All my colleagues disagree with me. You my reader will probably disagree with me. That’s OK, my hope is that we can debate this.
I saw the excitement on Twitter several days after the kid had trended. If you’re like me and had not seen this before, let me take you through what happened:
Enter the kid
Here’s the video that found its way onto Twitter:
Here’s the English translation:
Grown Up: You said I am killing you with what?
Kid: You are killing me with sweet potatoes
Grown Up: Aaah so what do you want me to do?
Kid: Duhh, buy bread
Grown Up: Hey, these sweet potatoes are expensive hey (yea this part didn’t make sense)
Kid: Haaa, but you are killing me with sweet potatoes
Then came Proton Bakers
One of Zimbabwe’s major bread making companies, Proton Bakers picked up on this and they sent out messages on their social pages and through some influencers looking for the kid. They found him and committed to providing his family with bread every morning or some such.
At this point it was still a sweet story somewhat. I would say kuddos to Proton, they saw this one early and responded even though we all know it wasn’t so much for the kid as much as it was for ‘the marketing.’ How do we know this? If it were for the kid it would have been done quietly.
It went downhill from there
From the moment the Proton photos started circulating on Twitter, companies started falling over each other ‘donating’ their products and services to the kid and his family. At first some of the responses made sense within the context of the viral video for example an egg company offered eggs to accompany the bread, an edible oils company offered the oil to fry the eggs… But it kept getting stranger and stranger…
Ridiculous and unfair
Education companies started offering free books and materials etc. it kept going until we started seeing some fashion brands saying they want the fed up kid to become their ‘model.’ Some claimed that they had set up a trust account for the kid which will mature when he turns 18 The strangest I saw though was a DNA company that offered DNA tests for the kid and his family. Surprisingly, the family took it. What the what?
The psychology of charity
I believe in giving, in rising up to the occasion when others are in need. One of my favourite quotes is one that says, “Need equals mandate.” However, I am also aware that making people ‘a project to give into’ sometimes locks them in a cycle of poverty. At worst our giving is condescending and betrays social biases. I have been at the receiving end of such myself.
I have albinism and over the years I have met folks who just look at me and they start offering advice on how ‘I am still special before God.’ What the what? Huh, what the what? Who said I didn’t value myself? Church was the worst, some would walk up to me and hand me money… I am fortunate that I was raised quite well and so these ‘charitable’ gestures did not change anything about my outlook or alter my confidence.
However, I have seen numerous persons in my position who have been socialised to think they are indeed a project and an object of pity. I have seen NGOs donating ineffective sun screen lotions to what they call ‘the albinism community’ and then line up the recipients and make them sing songs in front of a camera so they can send back the footage to their financiers abroad.
Now, this kid is being dragged all over the place and being taught that he needs and owes so much to well wishers and all he needs to do is to say thank you and get a couple of photos taken. I am just as disappointed in the parents although I am not surprised.
The Zimbabwean economy has stripped us of our dignity and sense of pride. It is the brands that are exploiting this situation shamelessly that I believe are abusing a power relationship here. I have seen so called marketers patting each other on the backs on Twitter saying they responded well and that they now understand ‘marketing.’
The mbambaira kid has had so many photos taken and those photos are doing the rounds on social media. Do we even understand the implications? Some of the ‘marketers’ doing this would not even put up images of their kids on their own Facebook feed to protect their kids but they don’t have a problem with pasting the three year old’s pics all over town.
I heard that the kid now has a Twitter account. I don’t know if it was set up by his parents or it’s a fake one set up by some chancers. Either way it doesn’t matter. If the parents set it up they are milking their boy’s moment in the sun and it’s wrong. Do they realise that the minimum age for a Twitter account is 13?
How about hauling people off to a DNA test? And then posting images of the event even? DNA is probably the most personal and private thing ever. DNA is you! What if the DNA test had revealed that this kid is not his father’s son? How did we go from mbambaira to DNA?
Zim Twitter bringing out the best
I don’t want to end this article without acknowledging the fact that really cool stuff is happening in the Zim Twitter universe. I have seen people respond to so many causes and pooling resources in a really remarkable way. This is commendable and I hope Techzim will explore this trend in the future.
This good thing should not be hijacked by our base tendencies though. I believe this is what has happened with the case of this boy.
But at least the boy is taken care of, right?
Most people I spoke to about this boy and what’s happening would give me the infamous “Yes, but…” The feeling is that well yes the marketers are most probably doing this for selfish reasons but hey at least the boy is getting help. That was my initial reaction too. However, I now think this is motivated by our Zim decades induced poverty mindset: whatever brings the bread to the table type thinking.
No amount of bread is worth dragging a 3 year old kid through the limelight as a recipient of charity. If the brands were genuinely helping they would have done all they have done (except the DNA test) without letting the left hand know what the right was doing.