Austin’s South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) hosted one more innovative event this year: homeless people as wifi hotspots. New York advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) paid homeless people $20 a day to carry mobile wifi hotspots at festival venues. People could use the hotspots for wireless access for a small donation ($2 suggested).
Wow, what a horrible idea. Exploiting poor homeless people for advertising. Or so we should believe when we listen to the outrage over the idea, expressed mostly by conservatives, including FOX, over the rank hypocrisy (or worse). BBH wasn’t helping the homeless so much as taking advantage of them.
That’s right, the same people who want to get rid of the minimum wage are furious that homeless people were underpaid for offering a service that people would actually give them money for. After all, they would do so much better panhandling.
Critics say the gesture is little more than a callous attempt by a large corporation to appear socially aware. And what do these critics offer the homeless in exchange? Why, they can stay homeless. Marie Antionette at least was willing to give the poor cake. Basically they seem to advocate it’s better to help no one and not be a hypocrite about it than to help someone in need when you have something to gain.
That has to be the most cynical equation I can imagine. I prefer this (and I’ve written it before): It’s better to give for the wrong reasons than to not give for the right ones. Let’s face it, I can’t imagine a blind person asking Jesus for healing only if his heart was in it.
I might say that to my mother or Carol, yes. But family dynamics aren’t an issue in this scenario.
Where are the Christians asking WWJD about homeless hotspots? I suspect Jesus would ask, “What you have done for the homeless recently?” Consider this: People attending SXSW probably needed wireless connections to check in with home and office. After all, a cell phone call will no longer do since they show you are backward on technology. I’m not willing to wander around SXSW with a mobile router. If a homeless person feels it’s worth his or her time to accept donations providing the hotspot, everybody wins.