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Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Friday, February 08, 2008


It’s now the start of a new weekend. It was quite a stressful week to say the truth, so I’m really looking forward to a good rest. At least I hope to get one... Eh... Judging by the heavy rain currently pouring at intervals, it will be a cold and wet weekend. Yes it seems I need to keep warm and cosy. However I still got something to look forward to. That's because if I’m lucky I should see an article I wrote for a newspaper as part of my work get printed... Fingers crossed. However, before the weekend started I get an email that I don’t often get … well, I won’t go into its content because you know how it goes if I quote an excerpt :

“If you care for your friends or loved ones, send this email to friends and all those in your address book. etc etc“

I usually delete these kind of emails, especially the last one I cared to read promised me peace and prosperity if I did forward it, but promised me a great deal of misfortune and curses if I didn’t. It’s a modern equivalent of a chain letter. Only that it’s much easier to get rid of. But why did I feel so angry with the one I received today?

Because it was allegedly written by a local child who had a brain tumor and I was promised that if I forwarded this email to my friends or those in my address book, I would be helping this child pay for his operation. If I didn't, the child would still "pray for me". I am not cold or heartless. I hurt when I sense injustice and dishonesty that preys on the stories of real people. So, I promptly deleted this email. But why?

First of all, no such technology to track forwarded email exists. Besides that, such emails only exploit our good natures and put us in a position of falsely empathizing with someone who probably is fictional to start with. I believe that there is indeed sadness in seeing children suffer or die young. Therefore I believe that there should be respect to such an experience. And as part of this respect, people should be made to relate to the person and the experience. Not made to feel pity or better than that person.

I don’t want people who are comfortably sitting in an office chair creating drama or write emails that exploit real life to elicit responses or create false hopes that simply forwarding an email will change lives. I know it won’t. I took the time to research whether this email, if forwarded, could help in some way. It won’t.

Indeed, it reminded me of the many charity events I have seen or watched throughout my life. People who have impairments or who had health problems being exposed to audiences who were expected to feel sad for them. To give money for their cause. While forgetting the most important thing. That, above all else, it should not be about pity or feeling sorry. That is not enough. That is not really right if you think about it.

Whenever I come across people who seemed too relate better to me as a sick, or as an ‘unfortunate’ man, I feel uncomfortable. I would have preferred if I had not come in. If they hadn’t noticed me at all. Why?

It’s the same feeling I get when I open such emails. It’s as if you are forced to feel guilty for being such a lucky guy, or even for being so unlucky really the emotion is artificial, imposed on you. And that bothers me. It’s even worse if this emotion only creates situations in which other's life circumstances are exploited. When I am placed in a position where I have to choose between feeling:

  1. Bad: for not sending this email – since I know it will only elicit false hopes but still give me – for a few minutes – a false sense of guilt for deleting it.
  2. Good: if I had sent it of course. But what would I have achieved really? Just perpetuated these false feelings in others. Thus, causing illegitimate suffering. And of course, I would have encouraged people to focus only on people’s suffering while ignoring that a person should be at the centre of our attention, not the suffering itself. And while the requiem music plays in the background, we forget that the only thing we can really do is to relate to such people as people and not – as we do get – as ‘sufferers'

It’s really frustrating to realize how powerful words and images can be in eluding us into believing things or feeling things that aren’t real. I can tolerate it in art to a point. But it’s not ok if we are made to feel this out of a thwarted mindset. Especially if it’s for people who do not actually exist and are constructed through clever deception. This, in this case, can
be said to be electronic emotional blackmail.

PS: The resource I linked to -Snopes - is a good site to check out whether you're being fooled or misinformed about some facts.