"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Friday, March 21, 2008

Venture philanthropy

I confess to sometimes agreeing with David Brooks, "conservative" op-ed columnist for the New York Times. He actually seems to use reasoning and logic rather than just gobbling down the whole Republican enchilada without asking what's in it. Several years ago he wrote a piece on why same-sex marriage should be promoted rather than opposed by conservatives, as he felt that supporting people--any people--in their desire to make serious commitments to one another would actually be good for, rather than detrimental to, the fabric of society.

So this piece on the social entrepreneur movement got my attention. Having just come back from New Orleans where it is obvious that the government didn't just screw up at every stage of the disaster, but willfully, criminally, disregarded what was happening (if you didn't believe that before, you oughta try to see this movie), it is the private foundations and the non-profits who are getting the work done. The public school system hasn't even been able to get going again in most of the city. Charters are the only ones who were able to open their doors.

While we have a government absorbed by corporate interests (which tend to be inherently antisocial, since a corporation is legally a 'person' who is compelled to act in its own self-interest at all times), and we have a big swath the electorate who have been easily manipulated by fear, we simply can't expect the government to be all that helpful unless we're white or at least wealthy. The best possible outcome of the next election might help but it won't help overnight. But the social entrepreneurs Brooks talks about--and so many others--are harnessing the awesome power of capitalism for good. I take exception to his disparaging remarks about ponytails and crunchiness (maybe he's not spent much time in Northern CA) but otherwise he's really on to something.

I would still like the government to be really helpful for something besides putting people in prison at home and creating new terrorists abroad. But I'm interested in anything that works. It seems that attempts to overthrow capitalist systems have been largely self-defeating and created years and years of suffering. Much more effective to find ways to bend capitalism to the good of the People. To make it a tool for social progress--which has to include everybody, or it doesn't count.

1 comment:

adam said...

"we have a government absorbed by corporate interests"

This is one of the reasons why I'm not really in support of government run universal healthcare. It would still be "absorbed by corporate interests" and it would be less effective (not that what we have now is effective, however.)