Charity Starts from a Deep Pocket

In his 2010 People’s Choice Awards acceptance speech, Keith Urban blared out: “I don’t even care if you guys download my music illegally. I really don’t care. …”

At the time when I heard it on TV, I was quite impressed. After all, what connects him and his fans or audience is the music they all love. He was extending his charity to people on the worng side of the moral divide, to people who stole from him. It’s noblesse oblige.

It also reflected wisdom. After all, people who are hell-bent to steal will steal. People who can’t afford to pay have to steal. There are also people who can afford to buy, but given the chance to steal, may opt to steal. Sometimes, you just have to turn a blind eye on things. You can’t take what what’s right and what’s wrong too seriously. There is an ancient Chinese saying: If a body of water is purified, no fish can survive in it; if a man is morally viglant to the extreme, he has no firends. Keith Urban’s got it. Or as the buddhists may put it: he has seen it through.

It all sounded good to me, until today. I googled my own name “M. Eigh” this morning and a dozen piracy sites popped up, offering torrents(peer-hosted free downloads) of my books. “The Cicada Survival Guide,” “Bitter Tea and Braided Hair” and “Revolution Is a Dinner Party — Rogue Pluralism in China” are all in the offer. That’s when I realized that Keith Urban’s nonchalance comes at a steep sticker price. And when it is you who have to pay that price, it is not easy to feel as charitable as Mr. Keith Urban.

I’m not a rich man. Far from it. I could use the sales that have been lost to those free download. On the other hand, some of those who download my books free are from China, where a mere $2.99 translates to about ¥20 which is more than what a regular trade paperback book costs in China. Plus, due to government censorship, these books are not available in regular online market places like Amazon. And yet plus again, most Chinese do not have a foreign bank issued credit card and are not able to pay for foreign online purchases. Those are people who would never buy my books. For what it is worth, I am mighty glad that they get a chance to download and read them.

Against this backdrop, I’ve come to appreciate more the $0.99 or $2.99 they spent on my books. When they buy a book by M. Eigh, they are not only engaging in a generous act, but also a righteous one. To those who have ever purchased my books (the ebooks online and the paperbacks in Metro stations and parks,) I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Check out my humble Amazon author page when you get a chance: http://www.amazon.com/author/meigh

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