Posted by The Happy Tutor
I will be taking a break from blogging. Very busy at work.
Posted by The Happy TutorWritten in 1995, Gina Neff's article is still a good introduction the culture and politics of large Foundations, both left and right: Most civilians don't think much about the role foundations play in shaping our public lives. A new generation of right-wing foundations has funded America's rightward drift. And despite their aura of generosity and liberalism, mainstream and even "progressive" foundations often act as a constraint on politics. What groups should serve on a Foundation Board? Wealthy only? What groups should serve on the grant-making committees? Should grants come from above with strings attached, or should grants be a bet on the ability of the recipient to organize and activate a constituency? Are Foundation grants palliatives, to be given in small amounts, like aspirin to the wounded in an under-supplied battlefield medical unit? Or should Foundations realistically research what would be needed to create a particular social change, and then identify the driving forces, the key players, the most promising constituencies, and then partner with those grassroots activists, volunteers, and do-ers? In strategic philanthropy, the right may be doing a better job than the left, or at least with greater effect. But we are not wringing our hands. Much of what needs to be learned by the left about legacy planning, major gifts, wealth planning, planned giving, and strategic grant-making is well understood. It is a matter of organization, and overcoming a bit of our own culture, particularly our distrust of businesslike methods for achieving idealistic ends. Be the change you seek is a good progressive motto, but it need not mean, Be as disorganized and ineffective as possible. We can be as strategic and as businesslike in preserving the commons as are those bent upon pillaging it.
Posted by The Happy Tutor
The real artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths - So reads the words inscribed around a spiral of neon lit glass that the artist, Bruce Nauman, hung in the front window his grocery store, in 1967, facing the passing crowds. Private truths in a public place.
Rhetoric tells us that discourse to be well made requires a speaker who has credibility, or character, a message crafted for an audience, on a particular occasion, most often with particular force or effect in mind -- to pass a bill, to call for war, to get across a moral, to enrage, or placate, to sell, seduce, or amuse. Today, for discourse in the public square what can we assume about our audience? How can we anticipate their reactions, and marshall our methods and our means to achieve an intended result? The actual audience streams by Wealth Bondage on the porno/product superhighway, as on the old 42cnd in New York City before it was taken over by Disney. As a hooker might beckon from a lighted doorway, so WB beckons Google's hot terms, Bondage, Wealth. When the poor souls enter seeking the secrets of wealth, or scenes of erotic abandon, when they come looking for subjection, or triumph, as they go from bin to bin, seeking their predictable fix, what will they make of Nauman's sign?
Rhetoric can be a "trap play," a Socratic, or satiric trap, to force the reader, the real reader, our fellow citizens cruising the public square, to stop, puzzle, and walk away indignant, bored, confused. The Tale of the Tub, by Swift, or his Gulliver's Travels, or his piece using astrology to predict (and later announce) the death of the famous astrologer, Partridge, each depends on a double audience -- those who understand and those who do not, those who catch the author's glance from behind the mask, and those who are "bit," "gulled," taken in. Marketing, political speeches, spam -- they too work this way, except too often we are not meant to see through them. The only audience who matters in manipulative forms of practical rhetoric are the gulls who accept the fiction as true enough, or appealing enough. Those who see through to the real motives and reasoning of those who created the ploy or gambit are working against the intent of the piece. Here, with satire and with Nauman, as well as with inside jokes, the better audience, the audience of peers, understands not only the message, but why the sign, whose message can understood only by a few, was hung facing a crowded street, and how it is that the lonely passersby who stop and stare are part of the installation, the dupes, a constant stream, breaking like an ever-flowing wave against the rock. (Fung-Lin Hall has been kind enough to show me many works of conceptual art over the last few weeks, but this one piece, I will never forget. Wealth....Bondage, blinking on and off, fitfully, boldly claiming a mystic truth, that art and kindness heal. To some it is a come on, to others an ironic gesture, but to me it is a truth rescued from contempt and forgetfullness, a rallying point, perhaps a futile and hopeless gesture, but not made lightly. That art and kindness is heal is both a private truth and a public truth.)
