Public Radio International's "The World" program had a report today on the Beirut Film Festival which is going on despite the recent bombings in Lebanon. This year's festival was in doubt for obvious reasons, but the organizers strove to make it happen no matter what. Despite the organizers' will, they still had various challenges to overcome including funding. The usual sponsors diverted funds to help rebuild the country. However an American institure (not sure which) came through with necessary funds. This got me to thinking about what should be done and by whom.
While it's great this film festival went on despite the troubles in Lebanon, I wonder if the money spent on it could have been better used to rebuild some portion of the city. One of the organizers commented about the need for entertainment and inspiration and there's no doubt that such things help to keep the human spirit chugging along. But in times of acute need, I just feel like this money could have improved the lives of people in much more important ways.
Of course, I'm not privy to all of the details and I don't even know the reality of the situation in Beirut right now. And I know full well that bread and water do not feed the human soul. Film and art are important to the being of people everywhere. But the cynic in me tells me that charity for humanitarian purposes is much more important than giving to the arts.
How does one make a decision? For me, I tend to donate to causes where not too many people seem to recognize a need. After the US invaded Afghanistan, I donated the the UN Refugee Agnecy (UNHCR). I did this not because I was against the invansion of Afghanistan. In fact, I think W did the right thing with that one. But I saw a need for the people who would inevitably have to flee from all the stuff going on around them. It was also a bit of a contrarian viewpoint to all the people donating to fund helping 9/11 victims. I felt that the US government would help those victims out in the end (which, as far as I know, it has) and so I sent money where I thought it was seriously needed.
I think for most people, this sort of decision comes down to interest and personal meaning. If someone you know has a disease, you're more likely donate for research into erradication of that disease.
But I still feel a bit odd about donating to a film festival in a time of great humanitarian need. I wouldn't have done it. Would you?