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August 2009

Sister Lucy Prays for A Better World

Via Sister Lucy, a prayer overheard at vespers.

Dear Mary, Mother of God, protect all souls in bondage to wealth, passion, cupidity, lust, enviousness, sloth, spiritual pride and vanity. May we frail human creatures be released from the chains of materialism, status striving, and will to power. May the Satanic forces of marketing, of popular entertainment, the images and idols we call "celebrities" and "brands," withdraw from the earth like devils scattered before an avenging angel. Please give the Tutor and all who live in Wealth Bondage your peace that passeth understanding. In His holy name, I pray. For Phil Cubeta, who peddles and panders to the worst elements of the wealthy, taking, to flatter their vanity and to line his own pockets, what he sacrilegiously calls their "Gospel of Wealth," soften his hard heart with prevenient grace that he might yet repent, if it be thy holy will. Amen.

Well, Lucy lives in a convent, with all expenses paid. I am not so lucky. I do what I have to do to be successful. I have always found I catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Getting rich people to tell their stories while I feign interest - is that a matter in which Holy Virgin has to get involved?

Now Launched: Tactical Philanthropy Advisors

Over the last several years, Sean Stannard Stockton's blog, Tactical Philanthropy has emerged as the place to go for conversations about philanthropy that span the disciplines and bring leading minds together to hash out emerging issues. Now, leveraging that success, Sean has announced a new business venture, soon to be B corp, that will provide a platform, as I understand it, for independent philanthropic advisors to wealthy donors. Conceptually, from a conversation I had with Sean, his organization seems to be for philanthropic advisors what a platform like Schwab's is for financial advisors. That is, the advisor will find clients, provide philanthropic advice, and get compensation through basis points drawn from donor advised funds under management by low cost providers, like Fidelity, Schwab, and Clavert. Another way to look at this is that Sean has figured out a way to "unbundle" services normally associated with a Community Foundation. The question I get most often from the really good philanthropic advisors, the ones who do it from love of the work, and a concern for social impact, is, "How in the world do I make a living at this?" Sean may provide such advisors with a home. I hope it works out like that. Best of good fortune to Sean and may his efforts prosper. Press release: Announcing Tactical Philanthropy Advisors 

At Sean's request (really, via email), I asked Missy Proctor (Admiral Harlan Proctor's daughter) what she thought. She said, "Um, Phil, it looks really tactical and cost effective and all, but where is the fun factor? Will there be dancing with celebrities and stuff, or just boring results for icky poor people? Can I get my picture taken as a Pirate?"

Compassionate Cannibals in the World We Want

On The Lighter Side of Cannibalism:

"We assume that cannibalism is always an aggressive, barbaric and degrading act," objects Beth A. Conklin, an associate professor of anthropology at Vanderbilt University. "But that is a serious over-simplification, one that has kept us from realizing that cannibalism can have positive meanings and motives that are not that far from our own experience."

All cultures, Phil, have dietary taboos. In the world we want none will judge others based on the contents of their crockpot.

As told to Phil Cubeta by Dr. Chadwallah over a bowl of paella in Dr. Chadwallah's kitchen.

I Get a Lashing from My Own Morals Tutor

Via The Happy Tutor, sitting in his dumpster, thumbing through a text book on Greek mythology, discarded, along with an old couch, and broken tv by a Harvard Grad on his way to Yale law school.