I have taught sales systems, phone scripts, answers to objections, closing lines, and power phrases, to salespeople all over the country, down some of dustiest streets you could ever see, and in some of the most expensive Class-A Office Towers. When I say that I want a public square, that is what I mean. I want to stand there on the corner, with the sad old man with his bottle, with the mad prophet and his Bible, with the insurance salespeople, and the hookers, and the stockbrokers going back to work, and the sailors on leave, and I want to say, "America is a Democracy, your voice matters, your mind -- yes, even yours, Sir -- matters. If I can not interest you in that, may at least I sell you a set of chains, Madame? Or a whip, Sirrah, with which your Master can beat you?"
Posted by The Happy TutorGary Sauer-Thompson on Sontag, Klossowski, Bataille, Balthus, Sade, and others. Explorations of how philosophy (Analytic or Continental), art, cinema, mass media, and the novel reinforce or disrupt normative ways of seeing. Gary is playing off against recent posts on Sontag, interviews with David Ross, and with Derek Allan by Rick Visser at Artrift.
Posted by Dick MinimGeegaw: The other day I had a dream where someone asked me something like, "I hope it's not too rude to ask, but how long ago did you have your sex change operation?" To which I replied, "I know I have [insert potentially unattractive facial feature here], but as a matter of fact, I was born a woman." It was all very polite, but in my sleep I was gritting my teeth. I know the feeling. People can be so cruel.
Posted by The Happy Tutor
Some day we will breathe our last. Meanwhile, while we live, while we are among human beings, let us cultivate our humanity." Seneca.
Creating Social Capital for the Public Good
How do we come together to create social capital, and social movements for the public good? Some thoughts below, and a dream for WB.
I volunteer for a social venture partnership. (People contribute $5,000 a year, and give the money and time to local charities chosen by a social investment committee.) Learned a lot about human dynamics. On our education committee was a woman from a Brand Name family. Highly educated, wonderful taste in art, a patron of the museum, with a wing in her family name, a trustee on many boards, an irreverent wit, active in politics. She represents the best I have seen in the philanthropic world. Her suggestion was to create Events, that would be 50% social, and 50% educational. People would come, she said, to hear the speaker, but equally important they would come to network, to see and be seen. Her formula has worked beautifully. We have Events at museums, wealthy and famous people's homes, all very prestigious, and those events are a big success. When we have training or educational events for donors at places that are close to those in need, grubby community centers and the like, no one shows up, except representatives of the charities. Human nature. Philanthropy is indeed about giving, and having your gift returned many times over, but the real giving is very often lateral, around in a circle among the donors themselves, business cards, board positions, connections, deals. The charitable ante, like the cost of getting into a $1,000 a plate political fundraiser, creates cachet and limits attendance to "people of substance in every sense of that term." That is one elite world here is another.
George Plimpton, a generation ago, was asked about how he created such celebrated literary parties in NY and Paris. How did he get the rich, the powerful, and the famous to show up? His answer: "First, get the models."
A Third Place - The Role of Wealth Bondage in a Just Society
WB is a place where gifted and talented people from all walks of life are welcome, with or without money. Here you can come as yourself, or in a Mardi Gras mask. You can meet your own kind, without regard to power, wealth, or connections. If you have tons of money, and want to flaunt it, or are a bigshot in business, come as a Domme with a whip. Here we may play at dominance and submission, but we are all equals in the eyes of Top Management. (Please don't tell Candidia I said that.) Poets, philosophers, artists, theologians, programmers, technologists, social venture types, rich and poor, winners and losers, beautiful women of all genders -- everyone is welcome if they care about a better society by some definition of better.
No One Way Glass
Some Venture Philanthropy sites have come and gone on the premise of bringing funders and grant seekers together. The structure was repulsive to me, though I understand it. They would have two databases. One for funders; one for those seeking grants. The funders would all be able to see each other's records and contact each other, and network with each other. Likewise the grant-seekers could interact with other grant seekers. But, guess what? The grant-makers would sit behind smoked glass and see the grant-seekers records, but not the other way around. Every fiber of my democratic being finds that revolting. Beyond that, it is bad stategic planning. The real talent, the driving force, in a social venture, much less a social movement, may well be the grant-seeker, the dedicated do-er of real good, or the artist, the poet, the activist, not the funders, or the MBAs though their time, money, and professional expertise is, of course valuable, and they themselves may be driving forces as poets and prophets in their own right.
