Diogenes, the Mad Socrates Feed

The World Turned Upside Down within the Very Castle Itself

Momma, also known as Big Big Momma, though she is as slender and lithe as an Olympic fencer, but big in the eyes of the traders she daily defeats on course to own and rule the world before she hits 35, and big in the eyes of Audrey, who is still waist high, and big as a mother is big forever in the heart of the one she raises, is hovering outside Audrey's door. "It is rather quiet in there," she says to herself. "Too quiet; what are those two up to now?" Those two meaning Audrey and her Tutor.

When Momma opens the door, she sees two half creatures, two bodies cut off at the waist, butt-side up, and the two of them with their heads between their legs, faces red, hands clasping their own ankles, galumphing about the room.

"What in the name of Heaven are you two doing?," asks Momma. "You are supposed to be doing your lessons," she adds. "I am," chirps Audrey; "Tutor is preparing the Heir, Momma. He is teaching me how to turn the world upside down so it is right side up again!" You as faithful reader must know that Tutor, following both Stoic and Christian Doctrine, teaches that the last shall be first, and the meek shall inherit, some sweet day, when the world is righted at last. "Momma, you are upside down! You are walking on the ceiling. Be careful, Momma, you might fall down!" "Well," says Momma, playing along, "You had better save me. Turn me right side up, please." Audrey and Tutor turn to face each other, heads inverted, like a crack drill team from another planet. "Ready!," shouts Audrey. "Steady!," replies Tutor. "Go!," exclaims Audrey. And both stand so fast the blood drains to their feet, and they stagger about like drunks, until Audrey clutches her mother's legs, and Tutor falls rump first, to the floor. "I saved you, Momma," murmurs Audrey, "You are right side up now!"

I mentioned this strange episode to my colleague in Wealth Bondage, Dr. Amrit Chadwallah, BA in Forensic Hermeneutics, University of Calcutta, and PhD, English Language and Literature, Yale, now Senior Adjunct in Charge of Hidden Meaning in Wealth Bondage, and he assured me that, though the incident may be real, it is also a fable, or parable, for God writes the Book of Nature in Types, for our instruction. So, I took the bait, and asked what the parable means. He said, "The World Turned Upside Down is a trope going back to Diogenes, he of the famous barrel, who once counseled Alexander the Great, to give it a rest, and not bother conquering the world, since happiness could be found by sitting down in the sun by Diogenes and his dog by the barrel or dumpster in which the sage lived. Later, towards the end of his days, Diogenes asked to be buried face down, so that when the world turned right side up, he would be facing in the right direction. That trope," Chadwallah continued for my edification and yours too, if your hunger for hidden meanings has kept you reading thus far, "was taken up in the Enlightenment, as a subject of poems and masquerade balls, all leading up to the American and French Revolutions. Speaking now," said Chadwallah, "as the Shop Steward for the Wealth Bondage Chapter of SIEU in our fight for $15 dollars an hour, I take this parable as a sign that Revolution will come, not from the shop floor only, from the least among us, but from inside the very Castle of Wealth Bondage itself, through the good auspices of The Happy Tutor, Dungeon Master to the Stars, who has come again, to save us all from ourselves, and to mentor our once and future Good Queen Audrey, who I take to be a Type of Astraea, Goddess of Justice, who will own, rule, and save us all....." For this kind of tripe, Dr. Chadwallah expects $15 an hour? But he is a good friend, and we all need a dream or delusion if we are to get through another day in Wealth Bondage, The Way It Is. Most of us just pretend we are free, insofar as we consume, or that we can get free if we do as told, think as told, and don't make trouble  for our clients, donors, immediate superiors, or the higher ups, to whose status we aspire, as if that would do us any good. At least Chadwallah has a plan: let Tutor fix it for us. We certainly can't do anything about it for ourselves.

Clarifying my Business Proposition as a Wealth and Wisdom Consultant to Mammon's Minions

Been talking to my mentor, The Happy Tutor, about our role as highest level consultants (wisdom, virtue, taste, manners, and spirituality) to highest level wealth holders. Tutor, as the younger son of a noble family, having roistered at Oxford with Dr. Rabelais, got ordained as a friar, and hired himself out, as a Morals Tutor, centuries ago, to Sir John Oldcastle (Shakespeare's model, apparently for Falstaff) whose family had built the Castle now inhabited by the world's wealthiest hedge fund manager, Tess, and her daughter, our once and future queen Audrey, who will inherit a controlling interest in the world, rule it, and save it in the nick of time, if all goes well, and she gets help she needs from me, Tutor, and Rex the Rescue Dog.

