With Mishana Hosseinioun
Phil-entropy: 'Tis the Season for Misgivings
By Mishana Hosseinioun
December 12, 2005
While it is every other humble soccer mom and CEO's self-proclaimed
moral, if not fiduciary, obligation to 'give back to the community,'
especially around the holiday seasons, philanthropy-in all its
purported altruism-can nevertheless be said to institutionalize
an arguably strategic vicious circle of dependency between the
haves and the have-nots. Instead of minimizing the disparity between
the rich and the poor, as it would logically seem to be doing,
the very act of philanthropic giving simultaneously serves to
provide the aforementioned binary with all the more raison d'être,
and to forever keep the white picket fence between the neighbors
in question freshly painted, so to speak. And as with all cases
of wet paint, this too has long been written off as a sticky subject
not to be touched-so, predictably, it has been left as such.
Paradoxically enough, for every charitable transaction aimed
at closing this wealth gap, there is a reaffirmation of goodness
and integrity on the side of the privileged, the one who gives,
and consequently, an equal and opposite widening of the perceived
moral gulf between the latter class and those deemed less fortunate;
hence a ready-made alibi for the perpetuation of the current hierarchical
world order in which we now find, and occasionally lose, ourselves.
Meanwhile, non-profit organizations seem to be the indentured
servants caught in the web of this kinship structure, evermore
beholden to the lottery of foundation grants and annual benefit
dinners that spell out their uncertain 501(c)(3) fates. Increasingly,
competition over pocketbooks and ripped checks is causing NGOs
to readily work at cross-purposes with those headed essentially
down the same path, and to effectively cancel out each other's
hard-earned sweat and tears. In turn, this contest works to hinder
all organizations uniformly, and thus, in the long term, undermine
their communal goal of realizing the likes of 'world peace,' 'democracy'
and what have we.
The inability, however, on the part of most organizations to
visualize their place within the larger scheme of things and to
carve out a space for sharing, trust, and collaboration accordingly,
is just one symptom of this enduring socio-humanitarian myopia.
Non-profits can hardly be blamed, for after all they are just
as busy as the rest of us, engaged in the mother of all obscurantist
diversions-fundraising-and must not be bothered lest they should
miss the next application deadline.
Mishana Hosseinioun is the Program Director of
International Convention on Human Rights (ICHR), a non-profit
dedicated to drafting a legally enforceable international human
rights document. She is a longstanding intern in Mayor Gavin Newsom's
office in San Francisco and a recent graduate of Rhetoric and
Near Eastern Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.
Email Mishana at Mishana@ichr.org
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