December 13, 2010

Activism by Gifting

Have you ever gotten a gift from someone that is clearly something they really appreciate or value and are giving the gift to you to share their values with you?    I'm thinking of something like "we donated $50 to the [charity] in your name" where the charity is some cause that the giver appreciates but you've never even heard of.    Or gifts where the gift is educational about a topic that the giver really values.  An uncle who is an accountant may give his niece a book about accounting.   Another example is someone who supports a cause and then gives gifts that are about their cause.   If your friend is really into environmentalism and being green and then they give you gifts that are green in nature like reusable water bottles with filters.

These gifts are for the giver and not the person receiving the gift.

Such 'activism by gifting' is about sharing (pushing ) your views on your friends and relatives.

I personally don't like this kind of gift at all.   Gifts are supposed to be about something that the recipient wants and appreciates.  

 I'm not saying its bad to give money to charity or give educational gifts or gifts that reflect a cause.   In fact those can be great gifts.   But the charity, educational topic or cause must be one that the gift recipient highly values instead of one that the gift giver values.

One clue that a gift is your own activism is if you have to explain to the recipient what the gift is and why it is a good thing.   The recipient should appreciate and value the gift when they receive it and a gift should not require you to tell them why its good.   Thats a clear sign the gift is not something the recipient really values.   THis may not apply to all gifts, cause sometimes you give someone a 'thing' that is new item or new invention that they may not be familiar with so if you have to explain what the 'thing' is for then thats not necessarily bad.   For example a gift of a new kind of wine bottle opener may require an explanation but that might be a great gift for a wine lover.    On the other hand a gift of a cow given to an impoverished village in the third world may require explanation and if the recipient is confused why this giving someone else a cow is a good thing then thats not a great gift.   I think giving a cow is a nice idea by the way, so if you want to give a cow in my name then go right ahead.

Heres some examples of when I think is good or bad activism giving:

Good : Giving a charity donation to a pet shelter in the name of someone who is a huge pet lover.
BAD: Giving a charity donation to your favorite art museum in the name of someone who does not appreciate art because you want to share your enthusiasm for art with them.

Good:  A book on accounting given to a high school student who is planning on going into accounting as a career and has been decided on it for some time and talks about it a lot.
Bad:  A book on accounting given to a high school student who is undecided on their future career but might go into music as a profession because you want to give them a subtle shove in the direction of what you think is a right career direction.

Good : Reusable water bottle filter for your hippie cousin who is always talking about the environment and lecturing everyone on reducing waste.
Bad : Reusable water bottle filter for your cousin who drinks a lot of bottled water because you want them to stop being so wasteful.

Gifts are about the person who is getting the gift.    Trying to push your values and interests on someone is not a very considerate gift.   Don't use a gift as an opportunity to impose your tastes and values on people.   A better  gift is one that reflects the tastes and values of the recipient.

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