Phil, you write a lot about Hermes as the Trickster god, and patron saint of thieves, pickpockets, merchants, whores, highwaymen, and though you do not say it, because you are such a sell out, values-based planners to the affluent. You note correctly that Hermes carried the caduceus, bringing both life and death with his poisons and potions. You point out correctly that he brought - as do your two bit philanthropic leaders - "inspiration" as if from the gods. You say correctly that Hermes was the god of the boundaries, set at the crossroads, where "we" meet "them." The same crossroads where Oedipus slew his father. You point out correctly that the pharmakos, or scapegoat was burned at the crossroads, to save a society sick with the plague. You say correctly that the greatest moral healer, or pharmakeus, was Socrates, who was executed (by being made to drink the pharmakon, or poison) for his temerity in disrespecting the gods. You do not say, though you know full well, what his specific impiety was. Hermes was the priapic god, always shown with an erect phallus. Alcibiades, the general and student of Socrates, had a in a time of war, gone around knocking off the cocks from the Hermes around Athens, blurring its boundaries. Now, why, Phil are you so squeamish about the obvious truth - The Morals Tutors, the Healers, the Preachers, the bringers of Inspiration, have always been Tricksters, Frauds, and charismatic Bunko Artists. They are "called," but who places the call? Is it God or his closest competitor, he who is second and so must try harder? The Greeks would have said that it was not Apollo who calls, but Dionysus. Hence, like a Rock Star or a Certain Politician, we must imagine the inspired man as the phallic god whose cock does the thinking. That is the shameful truth your polite prose knowingly conceals. You teach morally second and third rate people the liberal art of conjuring spirits. They become charismatic, they get followers, they have adoring, mesmerized fans and the consequences are those depicted in the myth of Hermes. The true pharmakon is satire, the strongest of moral medicines. To that I have "called" you, as my only protege, to carry on our noble trade, when the Thunderbird rots my tongue, liver too, and my body is at last laid in earth, or goes out with garbage bags on the scow. On your shoulders I have placed the flayed skin of the goat. Why have you in passing for an educator, renounced your gift and calling, wearing now the solemn black gown, and a mortarboard, when your true headpeice is the Cap and Bells? How can you as a Morals Tutor refrain, if not from satire, than from hilarity? You are authenic in every post. Your true self submerged in the persona of the well-meaning dupe among knaves. Be hermetic, if you must, concealing your message, as Jesus did in parables, but do not let the craft die out in the mockery of it that you now perform daily to your everlasting disgrace. I am ashamed to have been your mentor. Was it for this that I beat you with rods? Whored you to all comers at a price? Taught you to pick pockets? To deal in dodgy pharmaceuticals....? 

Well, Tutor is Tutor. The rest of his tirade was inaudible as Tutor sank into a drunken stupor. You can be sure, my Fellow Virtues-Based Planners for the Affluent, that I have no intention of speaking plain moral truth. What am I, crazy?  I am no sacrificial lamb, but a reputable assistant professor on his way up. I may once have made my living as a Private Wealth Advisor, but that was when I was young and foolish. That was then and this is now. (Typed in a Blackberry by PBC, while eating a blueberry bagel, in a deli at the corner of Wealth and Bondage. Tutor's outburst has been edited for appropriateness in a polite blog aimed at well socialized and financially comfortable Americans and their advisors who help them stay in their own world - profitably for all concerned and for the betterment of humankind.)

The Price of Brand Dominance, Master Simon?

Tom Matrullo lays out the twisted economic logic of brand dominance over markets, consumers, and polities. As more and more brand builders draw on theology, literature, myth and psychology to key products to, not only sexual and materialistic satisfaction, but to, well, wisdom, virtue and salvation, sales of values-based planning and other fancy goods should pick up nicely, to the betterment of all concerned. So, a good brand, like giving, "famishes the craving," as T.S. Eliot said somewheres in a book maybe. When can we expect a bailout of our busted cultural traditions, Master Simon?

"Called by God": The Poetics of Virtues-Based Planning

Kardia Wealth Counseling:

We are an organization called by God to provide Biblically based Family Wealth Counseling services to affluent Christian families who have a heart for impacting the Kingdom of God.

By contrast, H.Peter Karoff writes on "the moral dimension of philanthropy." He has written of "the long distance call," but he does not claim divine guidance, though he quotes Rilke, who invoked angels. Still, the poetics of values-based, or virtues-based planning is an interesting topic. Some speak of "co-evolving a future;" others speak of "inspiration," some from within faith traditions as fundraisers quote scripture. I think we can identify in these trends a desire felt by many for heightened language that evokes a particularistic community, and ratifies an identity, founded in transcendent purpose. Speaking as a Morals Tutor myself, I expect business to pick up once I can drop the Ars Poetica and crib my language from a privileged source others have heard of, Star Wars, maybe. There may be an honest buck in this yet.

Gawd! Philanthropy is Suppostabe Fun

RT @ Missy ProctorWealthBondageCharityBall sucks. Prince Adullah wants me on G650. Must scoot!