So, Tutor looks upon our work as what he calls "our noble trade." Tough love for those who, above the merchant class, the military class, the judiciary, the lower level employees, the unemployed, the poor, the halt and lame, the imprisoned and the oppressed, are closer to God. Selected by the market, often selected by high board scores, these, the best and brightest, marked out by wealth, status, and rank, are those who own, rule, and save by right, for the benefit of all. Yet, he says, we are not mere courtiers, machiavels, moral biographers, men or women of all work, privy counselors,  consiglieres, cat's paws, henchmen, technocrats, publicists, lobbyists, or apologists for family enterprises that are beyond good and evil. Our role is to take the heir in hand at a formative age, to shape and mold with cold showers, corporal punishment, fasting, prayer, rigorous study of ancient and modern texts, military or other public service, so that the best and brightest can achieve their God and Market given "call," to own all, rule all, and save all. Tutor is, admittedly Old School, he does believe that blood become bluer in a Dynastic Family over time, but not automatically. That moral, intellectual, and spiritual refinement must be drilled in from birth, generation by generation, by morals tutors like us. The thoroughbred must be broken to the bridle.

I asked Tutor, realistically, how society can trust a trusted advisor, so near the seats of power, not to become a lackey, a flunky, what Romans called a "parasite," or to become what the Catholic Church calls a "Simoniac," one who sells holy things for money or preferment. The temptations of the flesh, status, power, and of material things are so great! That, Tutor told me is why legitimate Morals Tutors to the World's Wealthiest families must acclimate themselves to poverty, chastity, fasting, prayer, endless study, public disgrace and contumely. Only those hardened by life on the street, naked, like Diogenes in a Dumpster,  who eschew any payment, other than a modest stipend and room and board, and who are crazy enough to speak truth to power, to be whipping boys or girls when called upon to take a beating in a good cause, can be trusted to help the world's wealthiest track straight and true with Wisdom and Virtue. I took this as good news, insofar as I have no clients, no money, no clothes, am certifiably insane, and am a total pariah with my fellow citizens of all genders, races, classes and creeds. Even, then, as Tutor reminds me, I am at risk of spiritual pride, making a virtue of necessity. My temptation will come, he says, when and if a client ever offers to pay me for Wisdom and Virtue. "Better," he said, "you peddle your fanny for loose change, behind the Dumpster at the Corner of Wealth and Bondage, than sell wisdom and virtue to Mammon's Minions as if it were an asset they could own, like financial capital. The muses, the graces, the holy spirit will not be traduced. Prostitute those ladies, and you will find," he said, "they are the fates, and the furies."

Nevertheless, saving my soul is not your problem. I am willing to accept the moral hazard of working with you, as an Ultra-High-Net-Worth-Individual, no matter your current moral condition. I am like a Doctor who takes the hardest cases. ("Phil," as my friend Junius Martial once said "is both a surgeon and a mortician; if the surgery fails, the embalming is free. Either way your family gets you back looking better than ever.") If you have net worth of several hundred million dollars or more, then, have poor morals, and are foolish, and want a quick pop - a taste, a free trial serving, of wisdom and virtue - let's talk! It would be helpful if you can bring to your free initial consultation a list of your moral defects, a list of literary and philosophical or spiritual books you have read, if any, an account of recent follies, and any indicators you have noted of moral blindness, spiritual pride, self aggrandizement, hard-heartedness, or parti pris. (Noted in yourself. If you note such defects in others, I am happy to work with them, too, and am pleased to offer a family and friends discount. If you note these defects only in the poor, I would only ask for a modest subsidy.) I can then provide you with a custom letter of engagement, with cost, time line, and projected benefits, "Before and After." I cannot grant you attorney client privilege, but Tutor can provide the veil of the confessional, as well as absolution and penance, if they are required to put you on the straight and narrow path in your own Journey from Sin to Salvation.

