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Philanthropy & Responsibility

As I near completion of the very thought provoking book, "Caste" by Isabel Wilkerson, I am drawn back to my earlier thoughts on capitalism, which has played out so unfairly in America. Specifically, as Wilkerson points out, among generations of African-Americans and those seen as other than white.

The fundamentals of capitalism, paired with a strong work ethic, naturally encourage success. However, both must be balanced by a sense of morality and other-oriented responsibility. If so, with that comes a certain joy of generosity. However, if the bottom line becomes singularly profitability, the working class, be they white, black or other, pay the toll. The system can then become toxic!

The core curriculum in my middle degree was focused around philanthropy and resource development. The word philanthropy implies a love for life. Being raised in the Christian faith, generosity was a non-negotiable. This love for life, as I came to know it, was often expressed through mission endeavors and an ever growing plethora of non-profits. The latter were sanctioned, with generosity further encouraged by letters of exemption by the IRS!

America has always seemed quite philanthropic relative to other countries, until one examines the wealth gap in our nation, the numerous pockets of poverty, and worse yet considers the disproportionate global resources consumed by our nation.

This a.m. I am wondering, if rather than a love for life, the vast majority of our generosity is not some moral dilemma that prosperity has presented us with. Rather than the rewards of generosity, we are now oppressed by some subtle, underlying sense of guilt, yes me included. This spiritual dilemma, perhaps long soothed by a modest philanthropy, often directed at under-developed countries, peoples we could not bear to face, if they lived among us.

Yet, within our own country we have neglected our responsibility for a burgeoning underclass, produced by those whom capitalism has left behind.

We have even politicized our prosperity. We welcome leadership prone to power and greed. Themselves providing well masked but known to be temporary solutions. These solution, now more and more burdening the suffering consumer, further assure their deluded power base. Over 400 plus years we have now created a well established economic class and racially based caste system. In the long term that system also disproportionately rewards those willing to participate in our political games.

Meanwhile, the ever diminishing middle class are fed with caution, by way of stories of failed socialist policies; thus we all rationalize away any responsibility for our fellow man, though we daily observe an ever expanding and likely unsustainable growth in the poverty in our uber-prosperous nation.

Again my mind goes back to the stories of a republic in Germany, whose immorality had so cultivated a deadening sense of disregard for humanity among its most prosperous citizens, that they were quick to gather their children inside on days when ash from the crematoriums had begun to cover the flowers, along the picket fences that surrounded their homes.

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