Wednesday, February 3, 2010

We are the world, We are the philanthropists!

A couple days ago, a bunch of musical artists and other celebrities congregated in Jim Henson Studios to re-record "We are the World", a song which was originally recorded 25 years ago by Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie and others with the purpose of drawing attention to starvation in Ethiopia. This time around, the recording was meant to draw attention to the situation in Haiti.

But where the original recording seemed to have some sort of purpose behind it, the 2010 recording seems to be nothing but an empty, pretentious means of displaying charity, a way for a celebrity to get in front of the world and essentially shout, "Hey, look at me! I'm being charitable!"

Twenty-five years ago, "We are the World" was at least somewhat relevant and appropriate for drawing attention to the African situation, but it really just seems irrelevant when it comes to the situation in Haiti, which everybody already knows about anyway. There are probably a million other things these celebrities could be doing to help with the Haitian situation, but it's almost as though they are more interested in being part of something cool, epic, historic and (most importantly) very public than doing something that actually has some power and meaning behind it.

Not that I'm an avid reader of the Bible, but I do remember one part where it says that all charity should be done in a manner that is invisible to the public:

Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven...So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
-- Matthew 6:1-2

Needless to say, the "We are the World" recording was NOT done outside the public eye. In fact, while I was reading an article in the paper about the re-recording, it kept on saying "According to a press release," blah blah blah," and "According to a press release," blah blah blah. Just the fact that there was a "press release" for such an event goes to show that it was basically done to be seen in the eyes of the public. Or, to use the Bible's terms, the event was "announced with trumpets."

This superficial act of public charity, however, is really reflective of a larger problem in Hollywood where philanthropy hardly ever goes unseen by the eyes of men. I mean, think about how many benefits and auctions and walks and runs and telethons and fundraisers take place in that town, and they're always very well publicized. For the celebrities of today, being charitable seems to be done in the name of boosting public image more than anything else. And since we look up to these celebrities and emulate their actions, we end up showing off our "acts of righteousness" in the same shallow manner. The meaning behind our charity becomes irrelevant so long as it looks good in the public eye.

As far as the "We are the World" celebrities go (i.e. Lil Wayne, Kanye, Akon, Jeff Bridges, Vince Vaughn, Nick Jonas, Jordan Sparks and whoever else), they'd all probably be more helpful taking some time off from making their crappy music/movies (all right, it's not all crap) and going over to Haiti to help out with the situation in the flesh. Surely that would be more meaningful than re-recording a song like "We are the World" that is outdated by about 25 years. But, no, these celebs would rather stay in their safe Hollywood environment, rub elbows with their cool celebrity colleagues and pat each other on the back for doing something that, at least in appearance, seems charitable. Or, to again use the Bible's terms, these celebrities would rather flash around their charity to the public - like they do with their jewelry and cars and "Cribs" - so that they can be "honored by men."

According to the tabloid news program "Inside Edition", Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Jay-Z and Taylor Swift have been "under fire" for skipping out on the "We are the World" recording. Lionel Richie's manager was quoted as saying, "They will end up regretting not being part of this." Beyonce and Jay-Z received more flack than the other stars for being no-shows, because they were supposedly in town when it all took place. But, hell, I don't blame them in the least. They probably realized how corny and useless the whole thing actually was. Kudos to them! And, yes, Lady Gaga just scored some more points with me. I love her body!

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