gail schimmel

The blog of writer Gail Schimmel: A bit of writing, a bit of parenting, a bit of thinking and some book reviews

I’m NOT for #iam4rhinos”

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I don’t have anything against rhinos. Actually, I rather like them, being lucky enough to live in one of the few parts of the world where a few hours’ drive will bring you to a place that you can see wild rhinos. Actually, I once nearly drove into a rhino, but that was a mistake. And, of course, I think that the poaching of these fine animals is disgusting and inhumane, and that the people who take rhino horn as a supplement are idiots and dangerous and I hope it gives them kidney stones and burst appendices.


The Twitter campaign over the last day or so, calling on us to raise 1000 000 tweets for rhinos, has driven me almost insane with irritation. There are several reasons for this.
Number one – and please be warned, bad language follows – what the fuck are rhinos going to do with 1000 000 tweets? Rhinos, and I’m sorry if this is news to you, have no interest in social media. Not even when it is all about them. I know that’s hard for us to grasp, but you must remember that rhinos are very prehistoric. Plus they are too busy dodging poachers to check their cell phones.
And the people who hunt rhinos and the people who take rhino horn? Well, to be honest, I don’t think that they give a fuck either.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t care about rhinos. Hell, make them your life’s work if you will. But what rhinos need is a plan and a strategy and protection. Not Tweets. Now, if for each time someone had used that irritating hashtag #iam4rhinos, they’d also donated R1 (or $1 or whatever) to a respected anti-poaching effort, then there’d be a point. But no-one gave a cent – they just sat on their arses tweeting to no-one.

And this is a common problem in charitable effort. Every year, I get that email about making the walking woman keep walking around the world for cancer. WTF. Both my parents DIED of cancer. I will probably, genes being equal, die of cancer. That email did nothing to help them. What did help them is Hospice and when I feel the need to do something about cancer I donate money to Hospice – because I know it will actually DO something.

Which brings me to another issue about charity – people have got it into their heads that charity only counts if you give your time. “It’s easy to give money,” they say, smugly. Well, first of all, it’s not actually that easy to give money unless you are very wealthy. And secondly, who said that the measure of charity is in how hard it is for the giver? Surely the measure is in how useful it is to the receiver? And I am telling you now, unless you are a person with a particular skill, most charities would rather have your money than your time. Try that why don’t you – phone up your charity of choice and ask them: would you rather have 5 hours of my time or R1000? Let me know how that goes.

I’m not judging your cause, rhino tweeters, I’m judging your means. Put your money where your tweets are and donate.

There is one further point that irritated me about yesterday’s incessant rhino tweeting, and that was the shopping mall crisis in Kenya. The plight of rhinos is very sad and wrong, but when you are tweeting about it like crazy and ignoring the fact that human beings are being killed and held hostage in one of our neighbouring countries, frankly, you just look heartless. I saw some commentary on twitter about “whites care about animals more than people”. As a white, I find that statement offensive. But yesterday, twitter was certainly doing its best to prove it true.
The thing that keeps me up at night is suffering and starving children. So when I am flush, I donate to Unicef or Gift of the Givers. If you think I’ve made a valid point, why don’t you make a quick donation . . . and THEN feel free to tweet about it!!


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