Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) calls upon our religious values in order to educate, organize, and mobilize the religious community in the U.S. on issues and campaigns that will improve wages, benefits, and working conditions for workers, especially low-wage workers.
The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless plans to hand out free movie tickets, free passes to the Zoo, Denver's Museum of Nature and Science and other cultural attractions to homeless people during the Democratic National Convention August 25-28.
Rebuttal from John Parvensky, President of Colorado Coalition for the Homeless: "Ultimately our goal is to house people, not to hide them." In the meanwhile, while the Convention is in town, give them movie tickets? Be interesting to trace the funding. From general revenue, or from a specific funders?
Albert Ruesga, "The Twelve Most Common Objections to Social Justice Philanthropy."
The nation's largest mortgage finance companies, the Federal National Mortgage Association, also know as Fannie Mae, and the Federal Home Mortgage Corporation, a.k.a. Freddie Mac, are planning to adopt a policy which identifies certain areas in the country as "declining markets" and requires borrowers to pay higher interest rates as a result. The exact rate will be determined by a borrower's credit score.
When business identifies a declining neighborhood it will increase the cost of capital. What would a philanthropist or a government do? The same? Write down the written off? Concentrate on building up and protecting the free market Green Zones? Where do we dispose of the human detritus when we mark all to market? For-profit prisons and Beaver Boverton's Double Bottom Line Bakery?
As a reporter for The Chronicle of Philanthropy's Give and Take, you are sitting, knees crossed, and back straight, in a public relations event promoting a Double Bottom Line Social Venture Bakery in Detroit. From the window you can glimpse a prison looming like a fortress. The meeting is run by a Harvard MBA employed by Beaverton Social Venture Foundation funded with money from a Wall Street Wizard, Boverton Beaver, who made his billions buying and selling weapons manufacturing companies, including one that specializes in anti-personnel land-mines made to look like children's toys. He also served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and as a lobbyist for a defense contractor. He was indicted for fraud, but found innocent via a hung jury after a prolonged trial costing millions to litigate. He is best known for his trophy wife, a former Ms. Nude Miami Beach, now on the Board of a Conservative Think Tank, and for his contribution to the theory and practice of social venture philanthropy.
The bakery employs ex-cons and teaches them the skills needed to get a job: sweeping up, slicing bread, stoking the coal oven, running a cash register, and waiting on tables in the bakery's cafe. The artisanal breads are sold to wealthy friends of the funder. The loaves come with a picture on the wrapper of an ex-con smiling ingratiatingly and holding out a loaf of white bread in his black hand. The MBA is going over what she is calling "the balanced scorecard," showing how many ex-cons get jobs, what the bakery costs, what it earns, how much profit is makes, how much money it saves in social services. She is working her way towards the line called, "Total Net Social Return on Investment," some staggeringly large number, supported by 200 pages of spreadsheets and several metaphors. The cash on cash bottom-line shows that Boverton's Foundation is making 8% ("a Program Related Investment" as the MBA explains.) The Mayor who is active promoting "three strikes and you are out" legislation, and who owns a significant interest in the local for-profit prison business is next on the agenda, to give an award to his friend, and political funder, Boverton Beaver, for service to the community.
An ungainly Stranger, in a white leisure suit, neck open to the waist, bell-bottoms swinging, rises from the back of the room to say, "You know, my Fellow Friends of Philanthropy, I notice that all the ex-cons with brooms and other signs of servitude are black or brown. Talking to a few it was mostly crack that put them behind bars, and petty crimes. Yet, I notice that you, Boverton Beaver, have a daughter in rehab. I am glad for her that her needs are met, and crimes, if any mitigated. And you, Mayor, wasn't your wife at that clinic in the Hamptons? Boverton, what is the double bottom line on those land-mines you manufactured, that now litter Afghanistan? How do you net money and mayhem? And those sweat-heart deals with your cronies in DC? What was the Social Return on that? Has anyone asked whether giving these penny-ante felons a crappy job after 20 years in the slammer, is tantamount to justice? Maybe we got the right bars and the wrong gaolers? Maybe we trade sides, Boverton, and you and our Mayor push those brooms? And the ex-cons make money, 8% cash on cash, on your back and they call it philanthropy?"
Of course the Stranger is hustled out by the Security Guards. "Don't tase me, Bro!," the Stranger exclaims, before he starts screaming. As the door slams, the MBA swishes her fine mane of black hair and says, "Excuse me for the interruption. Where was I? O, yes, the balanced scorecard and our Social Return on Investment."
