Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Price of a Baby Blue Ribbon...

... Social Commentary on the Tsunami Relief Effort.

Lately, as you look around Berkeley campus you see various people wearing and selling small, simple, safety-pinned baby-blue ribbons. Your first thought perhaps is "Who would wear such a thing?" which is quickly followed by the slightly more distressing question, "Who would BUY such a thing?" Upon initial reflection of this brilliant marketing ability (to sell a 2 cent item for an astronomical profit margin) you think that maybe the undergraduates from the Haas School of Business actually developed some practical skills other than Powerpoint ... you quickly come to your senses: no, it can't be them. You then catch the sight of 5 foot asian girls trotting around with sandwich billboards, that inadvertantly cause them to waddle, with the words "Tsunami Relief" Sharpied across their walking advertisements of altruism. Lo and behold, you have met the master of the baby-blue ribbons.

Despite the fact that you are on Sproul Plaza, and your initial reaction to anyone carrying a sign making eye contact with you is to run, you decide to hear this one out. They explain that they are selling these ribbons, and the 2500% profit will go to some organization who's acronymn is too long to stomach, much less remember. They ask you if you want to purchase a ribbon. Looking into your wallet you - being a guy, and thus never carrying change on your person, unless you have just bought something, after which you will probably shortly dispose of that change as well - realize that you have nothing but bills. You give them a dollar, and tell them to keep the change. You walk away, but instead of thinking "Wtf? I just bought a cheap Target brand .5 cent ribbon and 1 cent Wallgreens paperclip for a dollar" you feel satisfied. You didn't just buy a ribbon my friend, you bought back a piece of your conscience.

Maybe not your conscience itself, but the peace of mind portions of it anyway. Where did it go? How did the ribbon Nazis end up with YOUR piece of mind? Oh they took it from you, or rather you hurled it at them, as soon as you fell into their path. Your mind reasoned that 200,000 people have died and thousands more are dying of hunger, disease, or abuse. It argued that you have three more dollars in your wallet (yes I'm poor), but you don't have a baby-blue ribbon. It contested that the world around you is rallying to save these people, but you won't even give up a measly 50 cents when people come knocking on your door. Aside from what you have gained as a new owner of a baby-blue ribbon, the real value you realize is found in avoiding the guilt that would have rested above you as a Sword of Damocles, waiting to fall with the question "So what have you done to aid the Tsunami victims?" Congratulations my friend, with 50 cents you have bought a piece of humanity, a piece of compassion, and a piece of mind that would have failed you should you have spent that money elsewhere.

After Notes: I'm not saying I criticize the efforts of either the Tsunami Aid Part or the people who buy these ribbons. Just commenting ^^


About Me

I'm a quixotic idealist that's readjusting to the reality of the world around him. An aesthetic at heart, willing to not shower a week at a time to go camping, exploring, hiking, etc. I love food, poker, and anything that can be turned into a competition.