By DL Banks
Philanthropy is almost the only virtue which is sufficiently appreciated by mankind. Hmmmmm, it is overrated; and it is our selfishness which overrates it.
I pray we all agree that, the first responsibility for the alleviation of poverty and distress and for the care of the victims of the depression rests upon the locality — its individuals, organizations and Government. It rests, first of all, perhaps, upon the private agencies of philanthropy, secondly, other social organizations, and last, but not least, the Church. Yet all agree that to leave to the locality the entire responsibility would result in placing the heaviest burden in most cases upon those who are the least able to bear it. In other words, the communities that have the most difficult problem, like Detroit, would be the communities that would have to bear the heaviest of the burdens. And so the State should step in to equalize the burden by providing for a large portion of the care of the victims of poverty and by providing assistance and guidance for local communities. Above and beyond that duty of the States the national Government has a responsibility.
Success is not just having all your heart desires, you may be financially capable, but you still reside in the apartment of failures if you don’t give out some dough to those roaming the streets. It is one of the many ironies of this period that, at a time when the intelligentsia were excoriating Mellon for tax-evasion, and contrasting the smooth-running Soviet planned economy with the breakdown in America, he was secretly exploiting the frantic necessities of the Soviet leaders to form the basis of one of America’s most splendid public collections.
It takes money to make money, even begging. Humans are herd animals. If a stranger’s bleeding to death beside the road, most people won’t stop to offer a Band-Aid. But get the ball rolling with a couple Good Samaritans, and before you know it you’ve got more eager philanthropists than you know what to do with You don’t have to be a billionaire to believe you can make a difference. Give your resources to a charity and volunteer in your community. Akin to the idea that time is money is the concept, less spoken by as commonly assumed, that we may be adequately represented by money. The giving of money has thus become our characteristic virtue.
But to give is not to do. The money is given in lieu of action, thought, care, time. And it is no remedy for the fragmentation of character and consciousness that is the consequence of specialization. At the simplest, most practical level, it would be difficult for most of us to give enough in donations to good causes to compensate for, much less remedy, the damage done by the money that is taken from us and used destructively by various agencies of the government and by the corporations that hold us in captive dependence on their products. Most important, even if we could give enough to overbalance the official and corporate misuse of our money, we would still not solve the problem: the willingness to be represented by money involves a submission to the modern divisions of character and community. The remedy safeguards the disease.
I long to see a radical shift in philanthropy that will come to characterize the 21st century. That is, a reclaiming of the root meaning of philanthropy: love of what it means to human. Hopefully my words even imply that philanthropy has deeper depths than is generally realized. The great emotions of compassion and mercy are traced to HE; there is more to human deeds than the doers are aware. He identified every act of kindness as an expression of sympathy with Himself. All kindnesses are either done explicitly or implicitly in His name, or they are refused explicitly or implicitly in His name.
Through their donations and work for voluntary organizations, the charitable rich exert enormous influence in society. As philanthropists, they acquire status within and outside of their class. Although private wealth is the basis of the hegemony of this group, philanthropy is essential to the maintenance and perpetuation of the upper class in the United States. In this sense, nonprofit activities are the nexus of a modern power elite.
I think it’s important that we give back to society and our fellow man regardless of our professions. We all need help at times. And when we support each other, we’re all a little stronger True humanity demands that every human should be loved equally, but if that’s not possible for you then at least love whoever you want to but respect everyone.
What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.