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Diversion/rant: T-shirts, child trafficking, and how to lose friends & alienate people

by Michael Keizer on May 27, 2010

'Dollar origami 4' by Piotr Bizior

The 1 million T-shirts saga goes on.

I really, really would wish that we could all just say that the T-shirt guys learned from what happened and we could move on to more rewarding issues. In fact, I thought exactly that had happened, and hadn’t spent even the shortest tweet on it for several weeks – and then they posted this blog post. Go and read. And cry.

Yes, that is right. They want to support what is probably the most badly conceived anti-child-trafficking initiative ever. I am not going to tire you here with why it is such a bad idea (others have done an admirable job on that, e.g. this post by Amanda Kloer, which was written well before the T-shirts ever came up). What I do want to draw attention to is that, evidently, Jason still has not learnt that it might be a good idea to stop and think before jumping off –  and preferably only do so while being informed by best practice and evidence.

Obviously, he was taken aback a bit by the criticisms and quickly took the post down, tweeting that he did so for ‘due diligence’. Perhaps it should be pointed out here that ‘due diligence’ is normally understood as something done before the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan. If you do this afterwards, it is more properly known as ‘negligent laziness’.

And then Jason and Stephen write a follow-up post in which they try to explain why they posted their first one. And fail miserably. What they do bring across is that they feel that it’s all about them. Take this sentence, for instance: “It’s frustrating and disheartening when individuals with a great deal of experience in various efforts seem to get pleasure in crushing the energy and desire of people who want things to be better in the world.” Seriously? You think that people get a kick out of kicking you? Is that why so many people who can use their time in ways that are much more gratifying to themselves insist in trying to explain to you again and again (and again, and again) that it would be a good idea to ask questions before you go off on your next hare-brainwave? I mean, of course I have nothing better to do than spend an hour on writing this blog.

“The story we shared was simply that… a story. … We simply shared a story that we heard and wanted to pass it on.” Again, really guys? So I guess that’s why you decided to donate those t-shirts to ‘Bob’, because it was simply… a story. That you wanted to pass on. Without any suggestion that you thought it was a good idea. Tell me, what exactly is the level of stupidity you expect from your readers? And while you’re at it, if you only wanted to share a story that should not have any impact, could you please explain why you did not keep it for your next session with your drinking buddies?

This post is a serious break from what I have written before on gifts in kind in general and on the t-shirt saga in particular; both in content and in tone. First, I don’t only write about the issues any more, but also about the people behind it; simply because I think the people have now become the issue. A mistake can happen, and the people who make it usually go through it growing a bit wiser and more knowledgeable – and get my full kudos for learning from their mistake. You can even make multiple mistakes and still get my support – if you learn from it and don’t make the same mistake over and over again. However, you lose it if you don’t learn from your mistakes and not only insist on making us all go through the same sorry arguments over and over again, but in addition make clear that you haven’t even tried to understand the central issue: that it is not about you, but about the people that you say you want to help, and that consequently you have a duty to do your due diligence – and yes, that implies thinking and asking questions before you do something stupid.

Secondly, up to now I have tried to write in a fairly dispassionate voice. I have left that behind me too, because I have started to realise that Jason et al. are apparently more reactive (if not receptive) to snark than to reasonable discourse. Yes, they go through the motions of being nice, reasonable people who listen to what is being said, but this latest little jaunt shows that it is a front. They don’t listen, not even to the people they asked themselves to advise them, unless the message is hammered home with a sledgehammer. So I guess that is what we need to do. Sad.

[Image: Dollar Origami 4 by Piotr Bizior – www.bizior.com]


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