The old toothless man in the breadline is silently weeping. "The heir of the Bamboozle Fortune," he reads in the paper, "has suffered a financial reversal and must sell his vacation mansion in Bel Air." "Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves," mutters the old man, "it breaks my heart that the rich must suffer so." If only the rich had as much compassion for the poor as the other way around.
"Just because we are damned for all eternity does not make us bad people," Tutor explained to me, last night, over a can of half-eaten tuna we had found in a Dumpster. "God has his value system, we have ours. Who is to say what is right or wrong?" You can see why Tutor, my mentor, and Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage, has always done better than I as a Spiritual Director to Worldly Wealth.
Lapham's Quarterly for Summer, 2015 is devoted to philanthropy. Quite a wonderful compilation of humane learning. What would happen if all who write about impact investing or social capitalism, or metrics were willing to read this issue, take it to heart, and spend 10-20 years in meditation before re-entering the public sphere? I should take my own advice.
"We read," said William Nicholson, "to know we are not alone." But in a time of Facebook, Twitter, and surveillance, my mentor, The Happy Tutor, teaches, "We must write to remain alone." I am not sure what he means. But maybe that is what he means. I don't know. Maybe my not knowing is the point. But that would be so sad. He is my only friend, though, apparently, imaginary.
Reading up on The 48 Rules of Power, a kind of modern Book of the Courtier, in the hopes of rising in Wealth Bondage, through loyal service to my Leader and Generous Patron, she who rules us all, I have not found much I can use, here at the ragged end of an undistinguished career, but I did find this bit, under Rule 24, promising: Rather than speaking uncomfortable truth to power, position yourself as a soothsayer who reads omens and portents. Rather than you being to blame, when the augury is unwelcome, you could blame the entrails of a bird, or the movements of the stars. So, I might cut open a dog and read in the guts the fall of a civilization. The same author has a field guide on The Art of Seduction. I will pass it along to my colleagues, The Lords and Ladies of the Road. But when it comes to peddling Wisdom and Virtue, even the poorest Beggar has more than he needs. Those who go in finery and robes of office, give Wisdom and Virtue away like cast off costumes after Carnival. If I had any credibility left, I would use it to ask forgiveness for having, through my own repeated example, called our game into disrepute. This is no time or place for honesty. I knew that before I wrote this post. And I did it anyway. I have only myself to blame. But I am sorry.
Generally, in pitching the world's wealthiest families on my (as yet unsuccessful) Moral Tutoring shtick, I don't get past the butler, the trusted advisors, and the most trusted advisor, let alone the man of all work, or even the chambermaid, the chauffeur, or the teller of fortunes; and when I chase the limousines, naked and barefoot, to make the pitch, they generally just speed off, before I can outline my Value Proposition. But in imagination, so I can be ready when given an opening, if ever I get one, I have honed the my Elevator Speech to one poignant question:
Sir (or Madame or Sir and Madame), would your prefer blue pill or red pill ethics? For you? Your children? The general populace?
As you probably know, blue pill ethics are the ethics of sheep touted by Shepherds who have a vested interest in fresh lamb and fleece. Red pill ethics, as you probably know, are rooted in the Dark Triad of Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy associated with thinkers as diverse as Castiglione, Machiavelli, Nietzsche, Aynn Rand, or Leo Strauss. It is the philosophy of the Superman or Superwoman, the Master or Mistress of the Universe. Not the lamb, but the wolf.
My thought is that whichever pill the Dynastic Family prefers - and who am I to judge as Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, I am here to serve -- I conduct values exercises, and create a family mission statement that will work within their preferred modality. As high sounding, hypocritical, self serving, BS, in the red pill genre, while I work behind the scenes to tutor the young prince or princess in the wised up real values; or, in the unlikely event the family had swallowed the blue pill, and never wised up, I could just use the family values verbatim as cornpone for the consumption of heirs under the age of reason, until they were prepared for a more esoteric lesson.
I would have liked to think that my specializing in red pill Mentoring would set me apart from the claque of Trusted Advisors, and Most Trusted Advisors, doing Family Values work, since all I ever see out there for family values statements are pretty much cornpone, but I have come to see that this could be the work of red pill families properly coached. I, too, if I had a client, and sincerely wished to serve them well, would want a corny mission statement to face the world, while behind the scenes the children were taught the skills (Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy) correlated with success at the level of Statecraft, or the preservation of a family's net worth far exceeding that of the Padua, Venice, or Florence.
