Why can't we just accept good deeds at face value?

One wonders what is eating people like this and why they produce such toxic cynicism

Share
Related Topics
Journalists are used to the pervasive cynicism of the media, the reflex disparagement of kindness and generosity, the suspicion that anyone well known who gets involved in charitable activity is doing it only to enhance their reputation. But even I was taken aback the other day when The Spectator ran an article suggesting that celebrities were cashing in on the tsunami disaster with their fund-raising parties. "The deaths of some 225,000 people have sparked off a party season such as London has seldom seen in the middle of January," wrote Ross Clark.

It nailed my attention because I and group of friends had just given a party in London for three small charities working to rebuild Sri Lanka and Sumatra. It had been arranged in under a fortnight and, with the help of Griff Rhys Jones as an inspired auctioneer, raised pounds 60,000, precisely three times the amount we expected.

Without, I hope, being too dewy-eyed about the evening, I can say it was a heart-warming experience and we all came away glowing at the goodwill we had encountered both in the people who'd attended and those companies that had given us help for free, or at suicidally reduced prices. The party was hardly teeming with celebrities, but those that did come were self-effacing in the way they gave and, it seemed to me, keen to avoid publicity.

After we had packed up the lighting at the end of the evening, a man named Duncan, who had at that point worked a straight 14 hours to put the event on, said he would like to donate his wages for the day to our appeal. I couldn't help remembering this when I later read Ross Clark's little shocker in The Spectator.

"One imagines," he wrote, "that the money raised by celebs over the past few weeks will be put to some good use, even if it is adorning Phuket's rebuilt hotels in gold leaf."

Did he really believe the last part of that sentence, or was it that he could not concede that the money raised by these events will do a lot of good, in our case buying school kits and school tents, repairing fishing boats and providing new nets and engines (22,000 fishing boats were lost in Sri Lanka), building houses and in one instance repairing a harbour wall? The money will go a long way in Sumatra and Sri Lanka where pounds 3,100 buys a concrete house and a good loo for refugee camps costs just pounds 280. There is also trauma counselling run by Plan, the children's charity which we supported that night. I can't think of money better spent.

One wonders what's eating people like Clark and why they produce this toxic cynicism. What makes him seethe with such low thoughts when he hears of people doing a bit of good and having fun at the same time? Surely it must have occurred to him that even if they were showing off and parading their generosity, they were still doing more for humanity than a hack who churns out 1,200 words of derision and trousers the fee.

He's not alone. A few days later Sharon Stone stole the show at Davos when she stood up at the plenary session on poverty to raise an impromptu $1.4m for mosquito nets. She had just heard a UN official describe how 150,000 African children were dying every month because of the lack of nets and thought she'd move things on a bit.

Naturally, she was made to feel an ass afterwards and was liberally accused of exhibitionism, but we cannot doubt that the world is fractionally better off because she stood up and got the necessary money to stop so many unnecessary deaths. Her gesture should be applauded in a time when too many pass the responsibility for the world's problems to aid agencies and governments. That's why in the wake of the tsunami it was so inspiring to see the amount donated by the British public outstrip the paltry sum initially earmarked for relief by the Government.

I'm not sure I understand why the press is so hard on people like Sharon Stone and Bob Geldof, who both use their celebrity to very good effect, and I certainly don't understand why it has become so difficult to accept good deeds at face value. Perhaps an element of the mania for celebrity is envy among journalists, who are in hailing distance of these well-known people but only from behind a velvet rope.

Whatever the reasons, it is a corrosive habit of mind which is totally at odds with the generosity of the British public who see actions and people for what they are rather better than the twerpish fellow from The Spectator.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Sales Apprentice

£15000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £20,000 - £60,000

£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Team Leader

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Engineer - Linux, Windows, Cloud - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + 10% bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engin...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would ramp up Britain's spending on science

Paul Nurse
A family remain in the open for the third night following the 7.8 quake in Nepal  

Nepal earthquake: Mobs of looters roam the camps and the smell of burning flesh fills the air, but still we survive

Bidushi Dhungel
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence