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Sunday, January 9

Why That Chain-Letter Bothers Me

Here's an email I got from my brother, Greg, who as you know, teaches English in Phuket. I've removed the bank info since this is NOT a bid for you money. I just wanted to show the difference between this email and that chain-letter I debunked earlier. Let's read Greg's email first, ok?

I'm surprised by the number of people who are asking "How can we help?" and actually mean it. At first, my answer would have been, "Do you have a plane?" (so I refrained from answering) but the situation has changed a lot since then. Things are back to normal, or almost. There are 3 dead students in my school but there's not much we can do for them. There are also 7 children in my school that have lost a parent. Fewer parents means less money. I have set up a fund for them (we've got 10 000 baht or 200 euros so far, yoohoo). If you don't like the idea of giving to Oxfam or the Red Cross and prefer a more direct donation, you can thus trust me with some of your cash and I'll make sure it gets to the funding my new flat screen TV. Oops, I mean keeping the school's orphans in school. Isn't it better to send to Red Cross or Oxfam? Yes, it is. Then why are you doing this? Some people in and out of Phuket have said they like to know where their money's going and have actually suggested this. There are already quite a few post-tsunami scam e-mails of this sort going around so please don't forward this mail or only with the necessary precautions and warnings and explanations. As you can see from the "To:" list, I'm only sending this to my closest friends not every e-mail that ever made it into my Outlook Express. Lastly, this is in response to those that WANTED to do something. I've never given to anyone or anything in my pre-tsunami existence so I don't expect anyone to give either. I was very close to not sending this mail and I'm ashamed to send it really but the money IS needed and will be appreciated. Here's my bank account details in the Caiman Islands (actually, Crédit Agricole de la Somme (80)): (Removed by Mathieu) If you do send money, do e-mail me so I can keep track of it all (and thank you) Thanks, -Greg

Now, reading this, I suddenly realized what bothers me so much about that chain-letter, beyond the usual annoyance that kind of email evokes in me... It's in the attitude of the people who sent it to me. They got rid of some guilt or got a cheap feel-good by forwarding an email to everyone they know, without spending one second checking whether there was any value in doing so (as one minute on google showed me there wasn't in this case). I just hope that's not the extent of what they've done for the victims of the tsunami. In other words, there MAY have been some value in that chain-letter initially, or at least the author may have thought so, but if one judges the value of the act of forwarding it blindly, it is JUST AS negative as with any chain-letter. Now, to get back to Greg's little Satree Public School Tsunami Orphan Relief Fund, he came just in time to catch my big donation to the reconstruction effort. I've given to the emergency relief funds, not a lot, petty cash to collectors in the street, stuff like that. I've known for a while now that the big need will be in reconstruction, or long-term things like orphan support, but I've been a little overwhelmed by the debate about which country, organization or effort to support. I'm more comfortable with this SPSTORF, to be honest, and since I'm VERY proud of my little brother, I want to support his efforts. Now, again, this is NOT a bid for your money, if you want to give, go to Unesco (for children) or the Red Cross in your country, but I will be talking here, now and then, about SPSTORF and how the kids are doing. Just to keep an eye on my investment, as it were. Heck, I feel like the big donors must feel when they give to the major NGOs, able to ask what was done with the money, to see the results, and I can even visit the director next time I'm in town. He can't refuse to see me, cuz I'm his big brother :D As always, comments will be read and answered with pleasure. Location : Beauvais, France

2 Insights :

Blogger Erodote intuited...

Hi Matt,
I got to say I did not appreciate your comment on "It's in the attitude of the people who sent it to me. They got rid of some guilt or got a cheap feel-good by forwarding an email to everyone they know, without spending one second checking whether there was any value in doing so".
I get 200 SPAMs a day, I don't know u but I don't really have time to surf on the internet to check if this is hoax or not! I looked at the pictures, they looked real, I felt bad for this child cause I'm a father, I forwarded it... is it a big deal?? cause you'll get a couple more emails in your inbox?? I don't think so.

So yes I forwarded it blindly cause I had to take a quick decision in my long and busy day. I think the real debate Matt is why are you guys feeling heros cause you're giving a few grounds for this Tsunami thing?? where were you in 1988 when the flood killed 140000 people in Bengladesh?? Who gave money then?? DId the country disapear?? NO, so do you think that giving B$ now for Tsunami is the only thing?? If you really want to feel like a Hero, the world is full of disasters although they may not be as fantastic as this one. Sorry for sounding so upset but all this hypocrisy around Tsunami make me sick...

1/13/2005 07:14:00 PM  
Blogger Mathieu intuited...

Hi Erodote,

The only hero in the family in this particular case is my brother Greg who happens to live there, and has been contributing his time and effort in volunteer work, shoulder to shoulder with the local Thai, and just set up a support fund for the orphans of the school where he teaches English. He has not been forwarding emails, or just donating money. He's just been face to face with the victims, be they tourists or locals.

So you get 200 spam a day? So you don't have time to check the facts on these before you forward them to your contacts list? Do you expect me to applaud, or commiserate? The facts stand that you were lazy, you clogged up some inboxes, and have not done anyone any good.

As for disasters in 1988, I was 14 at the time, and I remember giving some rice to the big collection drive for the hungry in Ethiopia at the time, which, admittedly, was no big thing. I'm not a saviour, I'm not an angel. I just don't like spam, and chain-letters, and the people who spread them, even if, judging by how many of my friends or family have forwarded this one to me, I must still be able to relate to them on other levels.

Next time you feel this upset about someone's comments on your actions, examine your feelings... aren't you just a tad bit uncomfortable with your conscience? Why don't you take that energy and write a big check, or go down to the nearest NGO and help the poor or needy in your area, or grab a plane to a striken paradise like Phuket and donate your vacation time to helping the victims, instead of venting on the internet at someone who frankly couldn't care less that he's upset you.

That's just another minimal expenditure of your time or energy that doesn't net anyone, including you, any good.

That said, you have a good one, Erodote, and may peace find you, wherever you happen to be at the moment...

1/14/2005 03:08:00 AM  

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