What Advisors to the Uber Wealthy Say to Each other to Keep the Game Going

"Give me a penny and I will sing you a song, but give me the penny first." - The Hack persona in Swift's Tale of the Tub

On the main stage, a well known attorney is demonstrating how with a Dynasty Trust a family can grow $4.5 million to $450 million over five generations. In the hallway I am talking to a first time attendee who grew to reasonable wealth from extreme poverty. His comment to me sotto voce, "Surreal! I have never been to a conference like this. How can they be so out of touch?" At dinner several of us having to get to a tv to see the convention addresses, as our leaders dance around wealth inequality, and the bitterness of the former middle class, and young people, driven downward by globalism.  The next day at the wealth conference our sympathies are enlisted for billionaires whose fortunes, without our help, may decline to only millions, "from shirt sleeves to shirtsleeves."

The influential talk in the highest reaches of wealth planning is about wisdom and virtue. (Dunce addressing a hall of Dunces, listening with the admiring face of awe.) Surely our talk, our little congregation, must stink in the nostrils of a just and avenging God?

Paging through the handouts, as less likely to trigger me publicly than sitting through the sessions, I came upon a field leader, glossing the famous scriptural passage, "From those to whom much is given, much is expected." His take, with raised eyebrows, was that this "may seem to be an ought." Yes, God is like that. He created us and has certain standards. Our "five capitals" (as if virtues were our personal property!) have both assets and liabilities. Our assets are a gift. Our talents are a gift. The earth itself is a gift. We owe back; and to deny that is pride, blindness and sin. Yet, he who did the handouts calls himself a Secular Priest. Lauded, praised, imitated. The time is ticking down to zero. We will owe an accounting.

The murmur even in the halls at our own conferences is growing. In serving the wealthiest, and twisting every wisdom tradition to their greater glory and perpetuation, have we not failed those traditions, ourselves, our clients, our country and our world? It is long since time that the sotto voce conversation in the hallways made the main platform. There are those I would nominate for the role, sooner than me, as more knowledgeable, better read, more connected, more ethical, but to praise them by name here in the Dumpster would be to draw them into disrepute, and jinx their career prospects. The logic of wealth planning is such that to be known for being morally sane, and 'out' about it, is a disqualifier. We are not paid to take care of humanity. We are paid to take care of billionaires, or the richest we can find. They do not take kindly to servants who forget their place. So, here in the Dumpster, I lay claim to the obvious. Quote him as we will: Dante did not put wealth advisors, Machiavels, and secular priests in his Paradiso. They boil in his hell. Hell is where God is absent, or his name taken in vain. Hell is ourselves, when we lose touch with love that animates all creation. We are not wise or virtuous. We are opportunists. Quote Chaucer as you will: His journey is not a sanctimonious defense of entrenched power, where the Wife of Bath wears a wimple and curtsies to the King; it is a version of Carnival, where ordinary people have their say, often obscene.

Of course, I could be wrong. Give me a penny and I will sing another tune. The truth is that I am only bitter. After 12 years of offering to tutor the rich on their morals, I have yet to bag a single client. It pisses me off that some people I could name get $5,000 to $10,000 a day for doing it, and they know Jack Squat about Dante, Beckett, Frost, Shakespeare, Chaucer. As with coinage, the counterfeits have driven out the pure gold. Like this post. Pure gold, and what do I get for it? Passers hurrying bye with eyes averted as if I were the one who is insane. How do you think I got so crazy? Conference after conference. It would make you crazy too. If my being naked, Buddy, offends you, buy me some clothes. I would take a shower if I could afford the shelter. You think you are better than me?


Peripatetic Philanthropy Pedant Turned Loose

Impartially their talents scan, Just education forms the man. - John Gay,

National Expert and Advocate for Philanthropic Planning Named Chair of Philanthropy at The American College. And yet, we all know the real story: An educated fool by any other name. Still, revenge is sweet. In my new role I will be able to make people read things they would rather not read; and, I can test them for comprehension with objective tests administered by computer.  They will be at my mercy, memorizing whatever trivia I consider of the utmost importance. Ever read "The Use of Force," by W.C. Williams, himself a physician as well as a writer? No? Well, I am going to make you read it, if you take my course, read it until you gag - for your own good. (Such is the role of the Moral Tutor or Physician. We make people do what is good for them, even if they are adults and don't much like it. I only wish I had the same petty tyrannical power over politicians, religious leaders, media personalities, think tank thinkers, NSA wire-tappers, and philanthropists. Given a stick, like Diogenes's to beat them, I would fix them good. As it is I will have to take out my misanthropic rage on the paying customers, who must cower as I beat them, much as I, as a Philanthropic Advisor do,  in the presence of unchecked power. Good practice for who would be Trusted Advisors, smiling when thrashed.)

