Several years ago, as a new Board Member for Interfaith Worker Justice, I was asked to give a talk on philanthropy to the leaders of the worker centers. Having no idea what a worker center was, I showed up with my usual slide deck, "Creating Inspired Legacies for Highest Capacity Donors." Worker Centers, it turns out out, support the poorest and most beaten down nonunion employees in industries like agriculture, food services, hospital care, and poultry plants. Workers self organize to protest sexual and physical abuse, intolerable working conditions, and "wage theft" ( being stiffed on wages by employers who know the precarious worker has no recourse for redress). So, there I was in a small room with maybe 13 workers, the only white person in the room, one of the few without Spanish. An African American man, maybe 37, with grizzled features, hands scarred, with more than one missing front tooth, a worker in a poultry plant, in SC, sat to my left, as I went through the deck all about the needs, yearnings, and unfulfilled aspirations of the world's wealthiest. How hard it is to be very rich, as our faith traditions say it is! At that moment, I heard from him, and others in the room, "Amen." I improvised on St. John Chrysostom, an early Church Father, influenced by the Stoics. "Grace like the sun shines on us all; like rain, it falls on us all." Again, "Amen."
So, I identified with Patricia Angus's recent article at Wealth Management. That "occasional essay" (written to an occasion, as if informally improvised, though artful) begins with her leaving a high level meeting, at some hotel in some foreign country, of advisors to the world's wealthiest. In such conclaves, over-educated advisors in bondage to wealth, endlessly ask each other, "What is true wealth?" only to conclude that if the client is to have it he or she must hire the Wise and Virtuous Counselor. A shtick like any other; mine (to get naked behind the Dumpster at the Corner of Wealth and Bondage, for spare change) is not much better. She finds the wisest on true wealth to be the taxi driver, as I found the most gracious among the poorest.
How far do our sympathies extend? When we say "we," whom do we include? Is our "we" demarcated by a zip code, or gated community, by a neighborhood, state, or nation state, or by wealth rating, a gender, a color? When those who have most take the jobs out of Flint, and create a factory in India, and then reason that their philanthropy should go to India, too, because that is where they made the wealth, and that is where a life can be saved cheapest, what will become of those whose lives here have been destroyed by "creative destruction"? What recourse do they have? Trump, Sanders, riots, violence, feckless social organizing, worker centers,C food stamps, crumbs from the philanthropic table....
"Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice" (MLK). Patricia is the first person I have heard from within the world of family governance for dynastic wealth to extend the conversation about governance back to the polity. What kind of society do we want? We, including the taxi drivers, the poultry plant workers, the Black Lives Matter protesters, the dynastic wealth holders, those who serve them, the alt right? Do we have a social compact, still, or only a global market? Do we need bigger government or smaller? Left or right? Or, do we need better governance? A "parliament," where people not only issue sound bites, but reason with one another towards an inclusive public good?
When democracy seizes up, the next stage, says Aristotle, who would know, is the strong leader who can drive change regardless. Tyrant is a harsh word. I would prefer to imagine Audrey, our once and future Queen, who, prepared by the Happy Tutor, will own rule, and save us all, with love, wisdom, mercy, and justice. People take good care of their own, whether a dog or a loyal subject.