India Uncut

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Sunday, January 09, 2005

Post-tsunami thoughts 2: To hell with intent

Too many of us are obsessed with intent. NDTV 24x7 are having a debate, as I type this, on “We The People”, where a few people have protested the publicity that celebrities have got for donating or helping out with the volunteer effort, alleging that they were doing it just to get publicity, and that their contribution should have been anonymous. This is similar to the protest that I had blogged on earlier (“Despatches 26: Separating politics from social work”), by people who alleged that extreme left- and right-wing organisations were doing relief work only to build political capital for later.

My contention is that at a time like this, it is perverse to consider the intent of someone who is helping with relief work. This is because of two reasons. Firstly, in a time of such vast death and destruction, the good that anybody does is too valuable to turn away for silly reasons like intent. Hundreds of thousands of lives need to be rebuilt, tens of millions of dollars worth of infrastructure reconstructed, and any objections to celebrity culture or the politics of people helping out are trivial compared to the need that they are helping to fulfill.

Secondly, can we judge anybody’s intent? Those who seem most noble may well be doing it out of a subconscious desire to feel good about themselves (see despatches 11 and 37), and a celebrity who doesn’t mind collateral publicity may feel genuine compassion. We all live in glass houses, though human nature is such that none of us will admit it to ourselves. So let us not throw stones but help, to whatever extent we can, in the reconstruction.
amit varma, 8:46 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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