Our Noble Trade Feed

Que Pasa?

Mr. Matrullo reflects on  Reinhold Niebuhr. To see the mote in another's eye, but not the beam in your own is an ethical failing. For that matter so is being blind to the murders traditionally committed by those in your station in life.  What is going on? Best not to see or say, lest you be the one to whom bad things happen in secret with nothing said and no appeal. How well Americans will adapt themselves to these blindnesses and insights remains to be seen. So far we are doing very well, I think, at least in the not seeing what is going on area of our social obligations. Philanthropy helps too in that regard being so polite and inoffensive. Leadership in selective attention is provided by our media. Who can blame us for not seeing what is really going on?


Deprogramming The Happy Victims of a Cult

On the polygamous sect:

An expert in children in cults testified Friday that while the teen girls believed they were marrying out of free choice, it's a choice based on lessons they've had from birth.

Whatever your views on this case, you have to admit that the expert's logic is faulty. What if the teen girls were in the mall buying stuff? Would we conclude that they were deluded, since their apparent choice is "based on lessons they've had from birth"? I am sorry that the girls in either case fail to confront their abusers. But members of both sects believe that they have chosen freely. And to suggest otherwise is patronizing? I speak as a deprogrammer myself. The hardest part of teaching my clients to be truly free is deprogramming the conditioning they received from birth in a capitalist society. Even the philanthropically inclined fight the onset of wisdom as if it were death.


Support for a Full Range of Moral Systems

Tutoring clients in their morals is a tough job, almost like running a repair shop for all makes and models of automobiles. It is one thing to know how to repair a Ford Fiesta, and to stock the needed parts, but what if the client drives up in an Aston Martin? Same with morals. There are so many makes and models, from the post-modern, to the subaltern in various modes, to the Christian (meaning Evangelical), to the Catholic (meaning all inclusive but not Protestant), to the Buddhist, the Confucian,  and the New Age. We know that what car a person drives, what lifestyle they live, or what moral system they sport is a consumer choice in a free society. I am in favor of all that. But from a practical standpoint it makes it hard to service wealthy people with the spare parts and tune up their particular moral system requires. "What kind of morals you got there, and how can I be of assistance?" is generally a good opening gambit. From there we get into an estimate of parts and labor.  Where the car analogy breaks down is that most people know when their muffler is shot to hell, but few know when their morals are. So a lot of times I find myself trying to fix what the client says is not broken. This makes client retention difficult, and my receivables run slow. Maybe I should just open a junk yard.


Julia Moulden on Moral Intelligence

She that's a maid now, and laughs at my departure,
Shall not be a maid long, unless things be cut shorter. - Lear's Fool

Julia Moulden, author of The New Radicals, writes in an email (published with permission):

Really interested in your post about values. I find it fascinating that no-one has yet picked up on an idea I introduce in WE ARE THE NEW RADICALS. That is, the New Radical credo. I write about how Dr. Robert Coles is beating the drum for the recognition of a third kind of intelligence — moral intelligence. We’ve known about the intellect for a long time, and the value of emotional intelligence has been understood and accepted in recent years. He argues that we need to consider the third part, which is a recognition of what we value, and how we want to live our lives.
 
As I listened to the New Radicals, and thought about their work, I discovered that their approach was distinctive. They are, I believe, “positive, constructive, and hopeful.” And I suggest that readers don’t have to wait until they are on the world stage to put this credo into action. That, in fact, they can use it as a filter that guides every interaction with other human beings or, for that matter, any part of our planet.
 
As to your thoughts on Lear, next time I reinvent myself, I’m coming back as the fool. In a thoughtful interview in Harvard Business Review, Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries, a professor at Insead and a practicing psychoanalyst, says, “Down through the ages, the fool has played a traditional role as the stabilizer of kings and queens (and other leaders). This is the wise fool of King Lear — the guardian of reality. The fool shows the leader his reflection and reminds him of the transience of power. He uses antics and humor to prevent foolish action and groupthink... Leaders in all organizations need someone who will speak out and tell the leader how things really are...To be effective, organizations need people with a healthy disrespect for the boss... If a leader wants honest feedback, he should ask himself whether or not he’s created an organization in which there’s place for a fool.”
 
