Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A call for humanism instead of philanthropic colonialism and conscience laundering

Picture at left from here

Peter Buffett, son of wealth-making Warren,  has an article in The New York Times critical of the clustering of philanthropy and what it can mean - what he calls philanthropic colonialism.  He tells the tale well.

Philanthropy is great but I really don't understand what we see in Australia with all these personal foundations.  Yet another nail in the coffin provided by the Americanization of Australia ... another form of the colonialism that Peter Buffet critiques?

We have some marvellous, knowledgeable, well-established not-for-profits in this country.  Why can't they be funded by the rich?  If the rich think they have financial skills to offer, suggestions to make, I am sure they would be welcomed.  Or would the n-f-ps say, from their knowledge base, well that's not exactly where the need lies or, perhaps, we have tried what you suggest but found from experience that this is not the way to go.  And then the rich might not like to be told that they're new found ideas are wrong, up the creek.  Buffett discusses this in a way when he describes people wanting to transplant templates as if time, place and culture were identical or didn't matter.  There are none so ignorant as those who think they know it all.

I do hope Buffet and his article get good coverage.  It is worthy of consideration.  You might also hop on the link to his name at the beginning of the article and 'like' his Facebook page.  Most of all, please consider.

What Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates are doing is marvellous.  I suspect that they are self-aware individuals in the philanthropic stakes.  I particularly love the fact that the Gates Foundation has funded mosquito nets - Made in Africa mosquito nets.  This is not a big scientific and medical triumphant style of philanthropy.  This is taking the simple and necessary and making it work - even to the point of providing employment.

The Gates Foundation appears to have a focus on practicality.  This is also evidenced in their relationship with the University of Queensland in relation to a $4 million international collaboration to improve sorghum productivity under drought conditions.  So let's hear it for philanthropy - but not the sort that is filled with self-aggrandizement.  Let's see a philanthropy that is developed on the basis of thoughtfulness as well as human connection with country, environment, and people.  I hope that what we see with thoughtful investment is a burgeoning of ideas, applications, solutions which are so successful that the ideas and the impacts take off to the extent that the name/s of the donor/s become/s are but by-lines in small font.  This then is the sort of stuff that heaven is made of.

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