Imagine, Ian, that philanthropy is a big balloon, inflated. Now imagine satire as a needle, wet. Did you know that if you do it right, you can puncture the balloon with that needle, while leaving all the air inside until the needle is withdrawn? Yes! But it is not as easy as it seems. A demonstration is here. Try it! Warning, if it pops you are fired. (Helpful hints here.) Now, go fetch the needle. See what you can do with the lastest issue of The Chronicle.
Ian Wilhelm at Give and Take, the blog for The Chronicle of Philanthropy: the Newspaper of the Non-Profit World, on a recent flap:
After less than a month, a blog that made fun of the nonprofit world and gender roles has shut down. Men in Philanthropy, which promised to recognize “the vast, marginally relevant, contributions men have made to the world of philanthropy” has been “removed,” according to its Web site host. While some said the site was in poor taste — one commenter on Give & Take called it “insulting and stupid” — Phil Cubeta, author of Gift Hub, writes that the short-lived effort brought some badly needed laughs to philanthropy. “Another fine satiric site goes dark,” he writes. What do you think? Do we need some blogs poking fun at philanthropy?
Taking a cue from Ian, I decided, rather than hazarding an opinion of my own (and so exposing myself to potential criticism from my boss, funder, or readers), I would simply ask a question. So, I consulted Senator Dick Minim (D. MA), a former Board Member for the Council on Foundations, and asked how he felt about "some blogs poking fun at philanthropy." He said, twirling his pinz nez on its gold chain, "Why, Phil, you know that laughing folly into good humor and good sense is a most unsporting proposition; a gentlemen just knows not to do that. Why consider the effect on poor Mummy. She almost choked on her crumpet. The last time people tried satire, in England, I believe it was, in the Augustan period, look what it led to. A Revolution here in Colonies. And it has been quite downhill ever since."
Changemakers now has a blog:
Whether you call it “social justice philanthropy” or “social change philanthropy” or you don’t call it anything at all, the “it” has existed in a bit of bubble. Let’s break it out of the bubble and welcome it into the 21st century. To that end, we need vibrant discourse in the field of philanthropy about its meaning and relevancy (or lack thereof) — and we need it now.
I do hope Changemakers' blog will help get the conversation about social change philanthropy going with a wider audience. If I (as a white, heterosexual, Fool-identified male) could have one wish it would be that progressives would drop cliquish identity politics, and woozy human potential stuff, for an inclusive and externally focused, action oriented, vision of social justice, human rights, civil liberties, media reform, and environmental sustainability. Once we all flourish; we each flourish. By diversity let's mean partnering with business people, straights, white males, people from the heartland, and evangelicals, among others, in the fight for a more vibrant, just and sustainable democracy.
Membership in JustMeans grew 40% in March (thousands of individuals). (JustMeans is a social media platform focused on rallying both companies and individuals around the concept of social responsibility.)
Over the years, frankly, whether as an Apprentice Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage, or here at Gifthub as Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, I have tried every excuse there is. I have hidden behind the Happy Tutor in a mask. I have made Carnival in imitation of Rabelais. I have passed myself off in all seriousness as a Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families. I have explained away my whoredom in Wealth Bondage by pretending to be Born Again as a Values-based Planner. I have wandered Dallas naked at noon, in the spirit of Diogenes. I have spanked, flayed, cauterized, and operated upon Folly. I have played the Good Doctor and asked her to raise her skirts. I have followed the advice of Horace and coated the bitter pill of truth in honey. I have followed him as well in holding the distorting mirror of satire up to nature, human nature in particular, until she shrieks in horror at her own face. I have tried being as as Earnest as Oscar Wilde. I have in his honor constructed my own Defense of Lying. But in the end all that works is to Praise Folly solemnly as a Fool for the approbation of the Wise. The Feast of Fools (the Feast of the Circumcision, or Feast of Asses) was once a high holy day. Today we who hold such festivals, such mystery rites, are pretty well marginalized. I have seen the satiric sites about philanthropy come and go, and talked at length with those who have been forced to take their sites down by their immediate superiors for fear of reprisal by the Wise and the Good, or at least the Rich and Powerful. Wealth and our Bondage to it is not a subject for polite discussion, nor for satire. "Truth is a bitch who must to kennel," as Lear's Fool said. We Trusted Advisors to Wealthy Families must all play the Fool in our own way. "Here is my way," as Seneca said, "where is yours?" (Seneca by the way, committed suicide on the request of his Patron, Nero, as I recall. There are no easy ways to get this job done, and even the best of us generally come to a bad end.)
The Emblems in this Gallery tell a story and point a moral. See if you can make sense of my Folly.
Would philanthropy be more effective and efficient if fundraisers, advisors, and donors got naked? You could make a good case for that, really, maybe starting with King Lear whose estate plan only came together once he got naked on the heath with his Fool. As long as we are each of us dressed in our proper business attire, reflective of our official roles and status in life, it may be hard to get down to the real issues that connect us all as human beings. Anyway, doing morals consulting naked sure worked for Diogenes, a beggar in his own right, as that bowl shows. The staff was for supporting his steps, and for beating those who did not get it. The dog, naked too, lifting his leg upon the statues of the great, was a role model.
Imagine a blog from the Titanic entitled, "Tips on Maximizing Tips." The blog, by a cabin boy, would provide up to the minute insights on how to cultivate big tips from first class passengers. Sometimes I feel like that blogging about philanthropy in 2008. I want to say on topic (philanthropy), but keep going off on tangents about complacency, social class, criminality, hubris, moral health, satire, and icebergs. Forgive me.
What's After Email? Jeremy Gregg at the Raisers Razor summaries recent thinking on the semantics and anthropology of Web 2.0.
Is success in running a drug smuggling operation, or in achieving high rank in a street gang, predictive of success (with proper training) in business, or for that matter in high government office? Early indications are positive. I question the premise, though, of recruiting these future leaders from the prisons. Don't we want to recruit our future leaders of business, the CIA, Homeland Security, regulators, lobbyists, newscasters, and the Judiciary, from the ranks of pimps, whores, murderers, and bandits who have not been caught? Wouldn't they be our best bet, from a Darwinian meritocratic perspective?
In this March 18 article in the NY Times, Breaking The Silence, John Leland quotes several wealthy parents and their advisors (including one of the best of us all, Patricia Angus) to the effect that wealthy families are more open now about inheritances, that they are concerned about the effect of too much wealth on heirs, that they wish to pass on values as well as money (human and social capital as well as financial), and that many are letting the money go mostly to charity, rather than make heirs overly rich. None of that is new, in fact it is the emerging orthodoxy in the wealth planning field. What is new, for me, in the public discussion of wealth was the word, "aristocracy." Leland more or less just drops it in there, but clearly it is key to our national dialogue, stunted though it may currently be, about wealth, legacy, social class, and democracy.Against the terror of your kid becoming an supercilious aristocrat is the other terror, "Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations," or the fear that the family will disintegrate over time. For a serious treatment of aristocratic versus "self made" values systems, see Jane Jacobs, Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics. A summary review is here.