almost a diary, oddly enough, self-referential

Saving Toby?

I’m at loss for words. Those of you, my gentle readers, who know me, will be able to certify that being in that state is a rather unnatural condition for me. However, I just found out about a website called savetoby.com. Being a Toby myself, I felt the need to inquire what was going on with my name buddy.

Toby, it turns out, is a rabbit, whose life has come under threat by two anonymous American students, who, according to savetoby.com and MSNBC.com, are planning to kill and eat Toby on June 30 unless they have raised at least USD 50,000 from donations and profits from selling savetoby.com merchandise on the web.

Of course, it is perfectly legal to kill and eat one’s own rabbits, and, to make a wild guess, I am sure this happens on a regular basis. Thus, savetoby.com is another data point underscoring a cynical point once made by Joseph Stalin: the death of one person is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.

Despite the legality of killing rabbits, and despite the fact that there seems to be a built-in proliferation limit to such money making attempts, something in us will intuitively object to a business model that depends on emotionally blackmailing kids – but only kids?

Kids usually don’t own credit cards or paypal accounts, which are necessary to donate or buy savetoby.com apparel. And while there will probably be some cases where children passed on the emotional blackmailing to their parents and are thus at least indirectly responsible for a part of the USD 28,372 raised to date, the larger amount will have been donated by adults, which raises a couple of questions about human rationality, especially in light of the following quote from the website’s FAQ section:

Are these donations tax exempt?

I know alot of people out there are saying to themselves… „This site is awesome, and I want to help save toby. That being said, are these donations Tax exempt?“

The person out there saying this is obviously a smart, well educated member of the upper echelon of society. Unfortunately no donations can be written off against your taxes. I am not a non-profit organization. Sorry, but Uncle Sam needs his too.

Well, why a smart, well educated person would consider spending money to allegedly save the life of a rabbit on June 30th is beyond me. But more importantly, why do so without even the slightest possibility of monitoring that a) Toby is for real, or b) that the threat is indeed credible?. In some sense the fact that there are donations indicates that for those who donated the marginal (emotional) utility gained from „saving“ toby must be at least equal to the utility the money could have provided when used for different purchases.

And that probably means two things: a) there are too many people with too much money who already own far too many things, and that b) they have the desire to do something emotionally fulfilling and beneficial with their money but don’t know how.

Of course, there’s the alternative that they just wanted to reward the entrepreneurs for coming up with such a clever way to get rid of their student loans, or that they simply want „to be part of this thing“. But, again, if that doesn’t raise questions about human rationality, what will?

Oh, just in case you feel you have more money than you need, feel free to give it to me. Remember? I’m a Toby, too.

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