The best way to generate social capital and get it circulating is still the old way -- the salon. Bring people together in propria persona, or in Mardi Gras masks if they prefer, and have a party, where for once in our lives we are all equal, where no one basically gives a hoot whether you are rich or poor, as long as you can can dance, make conversation, create art, or whatever it is that is your gift.
Just a Party
All we have here is an online after hours party. I hope you get to know some interesting people, and have a good time. Beyond that, you are on your own. WB is not a business, we don't do deals, and we don't give advice, except to be careful about falling in love, because here things are not always what they seem. Be sure to ask about the models about their current gender before you lose your head or your heart.
Posted by The Happy TutorPaul Ford in Ftrain via Wood S Lot: In the middle class, I buy things. The rich do things with their money. I've watched rich men and women turn a million dollars into respect, a partnership, a new business. They convert their funds into opportunities and relationships, translating their ideas into power, amplifying themselves into businesses, employees, extraordinary automobiles, summer cottages, setting up tax shelters, holding board meetings in the Dutch Antilles. Along with politics, philanthropy is biggest transformer of them all, turning wealth into..... Tell me what you want!
Posted by The Happy Tutor
New York Review of Books: Lewis Cullman, "Private Foundations: The Trick": The next time you read about a rich person donating $100 million to charity, you should be aware that this seemingly generous gift may never actually reach the institutions that need it. The chances are that the donation is being used to set up a private foundation. The gift will earn the donor a full deduction against income or estate taxes. But the little-understood trick of this form of philanthropy is that the $100 million that launched the foundation need never go to charity.
The truth in what Cullman is saying is that private foundations, other than operating foundations (such as museums), do not generally provide services for society. Rather they are philanthropic middlemen. They take money from donors, hold onto it, and then distribute a certain percentage, currently by law not less than 5% including expenses. The distributions (grants) then go to the philanthropic delivery systems -- the charities that do the work of feeding the poor, helping battered women, providing humanitarian aid, or whatever it might be. By contrast, certain donors prefer to "cut to the chase" and make direct gifts to the charities themselves. This cuts out the attorney who would create the foundation document, the financial advisor who would manage the money, the trustees of the foundation who might get trustee fees, and the paid staff, if any. Cullman according to his bio seems to be a donor of the "cut to the chase type," Cullman is major contributor to not-for-profit institutions, including the New York Public Library, the American Museum of Natural History, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Human Rights Watch, Planned Parenthood, and the American Academy in Rome. He is the chairman of Chess in the Schools.
Overall, I would say that the Cullman kind of donor is revered by the charities because he does not dribble out the interest on the gift, keeping the principal tied up in a foundation forever, but gives the whole wad directly to the charity. Cullman-style largescale direct giving is probably not as common as it should be, when compared to gifts to foundations and other such vehicles that "tie money up," provide ongoing donor control, such as donor-advised funds, and charitable remainder trusts.
The real question for a donor, though, has to be: What are you trying to accomplish, for yourself, your family and society? Only when those issues have been considered, can you say whether a direct gift or a foundation would be more appropriate. Foundations can help donors instill a tradition of family philanthropy in children, can bring families together with a common purpose after the founders have died, and can also develop specific programmatic expertise, seeking out and funding charities and projects that might otherwise be neglected. Vanity is also a strong motive, immortality, as it is sometimes called by the promoters of foundations. While vanity and immortal longings are easily satirized, in a real situation the wealth-holder might be talking about either buying a baseball team, collecting antique cars, buying a new jet, or setting up a foundation. Vanity might be the constant, and the foundation the most productive from the standpoint of social good. Cullman deserves great credit for doing all he can right now, with present gifts, instead of waiting for his heirs to trickle out the interest on his principal. For pressing social needs, now may be the best time to put the money to work. (Thanks to Jonathon Delacour for the link, via email.)