At that point in history doing good rose dramatically in popularity. It was cool to care. Hollywood strode awkwardly off the red carpet into a one-US-dollar-a-day village. Rock ‘n roll walked streets that had no names. Smart stars drove smart cars. It was a good era for smooth-talking doomsday sayers and drop-dead gorgeous do-gooders.

Benevolence became a brand. It was marketable. It sold. It increased one’s cultural stock value. It went well with sunglasses by … whoever made the hot shit sunglasses in those days. It flowed seamlessly into the show script of Entertainment Tonight. You weren’t a star if you didn’t have a cause. It was a new era.

Philanthropy practically became a sport. Gates dropped $30 billion on good causes, and Warren Buffet put in $31 billion. The big boys bought race horses, or football teams and set up charitable foundations. Goodwill was in the air.

Every corporation on earth adopted sustainable development practices – triple/quadruple/quintuple bottom lines. They all won green awards from each other’s foundations and associations, and added “environmental responsibility” sections to their websites. Click.

Both hope and cynicism could hardly have wished for ground more fertile. But neither seemed like satisfying responses. Eventually, weary of salvation, Africa said no thanks.

And we started looking for a less popular way to care.

About the photo: McDonald’s Corporation announced the donation of $50 million to children around the world benefiting from programs supported by Ronald McDonald House Charities and other children’s organizations. Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York and Global Ambassador for World Children’s Day, and Ken Barun, President and CEO of RMHC, accepted the check at McDonald’s new downtown Chicago showcase restaurant. “There are so many children who face obstacles such as cancer, poverty, hunger and AIDS,” said Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. “Together, we can help children come out of these desperate lives and in doing so, we benefit not only their communities, but the whole world.” – McDonald’s news release, 2006.

Issue 5

This article first appeared in Geez magazine Issue 5, Spring 2007, Humanity Has Big Issues.

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Issue 5, Spring 2007

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