False Art wears finery, and walks with little mincing steps, every inch a lady. Sadly, she sometimes tries to sing.
Phronesis, in Aristotle, is practical wisdom, or judgment. The following question drill (suited, it seems to me, for dialectic, dialogic, self-aware, philanthropy) comes from the sociologist, now at Said School of Business, Bent Flyvbjerg, via Wright and Cairns, Scenario Thinking:
1. What is going on here?
2. Is it desirable?
3. What, if anything should we do about it?
4. Who gains and who loses, by what instrumentalities of power?
Take the incursion of metrics, managed systems, branding, mass customization, into all walks of life, the rise of wealth inequality, the instrumentaliziation of employees, donors, customers. Take climate change. Take money in politics. Take any issue where human systems, natural systems, wealth, power, ethics, and justice intersect. Then do the 4 question drill. It is humbling, even shaming.
Compare those questions to those asked by H. Peter Karoff, in The World We Want, of the world historical, philanthropic "hyperagents" (as Paul Schervish calls them). Notice how the word "we" works in both the drill above and the one below.
1. What is the world we want?
2. What conditions are needed to realize it?
3. What are the obstacles?
4. And what strategies, plans, and tactics can make it so?
The first drill, by nakedly, in the final question, foregrounding power and its instrumentalities, problematizes the "we" who make decisions in accordance with what "we" want and "the world 'we' want." The second drill will go over better with many well-placed philanthropists, precisely because the "we" used unquestioningly is the royal plural, or as Peter (a mentor and good friend acknowledged to me), "the philanthropic 'we.'" So rock on the instrumentalities of power....
Yes, I am bitter about it. Preaching Giving and Grace, and the economy of Love and Gratitude, at the intersection of Wealth and Bondage, as my generous Patron and esteemed Mistress's least trusted serving professional, as a Fool among Knaves, living in a Dumpster, naked in all weather, hungry, miserable, without prospects for anything better, and with worse coming, in the way of a beating, and if that does not work, another lobotomy, what the hell do you expect from me? Not that I am complaining; the world we want could certainly be worse, and soon will be, if anyone were to listen to me. Fortunately, they won't. Progress will continue apace, once the higher ups tell us why, how, when, with whom, and how often, how measured, and with what impact. Until then, let's pass the bottle of bum wine, while supplies last. Community, friend, is where you find it. Don't hog it all. It's my last bottle, after all. I bummed the money for it. I get to say who drinks it. My Dumpster, my rules. Give it here, before it's gone.
World class Fools, too, as you would expect, have an annual conference and panels and breakout groups. Admist the din of Bedlam, today's topic is, "What have we learned that has served us best?" How to take a beating is apparently the answer.
The Courtiers, too, have a Mastermind Group, where they go to learn Best Practices from each other. How can we best serve the King, whose name is Lear, is today's question. The Fool, dancing through, carrying an empty pitcher and a tray of invisible beer mugs, offers, "Is this before or after you have driven him mad?"
Burt, the surgeon, doubles as a mortician - that is a joke as old as Martial, and still funny. Jill, the firm's top grossing wealth consultant, doubles as a morals tutor. When your balance hits zero, she gives you a complimentary copy of Thoreau's, Walden, and you can go "live simply" in the woods outside the office park. I guess that's funny. Why would she give a free book to someone who's broke?
I just want to clarify something. In this linked article, Private Wealth Advice in the Social Media Era, the author, mentions that she was approached by some social media star about joining her high-end, fee only, super-discrete, top secret, private wealth practice. Apparently, he or she had thousands of followers and no relevant client experience. For the record: I was not that person, ok? I am the one naked in the Dumpster foraging for the dregs in old wine bottles, among the produce. So, I have no paying clients for morals consulting. I have never said I do. My work is strictly pro bono publico and neither contractual nor consensual. More flee than follow. More treat me as a pariah than "friend" me. Reforming the rich in my view is reward enough. The sacrifices I make for others..... Will anyone ever appreciate? I am getting tired of alway being the butt of everyone's jokes. If I reform even one rich person over my lifetime, I will have done more good than all the rest of you private wealth advisors put together.
In Wealth Bondage, Tammy is the most sought after of my fellow serving professionals. Lovely, educated, pneumatic, she provides to our highest capacity clients what she calls "the ultra high end girlfriend experience." $75,000 a night, or proportionally more by the hour. I too am smitten but unable to afford her rates, or even a cup of coffee, I tried flattery. "Tammy," I said, "you are far better than that. What you offer as a human being is beyond any market price." "I know," she said, "I am raising my rates to $100,000 a night."
"Why," I asked The Happy Tutor, "does a priest who saves a person's soul live in poverty, while a heart surgeon who saves only the person's life makes millions?" Tutor said nothing, absorbed in a web video by Dan Pallota. "I will let you know you in minute," he said, "just let me finish this."
When social venture people say that they are sector agostic, or that nonprofits would benefit from a dose of the profit motive, I wonder how they address issues like these in forprofit education. One benefit (excuse me, please) of nonprofit jobs is that profit maximizers do not apply. Nonprofit structures prevent a highly talented person from doing good while making a killing, and that is the point. Once you get used to making a killing, doing good becomes one more shuck and one more jive, in culting the brand. I asked Fr Brennan (former Jesuit Priest, now employed by a Hedge Fund creating a theory of shared value and defense of the 2 and 20) how he felt about it. He said he was Sector Agnostic, and his laugh, half whisky, half lungs corrupted with years of smoking, concerned me. He found it funny, but I still think that we should cult brands of the divine that are divine. I said that, and I was afraid he would laugh and wheeze so hard that he'd expectorate his rotten lungs. Wiser are the children of darkness. "Fuckin A right," wheezed Brennan. "Take the 2 and 20 now and come up with the bullshit later." "Or," I said, "hire it done for a lot cheaper." But it was getting uncomfortable with an old friend. As if selling "Morals Consulting" to all comers made me some kind of a saint.
