need to feel their pain and we need to act.

2ndly, we in Singapore need to inwardly start changing our grotesque attitude of kiasu-ism. I guess kiasu-ism is so ingrained in our mindsets, entrenched in our $$$$$$$$$$-minded Singapore culture, that we are totally oblivious to the fact that we live grossly materialistic, superficial and pathetic lifestyles. We keep thinking when thinking of slipping that 10 dollar note into some Charity bucket.. " if i drop this note, doesn't that mean I can't buy my shirt/top/skirt/jeans/pants/bag/shoe/cosmetics or that I can go to that whatever restaurant to eat? Doesn't that mean lose out to that other guy/gal because he/she has more possessions/ eating experiences than me?" We need to just lose that mindset. My pastor always says, God is not against us having money, He is against money having us. Likewise, it's great to want new clothes and to want to visit posh restaurants to fine dine and also great to visit the wealth of spas/resorts available but it's too much if all that is so high on the priority list in your life that you can't even spare a miserable $5 note that can actually save a life?!! Isn't it ludicrous to know that buying a miserable piece of clothing can be more important to most people in Singapore than saving dozens in Africa?

Which leads me to my last point. I attribute all these kiasu-ism ( the root of kiasu-ism i guess is the competitiveness in Singapore) and materialism to the one thing most prevailent in Singapore: the lack of purpose in life. I believe at the end , our purpose revolves around one Person: God. I won't go all preachy here, I'll save
it all for another time, but I believe the lack of purpose in people, the failure to see an eternal reward after physical death all breeds materialism and short-sightedness and drives people on to lead hedonistic lifestyles. Even in the absence of the belief in God, which to me is really ridiculous, I think that at least people will see the true, ethereal joy of giving instead of just receiving. The Bible says it is more blessed to give than to receive... and that's true! Start giving now, folks. You'll be way more happy when you do than when you buy that Prada bag of yours.

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