I fear that at times Gifthub has often been hopelessly idealistic, citing the Gospels and other blue pill philosophies, and this might seem to disqualify me from teaching Ethics to The World's Finest Families, but I would like to state for the record that I am flexible when it comes to ethics as a practical matter. There is no better disguise for guile than a little scripture here and there, or a bit of philanthropy. My responsibility as Wise & Virtuous Fiduciary to UHNI's is to elicit Family Values, paper them up, paper them over, and get things done. For those who are put off by my show of ethics, please be assured that my only colleagues and friends, here in Wealth Bondage, are among the dregs of humanity, whose ethics are demonstrably worse than even than those of our best clients. How bad are my ethics? My friends say that even in our Bordello, in our most debauched moments, I am considered louche, or would be if I were allowed to play a role larger than handing out towels in return for tips, as I do now. If my ethics are not bad enough to be a morals coach, I can do worse. If only I had the money, Sir, or Madame, or Sir and Madame, as the case my be.
You have heard, of course, of the rainbow with the pot of gold at its end. But, perhaps, in gift planning, the pot of gold, about one foot in diameter, and one foot deep, is at the beginning. And it gives off white light, glinting gold. This rainbow is not created by mist or rain, but by a prism, easily held in the hand of a gift planner. Through that prism, light streams, refracted into a rainbow arch across they sky, with an organization in the center, and thousands of people served at the end of that rainbow. The colors in that spectrum are "donor motivation." One color is money as money, in market terms. Another color is donor moral autobiography. Another is donor's vision, values, principles. Another is the donor's family and traditions. Another is metrics connecting money with results. Each of these colors spans the sky uniting the pot of gold with lives touched.
The pot of gold is a fairy tale, but (what is worse) the rainbow is also scriptural.
Once upon a time, long, long ago, mankind (not us, it was not our fault) failed in its stewardship of the earth, and defaced God's image, in themselves, as thumbs over time can obliterate or wear away, the emperor's face from a gold coin. The waters rose and would annihilate all life on earth, where it not for Noah, his ark, and his folly. Through him life was preserved, and without his folly none of us would be here today.
Do you know about that rainbow?
That rainbow was set above the waters as they began to recede, as a sign of hope.
Giving can be explicated as means to end, in market logic, a theory of change. And it is all that; one color is that. But giving is also a reenactment of a gracious sign or ritual, encompassing origins and ends (as Dr. Paul Schervish says, "Genesis and Telesis"), and unites us across time in an enduring community.
H. Peter Karoff speaks of the gift planner as answering a "long distance call." Without the gift planner, without the prism, no rainbow, the sign of hope.
A dialogue at CEG Worldwide with me, John A. Warnick, Steven Myers, Tim Belber, and Randy Fox.
In the conquest of the other, the principle of civic order, that Hegel calls "the master/slave relationship," we have a model of what? An army? A government bureau? Durkheim's iron cages of the Taylorized worker? I/thou we reserve for peers? No, in my experience, as a worker, we reserve thou for those we serve in the First Class Cabin. I have known Trusted Advisors, the best of breed, for whom the highest Thou is a wealthy, even dynastic, client, the one whose interests are served assiduously. The one with whom an advisor identifies as a dog with his master. Is that Thou reciprocal? "Call me, Candy," says my boss and generous patron, she who rules us all, "no need to stand on formality, when you kneel." Since she is higher up than I, and knows more, is better connected, better looking, and is wiser, I am sure my following directions leads to a better result than my being a real person.
Effectiveness and efficiency are the mantra. What I notice, though, is that the hierarchy of masters and slave and slaves of slaves rises ever higher, and all but a very few get little more than vicarious satisfaction. I don't begrudge those I serve the feast, but I would enjoy it even more if we took turns. I guess in the old days, it worked that way. Once a year, or on special feast days, the King served the Fool, and the Whore said mass while the Bishop rioted with the Mayor's wife. Today, what would be the equivalent in an institution that has grown to scale? Well, I see it every day. I work there, handing out the towels. But when do I get a turn?
Is it because they don't get results that China forbids most voluntary social groups, forming with an eye to faith or citizenship? If our Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of assembly, is that mainly so we can form profitable ventures? Having lost a sense of the body politic, or the commonweal, or of neighborliness, and having construed all realities under the aegis of the market ("investing," "owning," "consuming," "getting results," "growing to scale"), we no longer even know how to name what we have lost. We consult therapists, take drugs, drink, maintain a positive attitude, tweet wise quotations, but we are still lonely and empty - anomie, as Durkheim called it in in a book on suicide. Even the most useless activity, like making paper flowers, planting a tree, playing hide and seek with a child, volunteering would do more to cure us than anything we can buy. Yet the organizations that provide these engagement opportunities are said to be "inefficient and ineffective" by the very dead souls most in need of resurrection.
When we become effective and efficient, most often we have done so by instrumentalizing one another. We don't cure that moral fault, that "necessary evil," by scaling it across the voluntary sector.