Moral philosophers as peripatetics: I guess no one can blame me if a course on philanthropy as a liberal art proves to be pedestrian.

Parrhesiast turned Pharmakos

In ancient Athens, the ritual of the pharmakos was used to expel and shut out the evil (out of the body and out of the city). To achieve this, the Athenians maintained several outcasts at public expense. In the event of any calamity, they sacrificed one or more than one outcast as a purification and a remedy. Via.

As the pro bono Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, and a Pariah in my own right, I don't know whether to find the Athenian model (of well-fed Scapegoats) hopeful or discouraging. Today, as remedy for the Wealthy Student's moral ills, I am often made the Whipping Boy in my turn. That goes without saying.  The idea, though, of being maintained at public expense prior to my being  flogged and incinerated in accordance with Athenian tradition would be an improvement over my current situation.  Call me Foolish, but I am happy as sacrificial victim, turned satirist, to do my bit for the World We Want, if only I can be maintained at public expense, pending my moment of truth.

You may find this funny. Maybe laughter is the best medicine, Sire. If I make you laugh, perhaps that will restore our community even better than having me flogged seven times on the penis with squills, wild fig branches, and other wild plants, and finally burned on wood from wild trees with my ashes scattered into the sea and winds in order to purify the city of its ills,  if it please Your Majesty.

Return on Reputation: Mission Aligned Investing

C.A. Fitts:

So long as the profits of piracy can be reinvested to affirm the legitimacy and prestige of the pirates, our financial system will be predicated on the theory that --- as the Roman Emperor Vespasian said -- "Pecunia non olet," or "Money has no smell."

Duly noted. There has to be a good honest buck in there somewhere for us Morals Tutors and Philanthropic Consultants. I have always been partial to pirates. As winners in a corrupt world they refresh the gene pool and pass on world-conquering value-systems to their children. I just hope that certain satirists don't screw this whole thing up for us honest dealers. Philanthropy is best conducted in an air of sanctimony, as Albert reminds me, whenever I fall off the wagon.

The Happy Tutor's Cure for Tapeworms

The Happy Tutor, the master to whom I was apprenticed in our noble trade, during my years in Wealth Bondage, when I was young and foolish, before I was born again as a Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, is almost 500 years old. I assume he was in his thirties in 1515 when he starred in Erasmus's The Praise of Folly.  Some say he is much older than that, older than Romulus and Remus even, old maybe even as Dionysus himself.  Tutor can always be found wherever the faithful make merry in Carnival. You can see him moving among the Monks, Kings, Queens,  CEOs, Trusted Advisors, Butlers, Courtiers, Beggars, and Machiavels, with his Jester's Cap and Bells pushed back on his neck, his eyes aglint with sadistic glee, looking for some lovely upscale sinner to spank into virtue. Some say The Happy Tutor lives inside Wealth Bondage. Others say he inhabits a Dumpster on its margins where Wealth Bondage proper abuts the public square. (Philanthrocapitalists say the public square is a service of  Wealth Bondage provided as an amenity to its Private Clients, and made available to ordinary people from time to time under a double-bottom line master contract with binding one way opt out. Whether that's so or not I do not know.)

Anyway, to bring you up to date, I dropped by the Dumpster after work today to talk with my old mentor. When he is not pretending to be a teacher, he often pretends to be a Physician. (It is all a way to get girls, honestly.) He said, raising his forefinger high in the air, that he had found a cure for the tapeworm. "They are parasites that inject you with a chemical that makes you long for what kills you. The more you consume, the more the tapeworm consumes you. The more you eat, the hungrier you are. You can tell someone has the tapeworm when they begin to talk about Freedom all the time as they compulsively feed their face . Freedom is what tapeworm people call it when they have the tapeworm inside them, eating them alive. Through contact with food, or clothing, or money touched by the infected person, the tapeworm spreads throughout the marketplace. It has become an epidemic, but everyone is happy, feeding away, and passing on the tapeworm to those they love. It has become a huge public health crisis, though no one talks much about it.  Now, you will be glad to hear, I have found the cure! To get the tapeworm out of a consumer's system you can go at it from either end, Phil," he said, "if you know what I mean. You can reason with them, of course, as you do, Phil, for all the good that does, or...." And then he began to rummage among his sacks of garbage for some kind of medical implement. I did not wait around to find out what. I have known him of old. You are better off not messing with him when he is in that crazy mood.   

