The New Global Savior

4CED37AF-5ED0-40F7-8EA9-6593910A46F4From: XXX
Sent: Tuesday, February 6, 2018 9:02:19 AM
Subject: ——


As always, this is such a wonderfully curated piece. And your takes are spot-on, I wish this could just be the universe from which people became informed…but alas #fakenews. I wanted to respond more personally to a couple of the fringe articles, particularly ‘Our system is so broken, we’re turning to billionaires like Bezos to save us’ or the one you rightly dubbed ‘Philantropists as the new global savior’:

(1) As I mull over taking a role with a small NGO in Boston that focuses on corporate accountability (and thus officially returning to the States), I have naturally been thinking a lot about broken systems and the scary patterns evolving to ‘fix’ them. The people benefiting the most from systems that perpetuate inequality are not going to be the ones to be able to fix inequality. It’s a Stockholm syndrom of epic proportions. The more we concentrate wealth and power into the hands of the few, the less we are going to be able to spread wealth and power. So when the article mentioned the absurdity of looking to these business men for curing disease and bettering failed infrastructure, it dawned on me that the system is so self-protective that we cannot even see how backwards our expectations have become of it. #MAGA and Trump 😵

(2) Bill Gates is an especially hard one for me. Partly because I have benefited directly from his philanthropic tendencies (without my Gates scholarship to law school, pretty much none of the past near decade of my life would have been possible) and partly becuase my former employer, the World Health Organization, would not be funded without him. As this article points out, this sort of ‘philantrocapitalism’ does more to ‘further serve the mega rich’ than any other goal it has, namely that of making any real strides in eradicating poverty and disease as most think philantrophy sets out to do. We are both well versed in the whole donor industrial complex, so I am not going to rehash all of the troubles with that, but I want to just focus on the super troubling cross pollination of philanthropists’ agenda with global policymaking and the political process. It’s treated as if their money simply makes them omniscient, and so the people this money is intended to help are almost completely left out of the picture. When you think about it, many of the arenas in which these budgets are made and spent will not have a single person of that country, and often not even that region, present at the decision making process. While it is easy to see why such decisions happen in this way, it doesn’t make it any less shocking when you see it go down. We have GOT to stop the paternalistic grant-grantee relationships that make such an archaic and down right wrong dynamic possible. #DirectCashTransferAlreadyPLEASE

(3) Following the SpaceX launch, I have also been thinking a lot about Elon Musk and his god-like glorification in the West. I went to a Tesla showroom with my brothers (and while I admit this was a bit much in my assimilation back into American culture), and I thought I had walked into an episode of Blackmirror as I watched the faces of people light up when a car door open upward instead of outward. I half expected Justin Timberlake to start singing alongside a robot engineered to mirror his (impeccable) dance moves. We have this obsession with individualism that seriously baffles me, and frankly, I think it is an obsession that has some seriously dangerous consequences. When we glorify a single person for feats that are actually massive groups of people working together to solve a problem (e.g. how to remake Back to the Future via electric car, or more urgently, how to deal with our energy crisis), we create unrealistic expections of our selves and others and that is how we get into the insane thinking that billionaires can right income inequality. It’s all connected and at some point, it will naturally reach a breaking point. I just hope that it does not resemble too closely a Netflix special…

There’s a question that was posed to me after becoming a Gates Scholar has always stuck with me and that is massively applicable here: ‘Are philanthropists generous or simply doing the minimum of what should be expected of someone in their shoes?’ Sometimes it really can be glorified greed and as the article so deftly articulated, ‘It’s money flows to its donor’s priorities, not society’s needs.’

It certainly makes you rethink how the world works…

Love ya lots,

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