It seems like most good ideas are ruined, sooner or later, by bad people. Just look at democracy. Or – I don't know – GoFundMe.
A website that facilitates charitable donations to the needy should be an excellent thing indeed, an idea that could change lives for the better, a platform that would allow people with a bit of extra cash lying around to connect with those who truly need it. And it has helped, on plenty of occasions.
It is – you guessed it – entitlement. Entitlement to others' money. Entitlement to privilege. Entitlement to power.
But then along comes a religiously zealous multi-millionaire rugby player begging for people to pay his legal fees, to assist him in the "fight of his life" – something said apparently without irony or shame, despite his plea sitting on the GoFundMe homepage right next to multiple children suffering various forms of aggressive cancer.
And, of course, along come the travellers. Begging travellers. Travellers who want someone else to pay for their amazing experiences. Travellers who'd rather put their digital cap out and hope for charity than, say, get a job like the rest of us.
GoFundMe is filled with these travellers. Jump on the site now and follow the prompts through to the "travel" section – yep, it gets its own section – and you'll find literally hundreds, if not thousands of people asking for someone else to fund their experience of a lifetime.
Some of these potential adventurers only want a few hundred dollars. Some, meanwhile, are chasing tens of thousands. There are those who seem to have legitimate reasons for requesting donations – disabled people who need extra money to be able to travel; volunteers whose skills are actually required in foreign countries – but the bulk just seem to be regular old travellers, hoping for a handout.
Two of those chancers hit the news last week. German "influencers" Catalin Onc and Elena Engelhardt have been copping plenty of stick after they launched a GoFundMe campaign hoping to raise 10,000 euros ($16,000) to pay for their travels to Africa. The pair's rise to Instagram fame has so far been subsidised by Catalin's mother, but apparently that well is about to run dry.
"At the moment, my mother is funding us," Catalin wrote on the pair's GoFundMe page. "She works two jobs and has not much herself. We didn't ask her for money but she loves that she is able to help. Mom, I want you to know, that it is not only us but hundreds of others that benefit from your help."
Let's put aside, for a second, the ickiness of sponging off your hard-working mother while you travel the world and refuse to get a job. Let's even try to ignore the insanity of the conviction that the Instagram posts of your travels are somehow helping the world ("When you have the impact we do on others' lives," Catalin wrote, "getting a job is not an option.")
Let's concentrate instead on the idea that charitable donations should be used to fund the enjoyment of normal people travelling the world. You could say, "Sure, but no one is forcing strangers to give them money. We could all just walk away."
And that's true. But not everyone does. Some people do give travellers like Catalin and Elena their cash (at the time of writing the pair had scrounged up 657 euros from 27 people).
And it's not like there's an endless well of charitable donation out there. The amount of money that people are prepared to give away is finite, and if these guys (and Israel Folau) are taking some of it, then that's wrong.
This GoFundMe strategy is the inevitable evolution of the beg-packing trend, something I wrote about a few years ago. For a while there, travellers were going cap in hand, literally, and begging on the streets in countries in far worse financial situations than their own, hoping to get strangers to fund their travels.
That sentiment has now just gone online, to GoFundMe, where there's a much larger pool of potential suckers to draw money from (and who hopefully won't mind that you have the irony-free words "LOOK WITHIN" tattooed on your face).
There's a link here, of course, between Israel Folau and Catalin Onc and every other traveller on GoFundMe and even on the streets of foreign countries asking for charity from those less fortunate than them. It is – you guessed it – entitlement. Entitlement to others' money. Entitlement to privilege. Entitlement to power.
None of these people appear to see the harm in taking from those who can't afford it to fuel their selfish dreams.
But it's wrong. And it was never a good idea.
Special note: If you'd like to donate to a truly worthy GoFundMe campaign, my friend Dan could really use your help.
Would you ever give to travellers on GoFundMe? What do you think about the culture of "begpacking"? Are there any legitimate reasons for doing it? Post a comment below.
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