Using philanthropic work to gain cheap publicity and humiliating recipients is the height of sadistic cruelty, hypocrisy and selfishness

What should be the main motive behind helping the needy? What makes someone wake up one morning, and decide that they want to provide for the disadvantaged?

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

Why, then, would the same person feel compelled to call the media to cover what should ordinarily be highly commendable work, yet turned into a cheap publicity stunt for the supposed philanthropist, whilst concurrently, subjecting the recipients to what could easily be perceived as unnecessary humiliation, due to the unwarranted attention on their neediness?

These are pressing questions, whose answers have defied me for years – as I seek to understand the prevalence of what I consider an upsurge of the hypocritical and selfish spirit in our people, as they exploit the destitute and desperate for their own ulterior self-satisfying objectives.

I have been involved in philanthropic work since my early childhood – both as a boy scout, from primary school (in which we undertook numerous projects to help the less-fortunate in our community), and a founding leader of a couple of charitable organizations, during my high school days, that focused on sourcing school fees, uniforms, and textbooks for disadvantaged fellow students.

Even today, through my social justice activism, I continue assisting those who may require intervention, should their rights be trampled upon by the ‘high and mighty’.

Yet, in spite of being closely attached to several media organizations – having commenced my social justice writing for local newspapers, at the age of 16, doing Form Three in 1989 – I never felt the urge to exploit this by placing the spotlight on my philanthropic work, most particularly on who we were helping, nor even inviting journalists to cover the handing over of donations, and neither interviewing the respective recipients, especially wanting them to sing our glories…over how good and blessed we were, and how eternally grateful and indebted they were to us.

As far as we were concerned,  helping other people was part of our nature and culture, which had been inculcated in us from our formative toddler years – such that, it was in our blood, and something we would not think much about, and as such, never regraded it as something extraordinary that required publicity, let alone a “thank you” from those we assisted.

In fact, there was hardly any ‘handing-over ceremony’ for the donations, as everything was done ordinarily, in the confines of privacy.

This is why, I am exceedingly baffled and bewildered, whenever I watch our one and only local television channel, or open the newspapers, to be met by nearly daily reports on how such and such a person has “come to the aid of so and so”, who had fallen on tough times, or facing unbearable challenges in life – with the apparently benevolent philanthropist being showered with all manner of praises and glory, whilst the unfortunate recipients are paraded for the cameras, and subjected to what I consider the most embarrassing interviews, in which they need to express their undying gratitude and indebtedness, and unending joy, towards their benefactor.

Quite frankly, I have also fallen on hard times, and have been assisted by wonderful friends and family – but, I can never begin to fathom the depth of my shame and embarrassment, had these most generous people, proceeded to release press statements narrating how they had helped me, the nature of my problem, and how desperate I had become before their timely intervention, in addition to bringing with them journalists to cover the handing over of their assistance.

As such, why would anyone feel the need to do the same to other less fortunate people? What dark spirit of hypocrisy and selfishness would have possessed them?

I interpret such actions as hypocritical and selfish, due to the apparent ulterior motives underlying these seemingly generous and noble gestures – as I see in my mind, a people who derive deranged pleasure from some perverted sense of power over the poor and needy, since they (donors) would be wielding a god-like dominance over their ‘victims’, as they get a wicked satisfaction from watching their beneficiaries desperate, helpless, and hopeless, whilst the donor comes in as some ‘knight in shining armor’, and rescuing them from imminent doom and destruction.

All this serves to fulfil some ingrained sadistic power dynamics, in which the donor exerts dominance over the receiver, who is made to feel weak – with the added joy in this skewed depraved scenario being played out in public.

Of course, there can be others who see this as mere political grandstanding – especially, if those involved are also politicians, or politically-aligned, and could be seeking election into office, or the election of their spouse – whilst, others may interpret this as a way for these philanthropists to highlight their work, in order to receive more financial and material aid from their own international and local donors, as well as enlightening communities to their services, in case other disadvantaged people may require them.

Indeed, that could be the case – however, please excuse me for being skeptical, as mentioned before, I have been involved in charitable work from my early childhood, and definitely there are far much more honorable, well-meaning, and noble means to highlight one’s philanthropic work in the community, so as to invite those who may want to contribute, as well as raising awareness of the service’s existence to those who may require it – without unduly humiliating one’s beneficiaries, by placing them (and their poverty) in the spot, nor embarrassingly stripping them off of all their dignity, through unwarranted soliciting of praises and glorification.

Therefore, the only logical conclusion to the motive behind such people’s philanthropic work, has absolutely nothing to do with a kind heart, and the sincere desire to help the needy and less fortunate – but, purely driven by a hypocritical and selfish sadistic ulterior agenda, which is driven by a depraved desire to exert power over the weak, and embarrassing them in the public domain, whilst deriving a sense of perverted gratification from their desperation and helplessness, as the benefactor comes in to save the day…at the same time, obtaining immense pleasure from hearing them showering praises and glory.

No wonder our Lord Jesus Christ, I all His infinite wisdom, when He was teaching about hypocrisy and hypocrites, said: “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound the trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

“But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. That your charitable deeds may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matthew: 6:1-4).

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700, or Calls Only: +263782283975 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

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