Keep blogging!

Best,

Julia

Moral intelligence is a learned man writing about Fools in the Harvard Business Review in the plain and reasonable prose of  Ben Jonson.  (Praising a Fool seriously is like shouting "Comrades! I give you a toast to Beer!", while raising a glass of apple juice.) In Lear half the  Fool's jokes are obscene. Body humor. About bawds, codpieces, pricks, and the King's britches dropped as his backside is beaten by his daughters with rods.  Try that licentious diction in your next article for the Harvard Business Review.  Wealth Bondage is about the only highly regarded Business Organ I know that allows Fools  to speak in propria persona. But you won't find reputable people consorting with  Fetish Action Figures to create an allegory of a world gone mad. Yet they will praise a Fool in theory even as they do all they can to knock me down for my obscenity and my insolence.  By moral intelligence you can be sure they mean no harm to the status quo.  "Fortune that arrant whore,/ never turns the key to the poor," as Lear's Fool wisely observed. 


The Happy Tutor at Council on Foundations

I was attending Council on Foundations, as as honored guest, when to my horror, I saw that the Happy Tutor was on the agenda for the Evening Plenary Session: "Making the Most of Wealth Bondage:  Mastering Social Change Before It Masters You." I see him walk, or really, swagger, in the front door of the Biltmore. I had been afraid he would come naked, his normal business attire, but no, he has on that god-awful white bell bottom leisure suit, with the rayon shirt open to his waist, and those gold chains, or gold-plated chains, over his hairy chest. He has shades on that looked like they had belonged to Sony Bono.  He flashes me a sign with both hands raised high, index fingers and pinky extended - Hook 'em Horns

I follow him into the packed ballroom, acting like we are strangers.  Down the aisle he goes, doing that Chuck Berry air guitar act of his, with the splits, every third chord. By the time, he gets to to the podium, he is wiping his brow with a scarf, like Elvis, "Thank you, that you very much...."  When he starts his lecture, or really it was more like karaoke, the red-jackets were serving the baked Alaska. Within 10 minutes, he had them all on the dance floor. The dowager in the low cut dress was waving her waffled arms, and doing the hokey-pokey. The waiters were doing the monkey with trustees in pin stripes.  Admiral Harlan Proctor, head of the finance committee,  was doing the samba with his daughter, Missy.  Senator Dick Minim (D. MA) was slow dancing with Smoky Joe, Senior Public Relations Counsel for Wealth Bondage. Joe McPatriot, drunk as a skunk, was running around saluting all the flag lapel pins, and there were hundreds. Even Sister Lucy was smiling. She may have taken a vow of silence, but it didn't stop her from tapping her foot. The little kids in their Sunday Best were tearing around the tables throwing water as their parents chased them.  I didn't have the heart to stick around and see what kind of party this all degenerated into. I went back to my room and watched one of those cable movies.

Next morning checking out, there was Tutor, buck naked, dragging a garbage bag he had borrowed from the maid to use as luggage. I asked him how it had turned out. "Phil, he said, it was going good until someone lit the table cloth on the dais on fire. That set off the sprinklers, the police showed up, Missy was arrested for public indecency,  and the Convener got tazed and dragged off in cuffs. They pulled her by her hair all the way down that hall. I think they are trying to bail the two of them out now."  I asked if he had accomplished his objectives. "Yes, he said, "we turned the world upside down pretty good. Do you know that our esteemed Founder, Diogenes, asked to be buried faced down so that that when the world was turned upside down, he would be right side up? Well, the world keeps turning over. This morning the guests were eating their omelets and reading the Wall Street Journal, same as ever. The wait staff was as invisible as ever, and I am out of here.   We don't any of us really want social change, not until the check clears anyway."

