No prying eyes please, I'm just my brother's keeper

The Global Citizen Festival at the FNB stadium in Soweto.
The Global Citizen Festival at the FNB stadium in Soweto.
Image: Jessica Levitt

There are very few of my life events that aren't punctuated by music. Even my speech is sometimes punctuated with songs. Which is why music festivals will always be a big affirmative yes, especially if I am watching from the comfort of my own home, which is how I enjoyed the Global Citizen Festival in December last year.

And the music was sublime, even though the sound wasn't always at a global level.

What I hadn't expected to walk away with was a deep sense of discomfort over the objective of the festival: ending extreme poverty in the world, an objective stressed by billionaires, celebrities and politicians whose eyes did not reflect the warm sentiments of their speeches in between the music.

An interruption we could have done without to be honest. Yet there they were, one after the other, pledging money to end poverty in the world.

According to the Global Citizen Festival website, global citizenship as a concept is people heeding the call to end extreme poverty by ideas that inspire and motivate the global community to act. Sweet, but.

We all know why there is so much inequality in the world. Greed and corruption from people, like the kind up on the stage that day. The idea of billionaires standing in front of crowds seeking to be applauded for donating their billions to end poverty was repulsive to witness. Especially because we know you are getting a tax break to save the rest of your billions.

As humans, how important is it for us to be seen, acknowledged and commended when we help others? Why do we need festivals for world leaders and billionaires to do the thing they ought to be doing in any case? But this isn't a case with just billionaires is it? Social media affords you and I, ordinary citizens, a world platform, one that is perhaps even bigger than the global citizen stage.

And every other day, there is a post of someone helping another person who is in need of something, which is great. What's worrying is the problematic trend of showing people in their most vulnerable state, a state of need. At what point did helping people become a spectacle?

In the first few days of January, I debated with myself a lot before making an offer to help someone on Twitter. Mainly because I didn't know how she would react to my unsolicited help

Against my better judgment, I made the offer anyway, in public. What followed was something I never could have anticipated: more and more people came on board to also pledge to helping her with school fees for her daughter. It snowballed into something neither I nor the lady at the receiving end could manage in the end. To a point we were both rejecting requests for media interviews. I understand that the world is starved of good news, but surely events of people helping others should not be news?

We grew up in communities where we were taught to look out for the next person, our very humanness should demand that of us, without the need for applause. We must remember at all times to afford people their dignity. We know what drives big corporates and politicians, profit in one way or another; that's why they need the publicity.

If we do it on our platforms, are we really any less corrupted of soul than they are? If we are helping someone because we truly believe we are our brother's keeper, we will be fierce about protecting him from prying strangers' eyes. And then perhaps without the limelight and wondering what filter to use on the selfie, we might just find more ways to help, and there's plenty of ways.

Here's to being our brother's keeper in this new year and beyond.

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