Brett Hetherington

Banner photos: Cornelia Kraft

The giving game

 

[Mick Jagger. Photo: EFE]

 

[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, November 2018.]
 
One day near the start of autumn I was watching that uniquely ex-British empire sport of cricket on TV. England were playing India somewhere in the UK and the equally unique face of Rolling Stones front-man Mick Jagger appeared on my screen.

He was shown drinking a long glass of sparkling wine, and was mixing with expensively dressed men and women. They were part of the crowd at this match and the TV commentators made sure to refer to him as "Sir Mick."

Apart from the polished hypocrisy of a once rebel and anti-establishment figure like Jagger allowing himself to be 'knighted' by a woman who, by simple birthright has inherited the title of The Queen of England, I was soon to learn of another example of his double-standards.

As the (Sky channel) TV commentators were quick to point out, Jagger was offering to donate money to a charity named Chance to Shine. In a sport still hugely dominated at adult level by white men from the wealthiest of private schools, this charity says that it "works to make cricket available to young people in state schools and other communities."

The catch that disturbed me was that Jagger had pledged to hand over between £10,000 and £20,000 but only each time one of the players did his definition of a good performance for their national team.

Quite possibly none of them would be able to achieve the specifics of what he was asking for. Alternatively, there was also the possibility of several of them doing well enough for Jagger to give up to about £100,000 or possibly more.

Of course, I'm not against the existence of charities and I fully acknowledge the great work that many do. I have also written about the huge moral and ethical inconsistencies that some charities operate under, as I did nine years ago in an investigative article on The Polaris Project in the USA.

My complaint is that people like Mick Jagger and other noted celebrities, while obviously giving needed funds to organisations working as NGOs, are using the act of donation as little more than an ego trip or some kind of casino-like, grown-up playtime.

If Jagger can afford to give say £100,000 to help develop young cricketers then why not just just give it? Instead he turns the whole thing into some kind of measly piece of cheap entertainment for himself and his acquaintances while they sip their costly drinks and nibble on each other's vanity.

Sitting in continental Europe watching my TV in that moment, far from the sporting action, I imagined a group of little British boys and girls being told that financial help with their cricketing passion was not possible because the money had run out.

Depending on the vagaries, luck and chance of thirteen men on a field, maybe if one or two of the cricketers had just hit the ball a metre further, their places in the Mick Jagger-sponsored program would have been guaranteed.

In the corporate boxes where Jagger was likely to be, there might have been some back-slapping, congratulating him about what a damn fine fellow he was for being so generous. Instead, I imagined Jagger chatting away to the well-heeled around him, barely watching the game itself, completely indifferent about how many kids his little scheme was going to actually touch. Or not.