Red or blue pill, Sire?

Generally, in pitching the world's wealthiest families on my (as yet unsuccessful) Moral Tutoring shtick, I don't get past the butler, the trusted advisors, and the most trusted advisor, let alone the man of all work, or even the chambermaid, the chauffeur, or the teller of fortunes; and when I chase the limousines, naked and barefoot, to make the pitch, they generally just speed off, before I can outline my Value Proposition. But in imagination, so I can be ready when given an opening, if ever I get one, I have honed the my Elevator Speech to one poignant question:

Sir (or Madame or Sir and Madame), would your prefer blue pill or red pill ethics? For you? Your children? The general populace?

As you probably know, blue pill ethics are the ethics of sheep touted by Shepherds who have a vested interest in fresh lamb and fleece. Red pill ethics, as you probably know, are rooted in the Dark Triad of Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy associated with thinkers as diverse as Castiglione, Machiavelli, Nietzsche, Aynn Rand, or Leo Strauss. It is the philosophy of the Superman or Superwoman, the Master or Mistress of the Universe. Not the lamb, but the wolf.

My thought is that whichever pill the Dynastic Family prefers - and who am I to judge as Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families,  I am here to serve -- I conduct values exercises, and create a family mission statement that will work within their preferred modality. As high sounding, hypocritical, self serving, BS, in the red pill genre, while I work behind the scenes to tutor the young prince or princess in the wised up real values; or, in the unlikely event the family had swallowed the blue pill, and never wised up, I could just use the family values verbatim as cornpone for the consumption of heirs under the age of reason, until they were prepared for a more esoteric lesson.

I would have liked to think that my specializing in red pill Mentoring would set me apart from the claque of Trusted Advisors, and Most Trusted Advisors, doing Family Values work, since all I ever see out there for family values statements are pretty much cornpone, but I have come to see that this could be the work of red pill families properly coached. I, too, if I had a client, and sincerely wished to serve them well, would want a corny mission statement to face the world, while behind the scenes the children were taught the skills (Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy) correlated with success at the level of Statecraft, or the preservation of a family's net worth far exceeding that of the Padua, Venice, or Florence.  

I fear that at times Gifthub has often been hopelessly idealistic, citing the Gospels and other blue pill philosophies, and this might seem to disqualify me from teaching Ethics to The World's Finest Families, but I would like to state for the record that I am flexible when it comes to ethics as a practical matter. There is no better disguise for guile than a little scripture here and there, or a bit of philanthropy. My responsibility as Wise & Virtuous Fiduciary to UHNI's is to elicit Family Values, paper them up, paper them over, and get things done. For those who are put off by my show of ethics, please be assured that my only colleagues and friends, here in Wealth Bondage, are among the dregs of humanity, whose ethics are demonstrably worse than even than those of our best clients. How bad are my ethics? My friends say that even in our Bordello, in our most debauched moments, I am considered louche, or would be if I were allowed to play a role larger than handing out towels in return for tips, as I do now. If my ethics are not bad enough to be a morals coach, I can do worse. If only I had the money, Sir, or Madame, or Sir and Madame, as the case my be.

The Rainbow's Gold

You have heard, of course, of the rainbow with the pot of gold at its end. But, perhaps, in gift planning, the pot of gold, about one foot in diameter, and one foot deep, is at the beginning. And it gives off white light, glinting gold. This rainbow is not created by mist or rain, but by a prism, easily held in the hand of a gift planner. Through that prism, light streams, refracted into a rainbow arch across they sky, with an organization in the center, and thousands of people served at the end of that rainbow. The colors in that spectrum are "donor motivation." One color is money as money, in market terms. Another color is donor moral autobiography. Another is donor's vision, values, principles. Another is the donor's family and traditions. Another is metrics connecting money with results. Each of these colors spans the sky uniting the pot of gold with lives touched.

The pot of gold is a fairy tale, but (what is worse) the rainbow is also scriptural.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, mankind (not us, it was not our fault) failed in its stewardship of the earth, and defaced God's image, in themselves, as thumbs over time can obliterate or wear away, the emperor's face from a gold coin. The waters rose and would annihilate all life on earth, where it not for Noah, his ark, and his folly. Through him life was preserved, and without his folly none of us would be here today.