Suddenly, the Stranger, beaten, bloody, his white leisure suit torn, patches of it smoking, staggers back into the hall - "The scorecard? Balanced? Stacked, maybe, not balanced." Then the room goes black. There are confused sounds of a crowd trampling on each other headed for the Emergency Exits. When the lights come on, there you are, in the empty hall, wondering what you will write for the Chronicle. Something upbeat, something balanced, like that scorecard? Something noncommittal? Or a puff piece about Boverton Beaver? My suggestion is this: Ask your immediate supervisor for guidance. Keep your nose clean and your mouth shut. It is better to err on the side of caution, or like that Stranger, you might find yourself in small dark hole. He will be lucky if they even let him out to push a broom some day in that bakery he defiled with speech so open in a world so closed. Remember, the most important thing in any piece about philanthropy is what you know damn well, and refrain from writing.
Apparently the founder and sole owner of Blackwater Worldwide, Eric Prince, is a generous man:
Prince serves as vice president of the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. Salon reports that "between July 2003 and July 2006, the foundation gave at least $670,000 to the Family Research Council and $531,000 to Focus on the Family" headed by James Dobson. The foundation is also a major donor to Calvin College, a conservative Christian institution in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Prince also serves as a board member of Christian Freedom International, a non-profit group with a mission of helping "Christians who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ."
Since 1998, Prince has personally donated over $200,000 to Republican causes.Prince is a donor, along with beverage company Bolthouse Farms through the Bolthouse foundation, to the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian legal group. Prince had also contributed money to the Green Party of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, though this has been interpreted as an unsuccessful attempt to help Republican candidate Rick Santorum in his race against Democratic challenger Bob Casey.
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has characterized Prince as one of George W. Bush's "political cronies." Prince has denied using family clout to obtain contracts for Blackwater.
The chair of Mitt Romney's Counter-Terrorism Advisory Council, by the way, is Cofer Black, a former director of the CIA's counter-terrorism center, now Vice Chairman of Blackwater. I wonder if any of the players here could use a good Morals Tutor? Probably not, but I could certainly help them pass on their values along with their valuables or to maintain their Family Dynasties for 100 Years or more. Philanthropy helps keep a family at the top of the heap; political power is better; but a private army is the best thing, really.
To respond to Gerry's critique, below is an updated the Life Work And Legacy chart, retitled, Leaving a Lively Legacy: A Diabolical Plan for Social Change. Gerry is right; philanthropy is focused on the few. In the process we lose sight of the many, which was supposed to be the point of it all. Here on the Internet, with the conversation open to all, giving must mean more than it would it we had a business model, a publication, a firm, focused on milking the rich for fees, commissions, gifts to our organization, product sales, or political investment. The goal is not just informed and effective philanthropy, nor a wonderful and inspiring life for those with wealth, but a more vibrant democracy, and a better world with opportunity for the many. We Dumpster Dwellers also are peers, leaders, and citizens. We identify with wealth at our own risk, as do the wealthy themselves.
The Princess calls for her Counselors to discuss her Social Change Philanthropy. Having heard all they have to say about Finance, Identity, Self and Society, Logic Models, Tools and Techniques, Metrics and Benchmarks, Social Investing, Political Return on Investment, Civic Leadership, she dismisses the Wearisome Wise and calls for her Fool. Together they slide down her bedsheets into the teeming street. "Fool," says she, "How much trouble can we make before Dawn?"
The Catholic Encyclopedia on The Feast of Fools:
The central idea seems always to have been that of the old Saturnalia, i.e. a brief social revolution, in which power, dignity or impunity is conferred for a few hours upon those ordinarily in a subordinate position. Whether it took the form of the boy bishop or the subdeacon conducting the cathedral office, the parody must always have trembled on the brink of burlesque, if not of the profane. We can trace the same idea at St. Gall in the tenth century, where a student, on the thirteenth of December each year, enacted the part of the abbot. It will be sufficient here to notice that the continuance of the celebration of the Feast of Fools was finally forbidden under the very severest penalties by the Council of Basle in 1435, and that this condemnation was supported by a strongly-worded document issued by the theological faculty of the University of Paris in 1444, as well as by numerous decrees of various provincial councils. In this way it seems that the abuse had practically disappeared before the time of the Council of Trent.
The Feast of Fools took place, it seems, on the date of Jesus's circumcision, providing, I am sure, much material for pantomime, tomfoolery, and obscene mirth. Apparently, the Lord of Misrule entered the Church to invert the social order, letting the worst possible taste reign. Erotic frenzy and overt violence, replaced for one day the disguised violence and covert pleasures of solemn hierarchy. What have we gained and what have we lost, in making our religion so humorless, so life denying and so responsive, or even subordinate, to the worldly powers that be?
