Charity is a complicated thing; philosophy and fiction are strewn with questions about the futility and harm of supposed selflessness. Can we truly give without receiving? If charity inspires a warmth in the person giving, is that not, in itself, an emotional pay-off? Perhaps everything is transactional. And, with this in mind, might our giving not be dangerously superficial, a salve on a compound fracture? What if the donations that make the giver feel generous actually cause more harm than good? "It is more socially injurious for the millionaire to spend his surplus wealth in charity than in luxury," the English economist and social critic J A Hobson wrote in Work and Wealth in 1914. "For by spending it on luxury, he chiefly injures himself and his immediate circle, but by spending it in charity he inflicts a graver injury upon society."
Never have these ethical conundra been forced more clearly into focus than on a Delta flight from Tampa to Los Angeles yesterday, when passengers raised a handsome $2000 for the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life. Their pay-off was a performance from saxophonist Kenneth Bruce Gorelick—that's Kenny G, to you and I. "They asked me to do it," Gorelick says over the airplane's speakers before his performance begins, per TMZ. "So just know that I'm not doing this to bring any awareness to myself. This is for a good cause." He asks for five minutes in order to brush his teeth. Then he emerges, a troubling smile somehow locked into his face in spite of the alto saxophone in his mouth. He solos; his audience has sax. But who, we must ask, suffers?
Watch the video above.
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