September 05, 2003

Oh, Look! I Just Spit a Nail!

So I must be feeling a bit testy, what? It's been a weird week--one day too short, which, while I don't mind the time off, has thrown my internal work-clock into disarray. Day four of early rising and bleary-eyed toddler wrangling and coffee drinking and traffic means Thursday, not Friday! Good grief, my worldview has just been destroyed! I'm so discombobulated I may just throw caution to the wind and get a pedicure during lunch! Decadence! End of the world! Plus, it's a workday after a girl's night out, so I'm feeling rather decadent to begin with--a three hour dinner with plenty of alcohol and sex talk will do that to a person.

And I'll need a relaxing calf and foot massage after this morning's three hour torture session, otherwise known as the Beginning of the Year Program. Some of you may fondly recall my rant last May about our End of Year Program. Well, the Beginning Program is a lot like that one, except instead of watching our Vice Chancellor play dress up and mispronounce employee names, we get to watch our Vice Chancellor shill for the State Employees Combined Campaign and mispronounce employee names. See the difference? Yeah.

Okay, I've got no problem conceptually with the Combined Campaign. What I do have a problem with is the coercive way in which it is presented. Basically, the edict comes down from the top that NC State needs to look good with this charitable event. By the time it trickles down through the various Vice Chancellors, it's turned into a percentage game. "Last year we had 85% participation, and I want to do at least that well this year!" I think anyone who's worked anywhere, ever, knows what happens next. Politics, politics, politics. Gah. See, hublet and I give to charities. We also give "presence, prayer, gifts and service" to our church, which also results in giving to charities, cooking meals at the local shelters, etc. I like to pick and choose. Myself. Without Big Brother breathing down my neck about how "Charities are Double Plus Good" or something and toting up the percentage points so that we look good for the honchos. I'm such the rebel. Plus, missing the point of charity much, honchos?

The breaking point is the inspirational video they show. This year I sarcastically remarked to a friend, "cue the sad-eyed children video" as they got really cranked up, and guess what the first image was? So okay. We see the usual montage of death, starvation, cholera, terminal illness, and suffering children overlayed with the super cheesy theme song for the year. We. Get. It. It's a simple way to do your charitable giving. It's a good idea! We GET IT! We don't need to spend 5 minutes with the 4 horsemen to grok the concept. And then they wind up the video with images of 9/11. My friend and I looked at each other, our eyes wide, as shots of the plane hitting the second tower and the towers falling played on the screen. The. Hell. People. I had the same sick, embarrassed feeling I got when I saw advertisers blatantly using flag imagery to sell a product after 9/11--like something dirty was happening in front of me and I couldn't stop it or get away.

I spent the next 10 minutes analyzing my reaction as the Vice Chancellor stumbled through the roster of new employees. There's nothing wrong with showing the real horrors of suffering to people who aren't acquainted with it. There's nothing wrong with reminding us that disaster can happen anywhere. There's nothing wrong with trying to wake people up to the necessity and goodness of charity work. But I have to draw the line at shameless emotional manipulation of this sort, because it almost seems cynical on the part of those creating it, like they were sitting around going, "You know, I don't think the song's lyrics are coming across properly. Let's superimpose the words over an image of the WTC in flames with an American flag flying in the background! That'll force 'em to give us cash!"

The second anniversary of 9/11 is next week. I want to remember it appropriately. I may even donate some money to a charity that day. But my money and my memory won't be tainted by opportunistic advertisers playing politics with charity. Put that in your Combined Campaign and smoke it.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at September 5, 2003 02:41 PM

Our division always had a perfect 0% participation in United Way. It wasn't a plan or anything. It just came out that way.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at September 5, 2003 09:31 PM

But State Employees are not alone in getting "the squeeze". I hate when that happens too.

Posted by: Indigo at September 6, 2003 12:26 AM