The Cynics, the real ones, were actually a serio-comic school of moral philosophers. Serio ludere, "play seriously" was their motto, or so I am told, by Dr. Amrit Chadwallah, Senior Adjunct in Charge of Hidden Meaning, but I wish that foolish tradition had died out for good. The last thing we need is a real Morals Tutor in a field like this. For those of you saw me with the Happy Tutor, forgive me. I do not know the man. Philanthropy is a serious businesses.  I cannot stress enough the importance of being earnest


Banking on Philanthropy

I was included today on a conference call with a major bank. They are doing a national survey of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) on philanthropy. The blue ribbon panel (on which I am an improbable member) will guide the survey and help the bank position itself as a "thought leader in philanthropy."  The conversation was extremely professional, well-informed, and even idealistic. All concerned had a commitment to giving and society. Interesting, all in all. And, probably on balance it will be a big contribution to the field.

Patronage of philanthropy: Who funds "thought leaders"? Is there a space from which the conversation can be convened for all comers from the Dumpster out behind a mega-bank? Or from the public square, where the voices of high net worth citizens - fine prospects for financial services, for philanthropy, and for legal services, as well as for luxury goods, and donations to lobbyists and political candidates - speak for themselves, one to another, and many to many, among the undeserving poor, and other losers, rather than having themselves debriefed by surveyors on a phone bank? The insights, with a blue ribbon commission funded by a bank, flow to the central power, whose power and prestige are then elevated, and that is a good thing, I guess. Knowledge/Power flows to the center and is then disseminated, as the bank's study will be, benefiting all, with the bank the well positioned middle term.

What is missing is the raucous buzz of conversations forming on the margins, finding their own center unaided, and moving knowledge and power away from the centralized well-funded hubs with their avid interest in the High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs). There are people like me in these big financial hubs, with training in both finance and the liberal arts, or in religion, who want to ask you (if and only if you are rich), "What is the meaning of life - in general, and yours in particular? And, where does giving fit? And would you like to talk now that we have clarified your values, to our charitable trust department, our dynasty trust department, our investment unit, our financial planning department, our estate planning department, our foundation experts, our donor advised fund unit, our legal unit, our IPO Unit?" I do that kind of thing on company time, and I am proud of it. How better for an English major down on his luck to make an honest buck off being a facilitator of wealthy people and their values, however banal?

But out here in the street, by the Dumpster, after work, hanging out with my questionable friends, sharing a bottle of Thunderbird, I am doing the real deal, for which no company would pay me, to put it positively, or mildly. What we do for love of our fellow human beings, for love of our country, we do in the shadows, pro bono publico. "Truth is a bitch who must to kennel," so said King Lear's Fool, or words to that effect. If you see someone coming calling my name, and he or she looks like they work for a bank or whatever, tell them I am not here. I am on the lam, blogging as a citizen when no one any longer is a citizen, except insofar as they are being stroked and pumped for money or votes, or the values that can be used to get them to put their money to work through a financial center for the benefit of all.

They say that Diogenes was kicked out of his home town for debasing the currency. It is a scandal: Standing naked on the street, giving away gold coins to rich people when counterfeit passes current; and then getting busted for making a mockery of social capital markets, philanthropy, thought leadership, values-based planning, the whole blessed game.

I will file this post under "the raw and the cooked." Free range philosophers are still the best, if taken with a grain of salt. Hey all you HNWIs! Stop awhile! Don't you cross the street to avoid us! Come on, Mister! Madame! Come! Get naked like us, and don't hog that bottle. We are all just humans here. We are all going to die and turn into the same stinking goo. Tell us all about what matters most to you, Mr and Mrs Rich Person. We Ultra Low Net Worth Individuals (UHNWIs) are soooo interested in the world you want. "No pet will die without a home"? "A World Class Opera House in Dallas"? How touching! By the way, how much cash you got in that bank over there? I hope this is not too personal, but now that we are friends, and I am practically your Trusted Advisor, could you float me a loan? I am finding myself a bit short at the end of the month.


Diogenes on Flatterers

When Diogenes was asked what creature's bite is the worst, he said, "Of those that are wild a sycophant's; of those that are tame a flatterer's." Where does the Trusted Advisor fit, I wonder? An Advisor who helps a greedy client get what a greedy client wants is like the physician who sets a feast before a glutton. "Who are we to judge?" asks the physician, as the client, enslaved to appetite, eats himself to death. So the blind lead the blind.