In Imitation of Pope's Imitation of The First Satire of the Second Book of Horace

Phil: There are some readers  (I hardly believe it, but I'm told) to whom my Satires seem too bold.

Friend: Phil, you know, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Phil: Fine, but how am I with flattery to cure the wealthy of vanity?

Friend: To each client the client's own vices. Who are we to judge? We are here but to serve. We help clients live their values and pass them on to their children. It is noble work we do.

Phil: If a client had syphyllis would you work with him to pass it on to his children? How then can we work to pass along the clients' vice and folly, their hypocrisy,  though they call it "family values"?

Friend: Syphyllis is a disease. Corruption is in the eye of the beholder. Who are we to judge what is high or low, noble or debased, healthy or corrupt, authentic or hypocritical, in good faith or bad faith? A tree is judged by its fruits. What have been the fruits of your labors? How many have you cured? How much have you earned? How many referrals do you get? With your tart tongue you injure only yourself. No one basically cares what a loser like you thinks. Look at you! Naked on a sack of garbage. And if you don't mind my saying so, you really do stink.

Phil: I have the empire within.

Friend: You mean you are insane? Everyone says so. And you yourself admit that you are at best a World Class Fool.

Phil: Here in the Dumpster on the mildewing pile of great books, I.....

Friend: Phil, if you will excuse me, there goes Bill Gates. Bill! Bill! Brilliant speech at Davos! I have read it 1,000 times and have only begun to assimiliate its wisdom. Yes, I have blogged it every day and will until you return my calls!

End Note: Provided as a public service for the instruction of advisors to wealth by Dr. Amrit Chadwallah, curator of the Gifthub Dumpster-Ready Satire Collection: "Please compare this satire by our unique and irreplaceable genius, our national treasure, Phil Cubeta, with the original counterfeit here." Authorial note: Please for that matter compare Dr. Chadwallah to Martinus Scriblerus. And if you would be so kind as to compare me to Diogenes, or Lear's Fool, or even Thersites, I would be much obliged. Now if you will excuse me I am re-reading the Dunciad in search of a cure for madness. We are all mad and the prognosis does not look good.

Is Philanthrocapitalism Post-Political?

Tristram Hunt in The Guardian on The Business of Giving:

And this is the point: the philanthrocapitalists pride themselves as consciously post-political. "The venture-capital ethos means instead that these social entrepreneurs are almost willfully blind to ideological issues," David Brooks of the New York Times wrote admiringly before describing a dinner with Bill Gates. "He looked utterly bored as the conversation drifted to presidential campaign gossip. But when asked about which programmes produce higher reading scores, the guy lit up and became a fountain of facts and findings."

There is little engagement with the kind of structural injustices - racial, economic, social - or broader environmental, demographic or strategic challenges that require political advocacy. Having made their riches from the existing free-market model, venture philanthropists see little need to confront its problematic aspects. And, given their accelerating influence in media and government, such an approach closes down a broader ideological debate.

Silence is not a sound; white is not a color; complacency is not an emotion; indifference to injustice is not a moral failing; being super-nice and to keep it positive is not a way to shut out the cries of the distressed.  To be post political, of course, is to take for granted the hegemony of one's own ideology.  In any giving transaction, my sense is, that you can take your tone from the giver or the recipient. I find it pays  better to adopt the ideology of the giver. Things just go more smoothly that way as you build trust and confidence. There is no outside of Wealth Bondage. Giving might have seemed to be one, but Bill Clinton would tell you otherwise, as would Bush.

We are all capitalists now, or in loyal service to such. If you check out how those who warble most sweetly about philanthropcapitalism in the blogs, you will note a business plan behind it. Who is the client massaged by the message? What bank, brokerage house, association of wealthy people, or what private wealth client is buying the consulting service? The studies? The newsletter? The copy for insertion in client firm newsletter? The hooha? The panegyricks? Now, you could say the same about the Sistine Chapel Ceiling. Michaelango was in the pay of the Church. So today the commanding heights are held by the capitalist and we must all sing hosanna.