Satire, I think, the most moral and obscene of the literary arts, is rooted in the saturnalian or Dionysian spirit, one that makes its own moral points about humanity, equality, justice, dirt, and fecundity. "Come let us drink!" as Rabelais said, raising high the chalice in blasphemous parody of all that is holy. "Come, let us celebrate the Circumcision of our Lord," says he making slicing off a wafer from the long loaf of sacred bread. "Come let us eat!," says, he as the whore kneels before him dressed as Nun. Jonathan Swift is perhaps in the same company. On Saturday he throws excrement in a madhouse among the politicians chained to the walls. On Sunday he preaches a plain sensible sermon. How better to help us appreciate that we are all, the mighty and the commoner, just so much clay or dust? When you hold yourself out as a morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, the highest art would be as a Lord of Misrule. If only I could rise to that, rather than paltering about as a pennyante moralist in the dour spirit of Bill Bennett.
Where does philanthropy fit? Surely, some generous soul will fund a Feast of Fools? We could stage it at Hudson Institute with Lord Black as the Lord of Misrule, with a Lapsed Priest, a Trusted Advisor, an Attorney, a Trained Monkey, a Fundraiser, a Philanthropic Consultant, and a troupe of Think Tank Thinkers, dancing about on Lord Black's leash while Old Nick (or a retainer costumed as him) plays the bagpipes. We might as well learn to laugh, else who knows where it would end, short of jail or a Dungeon for one and all. I am no better. When the rich man calls me Whore, I answer, "How may I serve you, Sir?" As long as your money is good, your morals are fine with me.
We are just playing here, appearances to the contrary. Serio ludere. Mingling delight with instruction, secreting medicine in candy, as Horace said we poets must if are are to inculcate morals in the higher ups, as the nursemaid does with a child. "So kiss my boots," as my Mistress Candidia said to the Pope, banqueting in his private quarters, on peacocks' tongue. "Kiss my ring," laughed he, raising his jocund glass, as the mitre tipped from his head into the suet pudding. We all know that money rules and religion follows with philanthropy and politics on all fours. "Let us drink to the Market!" And we all raise our glass, the golden chains dangling from our wrists. Who will stand against it? (Jesus, you died in vain.)
From History News Network comes this fascinating look by Edward Renehan at the culture of philanthropy in the time of Cornelius Vanderbilt. As we have Think Tanks, so in his day the strikingly named London Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor promoted the belief that giving to the poor was generally bad because it encourages vice and indolence. In America the same analysis was made by The Society for the Prevention of Pauperism: The poor are mostly undeserving and are best served or contained in workhouses and debtor prisons. The strong survive, the weak perish, and the race is purified of its weak beings and its cultures of failure. The article shows how this strain of Social Darwinism influenced Vanderbilt and others, reducing or squelching their commitment to giving to the poor. And, the article traces the "tough love" philosophy down to Ayn Rand and our contemporary conservative thinkers.
When, at Hudson Institute's Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal, Bill Schambra calls for less welfare for the poor and more help from private philanthropy, one can only wonder. Once welfare is dismantled, and the tax breaks given, will wealthy conservatives step up their giving to the poor? Or, will the arguments and alibis used to make welfare seem a corrupting influence on the poor be recycled and returned to their earlier context, becoming once again a critique of charitable giving to the undeserving poor? Will the rich man who disdains having his tax money go to the indigent, step in to give his money through a nonprofit intermediary, or will he simply walk off, his heart hardened, and his conscience clear, to spend the money on his own deserving self and his own deserving heirs? Sadly, that is mostly what Cornelius Vanderbilt did. His heir, though, the one to whom he gave almost all his fortune, did little to preserve it, and the family, once (in inflation adjusted terms) three times richer than Bill Gates, has seen its dynasty crumble. Several of the heirs, it seems, contested the patriarch's will, accusing him of being insane. The case dragged on; the chosen son, the one who was to inherit almost all, committed suicide.
In the dialogue of Virtue and Wealth, Dame Fortune may have the final word. Had Vanderbilt listened to the Christ of the Gospels, or to Maimonides with his ladder of giving (or justice), or to the Stoics who counsel detachment from worldly passion, rather than listening to the think tanks of his era, might Vanderbilt's family have been better and done better, not only for society, but for themselves? Unwisdom, selfishness, and sophistry are like vipers we breed in our hearts at our own peril.