Such are the times we live in. As a Moralist in Residence to Rear Admiral Proctor and his family, I sometimes wonder if I am earning my keep. I do appreciate Missy keeping me informed, though. Saves money on a GPS ankle bracelet. I am supposed to be passing on to Missy the Admiral's family values. Sometimes I fear I have succeeded far too well. Still, she is better than her mother, Juanita. - PBC

Framing Philanthropy - Your Frame's As Good as Mine, Jack

Via The Happy Tutor,

Sitting around naked in a Dumpster all day, shouting out to all comers about philanthropy in general and alms for me in particular, is pretty lonely. You get to noticing things. Today I saw this run down car parked outside Wealth Bondage, while the occupants, apparently, went shopping. The car had two bumper stickers. "Jesus Saves" on the right side, and "I read Rilke" on the other. It got me wondering. One person who somehow had gotten beyond our current cultural frames? A couple, bound for a quick divorce? Parent and child? Two owners of the car, with the Rilke person, more than likely, broke, buying the car used from the Jesus saves guy? Hard to tell. The meter expired and the car got towed to the impound lot. I will keep you posted if I learn anything more.

As told To Phil Cubeta over a Dixie Cup of Thunderbird. Tutor's oral midrash has been edited for grammar, spelling and cultural appropriateness, while stone cold sober, and is provided as a public service, on behalf of philanthropists everywhere. - PBC.

Welcome to Gift Tub

Donky-headband  Lend me thine ears!

For the last few months, to provide a higher rate of Social Return, our Social Investor who surely needs no introduction here, has been outsourcing all but the most Mission Critical posts at Gifthub to alienated labor in India. "The world is flat, she says, "so screw you." I had relied on Phil Cubeta, my Protege, to manage it all subject to the usual moral compromises and calculations of personal expediency.  The results are what you see - plain prose, an earnest persona that none would wish to call his own, and an audience that grows daily but has no comments, no interest in joining the conversation, no stake in the game.  Therefore, I have returned to my Tub to accost passersby in the spirit of Diogenes, the greatest uncrucified morals tutor of all time. All posts marked as "Gift Tub" are authentic and should be considered as works of art in the neoclassical tradition, that of satire, our noble trade, designed to delight and instruct my fellow citizens as to their responsibilities.  These specially marked posts represent my true teachings, couched in parables, for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Please disregard the others, as the feeble efforts of a struggling Professor to ingratiate himself with the world at large, and with the wealthy in particular. Moral Reform will not come so easily, though I wish the poor fool well.  To celebrate the Grand Re-Opening of The Dumpster, you get a pair of ass's ears. Wear them proudly - Know Thyself as the Wise Man said, his ears rippling majestically.  I am the wisest of men, because I know I am a pompous ass.  Art, as Horace said, holds the mirror up to nature, as might a good barber. Is it any wonder that we wince, seeing in the mirror, as did Midas, our ears standing up proudly?

- Tutor

Kingdom Advisors as One of Several Giving Tribes

Kingdom Advisors:

Kingdom Advisors Training provides a pathway for Christian financial professionals to respond to God’s call on their life to have lasting Kingdom impact through their work. The training is designed to guide you through each phase of a life-transforming journey so you emerge with the joy of integrating your faith and profession. From dynamic teaching to conceptual models and practical “how tos”, this training teaches Christian financial professionals how to develop a Biblical basis for professional financial advice.

Birds of a feather give together, whether the birds of a feather are Evangelicals, Biz School Social Investors, Jews, progressive women of wealth, overseas Chinese, GBLT activists, or whatever "tribe" you wish to note.  Notice how rich is the language above, as it is here, or here, each within its own tribal poetics.  The rhetoric of giving or social investing comes alive when you draw a circle, define who is in and who is out, and begin preaching to the confirmed within a closed circuit of gifts, jargon, shared passions, and be it said, a common "Other" to detest, a world to save, and kindred spirits to rise in triumph. We conduct commercial transactions in the values-neutralized market, but we dwell, find our identity, and raise our young, and give of ourselves and our money in community with those like us, those, as Paul Schervish notes, with whom we identity.