Jun 16, 2008

Telling everyone about your good deeds

A weird cultural difference I pointed out on my Chinese blog is that many, many celebrities have excessively boasted and advertised their good deeds recently. It's been especially apparent with regard to the disastrous earthquake in Sichuan.

Check out this scan of a local magazine I bought and see if you can figure out what I'm talking about:

It lists on the front page of the magazine sixteen major celebrities in China, and how much they've donated to the earthquake relief effort. What every happened to the virtue of modesty?

Donating to a cause and then treating it like a competition, announcing to everyone how much one has given, makes it like a game show. It makes me lose any respect I had for these celebrities. It's unfortunate they've been sucked into this viral game of demonstrating low moral character.

When we give our donations in church each week at mass, do we pull out all the money and wave it around for all the other parishioners to see? Of course not. Everyone is very discrete, and generally you can't tell who's putting how much in the donation basket.

So here's a closer look at the front page of the magazine, where it shows the celebrity names and how much money they've donated so far. Probably the most recognizable ones to Americans are Zhang Ziyi (章子怡 100万) and Gong Li (巩俐 50万). "万" means "ten thousand Chinese yuan", so Zhang Ziyi donated about $145,000 and Gong Li donated about $72,000.

Based on the yearly estimated annual salaries for Zhang Ziyi and Gong Li, the donations amounted to 0.96% of Zhang Ziyi's annual income, and 0.64% of Gong Li's income. If Zhang Ziyi was a Joe Blow income earner in the US making the median annual income of $48,451, she would have donated $467 to the cause. Using the same analogy, Gong Li would have donated $310.

Not bad, I say. But I really don't see the point in entertainers bragging about their charity work. When you meet your maker, your good deeds aren't going to be overlooked. There's no need to tell the whole world about your donations and make a big competition about it. You just end up looking like a horse's ass and losing the respect of the public.


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