Do you know about that rainbow?

That rainbow was set above the waters as they began to recede, as a sign of hope.

Giving can be explicated as means to end, in market logic, a theory of change. And it is all that; one color is that. But giving is also a reenactment of a gracious sign or ritual, encompassing origins and ends (as Dr. Paul Schervish says, "Genesis and Telesis"), and unites us across time in an enduring community.

H. Peter Karoff speaks of the gift planner as answering a "long distance call." Without the gift planner, without the prism, no rainbow, the sign of hope.  

Master and slave hierarchies grown to scale

In the conquest of the other, the principle of civic order, that Hegel calls "the master/slave relationship," we have a model of what? An army? A government bureau? Durkheim's iron cages of the Taylorized worker? I/thou we reserve for peers? No, in my experience, as a worker, we reserve thou for those we serve in the First Class Cabin. I have known Trusted Advisors, the best of breed, for whom the highest Thou is a wealthy, even dynastic, client, the one whose interests are served assiduously. The one with whom an advisor identifies as a dog with his master. Is that Thou reciprocal? "Call me, Candy," says my boss and generous patron, she who rules us all, "no need to stand on formality, when you kneel." Since she is higher up than I, and knows more, is better connected, better looking, and is wiser, I am sure my following directions leads to a better result than my being a real person.

Effectiveness and efficiency are the mantra. What I notice, though, is that the hierarchy of masters and slave and slaves of slaves rises ever higher, and all but a very few get little more than vicarious satisfaction.  I don't begrudge those I serve the feast, but I would enjoy it even more if we took turns. I guess in the old days, it worked that way. Once a year, or on special feast days, the King served the Fool, and the Whore said mass while the Bishop rioted with the Mayor's wife. Today, what would be the equivalent in an institution that has grown to scale? Well, I see it every day. I work there, handing out the towels. But when do I get a turn?

Freedom of assembly as civic right

Is it because they don't get results that China forbids most voluntary social groups, forming with an eye to faith or citizenship? If our Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of assembly, is that mainly so we can form profitable ventures? Having lost a sense of the body politic, or the commonweal, or of neighborliness, and having construed all realities under the aegis of the market ("investing," "owning," "consuming," "getting results," "growing to scale"), we no longer even know how to name what we have lost. We consult therapists, take drugs, drink, maintain a positive attitude, tweet wise quotations, but we are still lonely and empty - anomie, as Durkheim called it in in a book on suicide. Even the most useless activity, like making paper flowers, planting a tree, playing hide and seek with a child, volunteering would do more to cure us than anything we can buy. Yet the organizations that provide these engagement opportunities are said to be "inefficient and ineffective" by the very dead souls most in need of resurrection.

When we become effective and efficient,  most often we have done so by instrumentalizing one another. We don't cure that moral fault, that "necessary evil," by scaling it across the voluntary sector.

The useful as measure of the good

"All art is perfectly useless," said Oscar Wilde, confounding the shopkeeper-minds of his day.  If philanthropy really were an art, it might rise to Wilde's level. As it is, philanthropy, all too often, is more like a business, judged by results. If poets fell to that level, they'd all be in advertising, or writing copy for impact investments.

How well does your love scale?

Hard to get from one (self love) to the love of one other. At thirteen someone gets crucified.

Small voluntary organizations extend the work of love, of the family, into civic friendship, citizenship, and human flourishing.

Those who say, "We have too many nonprofits doing the same thing," might with equal merit say, "We have too many families all doing the same thing, let's merge them into nurseries and barracks."

At what scale, whether an organization is founded on love, profit, or both, is it almost inevitable that the demonic will enter? Kingdoms and Principalities.

To lift myself from despair, poverty and madness....

...I am writing a book on the best practices of highly successful people. I will probably have to self-publish, since the market is glutted. I may not be able to sell the book, but my down and out friends might like a free autographed copy. Now I just have to raise the money to get it published. I wish I knew how. I know! I will ask myself what a successful person would do. They would set goals! I will set goals! My goal is to have $3,000 to self-publish. Now what? First, to raise a significant sum,  I probably needs clothes.... I don't have any. What would a successful person do? Set goals! My goal is a pair of pants. Now what?

