I have a Blackberry. With it comes Facebook, Twitter, BBIM, Whatsapp, email, mms and sms. Seven ways for me to get chain mails, seven ways for people to ask me to pray and pass on. Usually they are sent to me by loved friends and family who are much nicer people than I am and actually feel guilty if they don’t pass on the message.
This morning I got that very tired poem about Chris the abused three year old, and with the basic premise that “if you don’t pass this on, a sad toddler will pray for your useless dark heart and non-existent soul, you paedo fuckwit.” Phrased less colourfully, but the message was there nonetheless.
Like every single chain mail I get, I ignored it. (And then promptly blogged about it.) I am not being trite about children being abused: it is disgusting and heartless and never forgivable. But child abuse will continue as long as idiot adults get into abusive relationships. I especially take issue with mothers that allow their children to be abused and don’t leave. (That’s a messy topic for another day.) The Catholic church has child rapists working around the clock to destroy the lives of children, so by being atheist I choose to vote against that bullshit. But forwarding a poem and a guilt trip? I won’t do that to anyone.
The chain mails only exist because they trade on the guilt nearly everyone has because they can afford things like Blackberries and iPhones and laptops. We live in an age where we all have to feel guilty for something, because somehow it is wrong to enjoy the things one has worked for. Self-flagellation is as pointless as it is irritating and unfortunately it is a part of daily life. If one has worked honestly, then why be ashamed to own nice things? I know not everyone has good things: there are kids freezing to death every Joburg winter. There are cats and dogs being gassed to death at puppy mills because not enough of them were bought by pet shops. There is a lot to get angry about, a lot to fight for. But feeling guilty about enjoying the things we worked for is ridiculous. Unless it’s a fur coat, then I have nothing to say other than “fuck you, animal-hating asshole.” Because that is something based on pain, something no one actually needs and is a public statement of “I don’t mind endorsing the suffering of animals so that I can be just like the crackwhores in Sex and the City.”
People feel bad that they have food and others don’t, and a warm house and a car, and it is good that they want to do something to alleviate that guilt through helping others. I know I feel bad that my pet rats are so happy but most rats are being tortured in testing, so I try to avoid products by evil testing companies. I feel super guilty if I have a Nestle product because they’re amongst the worst. We all feel guilt, and while it is restrictive, it is very normal. But sending on a chain mail laden with emotional blackmail is not the way to get rid of it. Maybe people do it because it doesn’t require getting off one’s ass to do anything about it. Personally, animals are my battle and that’s what I work towards. Sending anyone an email saying “a puppy will die if you don’t pray to Mr Jesus to put it right” is hideous. Or “if you care about missing children, then forward this and Bill Gates will send the family 30c for each email.” While the internet can track your every email quite easily, I am very sure that Bill Gates has bigger things to worry about than every Missing Pretty White Girl. He’s using those millions of dollars to eradicate whatever disease he can in sub-Saharan Africa.
My point is (and I do have one) is that chain mails are basically the digital equivalent of women with rented babies begging on the side of the road. There is no short-term, instant solution and it is wrong to subject a child to being in the sun by the side of the road all day in order to play on the guilt of others. Giving a few rands just keeps that baby there instead of somewhere safer. By buying into chain mail guilt, we encourage a toxic culture of giving one gram of fuck instead of actively working to do something about it.
It does explain, however, why we drink. To an extent.