I’m not sure what it is about the month of November in particular that makes people focus a lot on charity. Perhaps it’s to assuage the guilt of participating in the upcoming consumerism of December. I have to confess that I have found the charity events of November irritating me this year.
Of course there is nothing wrong with charitable giving. But what peeves me is the self-promotion that increasingly comes with it. Surely making a show of your charity is not the point.
You may have guessed that my comments are primarily motivated by the increasingly popular Movember, an event whereby people grow moustaches to raise awareness of men’s health.
This is a good cause, which I of course support. But I have a problem with Movember.
The cause of men’s health is lucky that it has become associated with an increasingly fashionable gimmick. No doubt most charities have some smart people working for them coming up with clever schemes that increase their publicity. This is natural. Sometimes, a charity gets lucky and their idea goes wildly popular.
Sometimes, not much more than luck is involved. The result is charities getting attention based on the popularity of their gimmick rather than the strength of their cause.
Prostate cancer charities are now getting a lot of attention every November. This is great for them, and to be celebrated. But what about other deserving causes? Sadly, they take a back seat while everyone grooms their moustaches.
Because that’s the thing. Movember actually seems to do very little in terms of raising awareness of men’s health. I hear no genuine discussions about how to improve men’s health. What I do hear is a lot of vain discussions between people comparing moustaches.
Basically, Movember is mainly a festival of attention-seeking people spending an entire month saying, “Look at me! Look at my moustache!” I am friends with many people that have done Movember, but I’m afraid the activity does get on my wick.
I felt similar about some of the fuss that was made around Remembrance this year. There was a lot of noisy brouhaha about whether football teams should be allowed to wear poppy symbols. But it seemed as though many people had forgotten that remembering is more important than being seen to be remembering.
Also, just because you wear a massive poppy doesn’t make you better at remembering. Nor does wearing it earlier than other people.
I guess it is a sad fact of human nature that this is the way a lot of charity has to be done. Charity is supposed to be about giving. But many people don’t like to give without getting something in return. Even a warm glow isn’t enough.
This behaviour is taught to us at a very early age, when we pop some coppers in a jar for the lifeboats. In exchange we get a sticker, just like we would if we have just been a very good boy or girl at the dentist.
As you grow older you start wearing red noses. Then as an adult it’s pink ribbons, yellow wristbands, yellow daffodils. The ultimate charity trophy is the moustache. None of these badges do much to improve the world, but they need to exist in order to encourage people to give to charity.
I’m not proposing any solutions. There isn’t one. But it would be nice if more people would give to charity in private, and decline the badge.