Lost and Found

"I love you and always will," that is the best possible use of the plain style. For the faithful husband it is a felt truth and a promise. For the seducer it is an effective means to an end. When a God, or the God, became man, and his message was love, he spoke in parables. You could say that the alternative was premature crucifixion, and that the style was meant as a cloak, or to keep the wrong people from getting saved, as St Mark says, they mustn't, but also because the natural language of moral truth is indirection. "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant -- Success in Circuit lies," as Emily Dickinson wrote, as if to herself, alone in her room. Bearing witness: the best models say the moment of truth is best postponed, if only to the end of a stanza.


Separate, thinking of ourselves as investors, consumers, managers, owners and achievers, rather as than members of a human community, we experience sadness, anomie, weariness, and despair. To which an entire field of counseling, self-help, and pharmaceuticals are devoted. Deadened or enlivened we then return to play our part in Wealth Bondage, not happy, not fulfilled but motivated to do better.  As living things among living things how can we not be sad as the ecosystems collapse, on a time scale that our children and grandchildren will endure, like a Biblical affliction? For this what cure? Hospice care from the age of 2.

Fundraising and Human Dignity

Preparing to speak to fundraisers for the Society of St. Vincent De Paul, on the importance of cultivating and serving our masters, the rich, I was shocked to find that the Vincentians consider our masters to be the poor. They feel that in serving the poor the giver participates in the divine. It made me think of what is meant, in their faith, by the community of the faithful as "the body of Christ." As blood circulates in the flesh, so faith, hope and charity circulate in the economy of love, grace and gratitude, to keep the spiritual body alive, and each individual organ and cell in it alive. That ancient wisdom, which was once common sense, no less for Aesop than for the prophets,  informs political theory (the body politic, or Leviathan, as Hobbes called it.) The loss of that sense that we are one body, is what makes it so hard to get fundraising, or the theory of fundraising, right.

The Hand says, "We are serving our master the Stomach." The Stomach says, "We are serving our master, the Head. The Heart secretly believes she is all in all. And the Anus feels that his role may be humble, "But without me," he says, "You would all be full of shit." 

What I what I tried to convey to the Vincentian fundraisers is that the holy spirit can move in a moment of simple silence in even the most unpromising venues, with a wealthy donor, no less than a homeless person, in planning a will, no less than at the moment of death.

The Virtue of Torture

Taking the medical analogy seriously. What must it have been like to operate on a patient without anesthetic? To touch the skin with the scalpel, or saw, and feel the whole body stiffen under your hand, to hear the preemptive scream, and to go on and not be distracted. Given the effect of the satiric edge, would a kind person hesitate and draw back? What if it hurts the other? Keep going. If the purpose is to heal what is deformed or corrupt, it will hurt. Surgery was consensual. Public torture was not, at least not for one dismembered.  

Satire today may be as important for the health of the body politic as is judicial torture. Both require a personality type that some may find sadistic or psychopathic. But can we begrudge the professional the pleasures that come with an important social role?

Perhaps in the style of an old New Yorker cartoon

The headsman, in a black tunic, tight leggings, boots, a black leather hood, and his big belly hanging out, lies on the therapist's couch. The caption reads, "I don't know, I just don't love my work that much anymore." Imagine the cartoon, licensed to The Journal of Positive Psychology. It lies open to that page on the table in the therapist's break room in Wealth Bondage, or Gitmo. Imagine the Journal's prose, its bibliography, its peer reviewers..... Somewhere in this is a joke.

On Old School Satire

Another thought - What would bedside manner have meant for a Roman surgeon in 50 BC, when even the most willing patient had to be held down, or strapped to the table? A calm, professional, voice on which the patient might focus while the corrupted part is cut away? If we could recapture that tone, what good might we yet do? The problem is that I enjoy it too much. And it spooks the patient. Remember, this is for your own good......