Monday, October 20, 2014

Monetizing Ebola

Some people see everything in terms of whether they can turn it into money.  An empty lot, a disaster, older folks who aren't as sharp as they once were, and now Ebola. 

I got this in my emailbox this morning:

  From sort Date sort   Subject sort Size sort
Ebola Bulletin Oct 19, 2014   Shocking Revelations from Ebola Expert 27 k

I'd seen an article or post on people exploiting Ebola, but the email above was the first direct contact I'd had.

My first reaction was - how low can you go?   How despicable must you be to use Ebola to victimize others for personal gain?

But I don't think it's quite that simple.  I can think of at least two factors at play here. 

First, there are people who, for whatever reason - no conscience, no empathy for other people, or personal desperation, or whatever else - think nothing of scamming people for their own personal gain.

Second, a society that values money above most everything else.  It doesn't matter how unscrupulously people make money in our society (and much of the world), if it's not illegal or if you don't get caught, the money gives you a veneer of respectability.  Certainly money can buy you all the facades of respectability and it can even buy you a 'get out of jail free card.' But I can envision a society where such bad behavior would so taint the money one gained that far fewer people would be tempted.

Until we find a cure for conscience numbing conditions like  psychopathy  we're going to have people among us without a conscience, thus unconstrained from the kinds of social and moral constraints that keep most people from exploiting others. 

But we can make people accountable for how they made their money.  We can give other factors - decency, less monetizable skills and talents, helpfulness, etc. - more respect and power in our society than we currently do. 

Every time we do something that gives respect to people simply for having money, regardless of how they get it, we support the culture of wealth worship.  Every time we click the teaser links on every monetized website that take us to trivial information, we reward this kind of mentality. 

Unless, of course,  people start using that method to exploit the exploiters.  How about teasers like "The Ten Slimiest Ways the Koch Brothers Make Money" or "Frank Murkowski's Wealth Analyzed, Dollar By Dollar"?  Teasers that lead us to solidly researched information that helps us better understand why some people have more power than it seems they should. 

I'm still thinking about possible legitimate ways to profit from Ebola - drug companies that make legitimate cures, comedians who profit from Ebola jokes (if their joke make people think, it's probably ok), media coverage of Ebola.  But that's tricky, as can be see from this MediaMatters piece entitled  Right-Wing Media Exploit Ebola Outbreak In West Africa To Spread Immigration Fears.

Basically, I think the kinds of people who send out emails like I got - I didn't even open it by the way - are despicable.  I'm just trying to point out though that people aren't despicable in a vacuum.  The more we understand the factors that make them do despicable things, the greater our likelihood of figuring out ways to reduce the number of people doing them.   

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