In defence of Bezos: Belittling billionaires’ contributions to bushfire relief is making us bitter, not better

Jeff Bezos' bushfire donation

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

They say not to measure your friends by who is there during the good times, but who is there during the tough times. Well, the support our nation has received during our most troubling time makes me proud to be Australian.

After a global outcry, businesses and individuals, noteworthy and not, have donated $140 million toward Australia’s bushfire relief — an effort that broke a Facebook record.

However, when it comes to the charity of celebrities and large companies, some could argue that emotions may have got the better of us. A sub-culture is emerging where we compare donations from high-profile people and organisations, and ask why they haven’t donated more.

But charity cannot be measured on any scale; it becomes something else if it is. Nor is the amount donated relevant to one’s income or what their peers have contributed.

The most notable example is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ pledge of $1,000,000. The donation’s announcement received considerable backlash across social and traditional media.

Headlines read “Jeff Bezos Is Graciously Contributing 0.00059% Of His Net Worth To Bushfire Relief Efforts” and “Cheap Billionaire Jeff Bezos Donates Five Minutes of Income to Devastating Australian Bushfires Recovery”.  Others took to social media; “It’s the equivalent of someone worth $50,000 donating 29 cents. And it’s not even his money—it’s Amazon’s.”

Twitter users were even calling the donation ‘insulting’, as well as referencing the fact it was less than Kylie Jenner’s and that of other celebrities.

I understand that we are suffering great pain as a nation, but this kind of ‘witch hunt’ is not worth our time. And neither is a political blame game.

It’s impossible for someone to be accountable for this unprecedented disaster — and perhaps someone will have to wear it — but blame manifests from hurt and finding culpability will only give us empty answers.

During this time, we need to be having conversations about how love conquers all and how we can construct and share ideas to find a collaborative solution.

These kinds of cynical discussions have dangerous cultural implications. We want to get better, not bitter.

Getting bitter will only serve as a deterrent from finding viable solutions, as well as setting a negative precedent for how we deal with the next crisis we face as a nation. It is also not true to our famously easy-going and accepting nature.

This line of thinking has the potential to scare off potential donors who are afraid of receiving similar negative fallout. As someone who has worked in media agencies for the past 17 years, I worry that following the reaction to Amazon’s donation, other international companies will view donating to the bushfire relief as a risky move.

This would be a tragedy when we need on-going support to travel down this long road of recovery. It’s not just individual lives, houses and towns we need to rebuild, but vast ecosystems and a whole nation.

I am proud to be Australian, I am proud that we have caring friends around the world, and I am proud to say that love will conquer all.

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