The professor, it says here, lives happily in his Dumpster, as do I, only his is better. Retrofitting Dumpsters for the poor could be an entrepreneurial social venture, for Bottom of the Pyramid Consumers - not making money off the poor but reducing the cost of being poor. Anyway, I did attend SOCAP14, saw Jed Emerson wearing a Big Black Fist (Power to the People) T shirt, and met many young people who are brimming with idealism and a belief that markets are the best way to express their identity, express ideals, and make a practical difference and a good buck too. Also present were major financial firms, who may at some point be able to package branded investments in such social-good firms to fit not just some economic, rational actor, view of the world, but also to mirror our myriad of cultural identities and visions of the good. That it all comes together in The Brand is something we at Wealth Bondage have long believed. The Market Domination of Wealth Bondage and its Mind Share, ubiquitous, unseen and unchallenged, as transparent and life-giving as the water to the fish, bear witness to our iconic success. Among the other readings on offer at SOCAP's book stand was one on the "Culting of Brands." I believe there was a blurb on it from Seth Godin. Economics is at bottom a metaphysic, a religion, a faith, The Dream of Reason. But properly managed, a rationally run business is identified in the mind of the consumer as were Greek and Roman gods - the embodiment of our sense of self, our sense of social hierarchy, and our own warring impulses. That the emperor was a god makes me think of Steve Jobs. Wasn't his yatch, the one launched after his death, Athena? No, of course not, Venus. And my boss, too, and mentor, and generous patron, Mistress Candidia, she who rules us all. Goddess of the Free Market, surrogate mother to our brightest children. Smart like Athena, rich like Jobs, and stacked like Venus. "Venus in spurs, Sweetie," she says.
I have not met her but certainly have enjoyed reading around on her site and her blog. Chris, an attorney, writes about giving with her whole being. I have never heard this thought before (as listed in her service offerings).
Transform your grief: People who suffer a loss or trauma often feel powerless or at a loss for what to do. Connecting with a nonprofit partner that is doing outstanding work to educate the community and prevent similar heartbreak can help restore a sense of hope and well-being to the individual and his/her family.
You remember Fr. Francis (Frank) Brennan, the defrocked priest who disappeared from Wealth Bondage (proud sponsor of Gifthub) along with a case of communion wine, and an altar boy, from the Wealth with Wisdom Scene Room? He called me on a stolen cellphone to catch up. Apparently, he has landed on his feet as Consigliere to a Great Family from South America. I asked Father Frank what his duties entail. He said as "the most trusted advisor," he is responsible for the family mission statement, and maintaining family values, wisdom, and hence wealth across generations. I knew all that; it is just the textbook stuff that all Consiglieres do. In The Godfather, Tom is an attorney but almost an adoptive son. Father Brennan said he is drawing up the adoption papers for signature once he "makes his bones." As with Tom, Fr. Brennan may have to, as he puts it, "execute against plan," by making certain recalcitrant types "an offer they can't refuse." (Remember the movie producer waking up next to the severed head of his prized thoroughbred horse?) I was confused about this, and how it reconciles with Family Values, Family Mission Statement, the Gospel of Wealth, and the Will of God on Earth, to which Great Families are devoted and from which they ultimately derive their legitimacy in the eyes of the Almighty and the General Public. Then I recalled in The Godfather series that not only the family but the Church, as well as the police and the judiciary, and Senators, are corrupt to the core. Family Values, religiosity, family capitals, come down in the end (in the film, not in real life) to patronage. Favors traded, rings kissed, large bodies of cash, rule outside the rule of law by oligarchs and their friends. For this to be credible we need a Secular Priest and in this role Fr. Brennan is second only to the very best in this field. I do not want to name any names because the list of those calling themselves Consigliere to a Great Family runs several pages long, and includes some of the most respected figures in the field, known for sagacity and virtue. I do not want to make invidious distinctions as to their relative merits. The Monk Rasputin was the best historically, and it took many bullets, a hatchet, and an unknown number of bayonets, to bring him down, before the Tsar his client fell, and his family too, into the pit under a hail of bullets, some bouncing off the children's vests sewn with diamonds, but many getting through. Brennan has enough sense to take the last helicopter out of the compound before it falls, if his escape from Wealth Bondage, one step ahead of the law, and several of his wives, is any indication. It was good to hear from Brennan. I am glad all is going well.
My thanks to a well known figure in philanthropic planning circles, an honest man, though a secret reader of Gifthub, who provided the link. I promise not to mention, to any of our mutual friends, that he reads this blog, if he promises not to tell anyone that I write it. (If you too are a reader, your secret is safe with me.) Let's keep things positive, with Eddie Lawrence. The rich have their burdens no less than the poor and we all must do our best to maintain their morale in a world of hurt.
To Whom it May Concern
Gifthub is an immortal work of art in theMenippean Tradition,written in a Padded Cell (he calls it a Dumpster for obvious reasons) in a state of shock by Phil Cubeta, Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, under an alias, or alter ego, The Happy Tutor, Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage...... More....
Email Phil Cubeta, Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families.