Monday, June 15, 2015

Philanthropy

Received the Summer Lapham's Quarterly last week.  This edition is entitled Philanthropy and is broken into three sections; The Ask, The Gift, and The Get.  The contributors range from Cicero to Harry Belafonte, Karl Marx to Bill Gates.  So far, I've only read Lewis Lapham's traditional opening essay and a few others, but I am already excited about this quarterly, already have been thinking about the topic.




Or more precisely, am thinking about this topic again, as, four years ago I composed a letter which I had planned to send to a number of left leaning people of means in hopes of attracting their attention and their largesse.  Unfortunately, I had a hard time finding actual contact information, emails and such, for those I thought might respond, so I only sent a few requests, and received no responses.




The letter is as follows with my phone number starred out for privacy reasons.




Dear


Throughout history, it was common for artists, musicians, writers and philosophers to seek patrons among the wealthy and powerful.  This legacy continues today in the work of both famous and anonymous philanthropists and foundations.  To me, this tradition of selfless giving is one of the most important and critical human endeavor that exists and therefore bestows the highest esteem to one who can be called a philanthropist.


My name is Joe Pugnetti.  I am married, and my wife and I have two children.  We are middle class folks, living in a suburb of Philadelphia.  My oldest child, a boy, just completed his first year in college, and my second child, a girl, is just finishing her sophomore year in high school.  My wife works full time for a local pharmacy chain and teaches fencing (the sport) a few nights a week and on the weekend.  I work full time for the state of Pennsylvania and I deliver newspapers in the morning.


After an early adulthood of travel, journal entries, poems, stories and many, many letters, I have spent most of my adult life NOT writing.


On the first of January, 2010, I lost what was my full time job at the time.  Immediately, I began a blog about the ups, downs and everyday life events of my unemployment experience.  A few of these entries morphed into social and political commentary.  I also contributed a series of “letters to the editor” to my local, once-a-week newspaper.  Fortunately, I was able to upgrade my part time job with the state to full time status within 2 months, so I ended my “unemployment” blog and started anew focusing my writing on current events, opinion, and even a few stories. 


At this point, I now consider myself a writer, and, assuming that one can be called a writer regardless if one’s work is read, I will be writing for the remainder of my life.  I have no grand illusions of my talent but I do know that I have something to say, and that it needs to be said.


My problem is that my mind is filled with ideas, stories and opinions but my time is limited due to the 60+ hours a week required for me to spend on my two jobs.   While I blog about once a week, I know I have material enough in me to blog 2, 3, even 4 times a week.


Hence, this letter.  Would you consider sponsoring me in lieu of having to work my second job?  I am at your mercy in regards to the terms of your philanthropy but hope that it will focus on length, and/or frequency of my increased writing output as opposed to content.  Certainly, I am willing to discuss any requirements you might consider.


I am looking for $10,000 for the year which would replace the earnings of my second job, but I would certainly accept any amount short of that sum.


Please, feel free to peruse my blog so as to gauge both the direction and quality of my writing.  Here is a link for you to easily access it;   http://wurdsfromtheburbs.blogspot.com


Thank you so much for reading this letter to its end and considering my request.  If you wish to contact me in a more personal manner, my home phone is ***-***-****.


Respectfully,


Joe Pugnetti


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Since composing this letter, a number of things have changed.  My son has graduated college while my daughter just finished her 2nd year.  My wife now has a new job with a better salary.  While I no longer deliver newspapers every day, I still work a 2nd job, but now only work 48 hours a week instead of 60.  At this point, $5,000 per year would produce the extra time to blog, although at this point, my hope is that through my writings, an opportunity to "earn" the extra money will result as opposed to receiving money from a patron. 


More importantly, my view of philanthropy and philanthropists has changed since I wrote the above letter, partly from my research into the bureaucratic mentality that seems to control so many established philanthropic organizations, and especially this past week with the arrival of Lapham's Quarterly.  


In his opening essay, Lewis Lapham breaks down the naïve perspective of philanthropy that I expressed in the first paragraph of my letter, detailing the difference between those who give to advance the cause of humanity and those who give for their own glory.  It seems even more stark, when donations for political reasons are examined.  Of course, we donate to candidates that we agree with, but there seems ample evidence that too many of the donations that emanate from the super rich, are motivated to influence candidates, to support those candidates that will pass laws favorable to the interests of those donors, and, even worse, to legally slander those candidates that do not agree with the opinions of the donor, creating a negative opinion not easily countered, and too eagerly accepted by an electorate that spends very little time researching before voting.


Then too, there are innumerable organizations, created under the guise of a non-profit entity, that bestow lavish salaries on their creators or benefactors, yet direct a very small percentage of donations into actual work that most would consider the purview of a charitable organization.  Add to that the "experts" that some of these companies retain on their payroll to advance a cause through the appearance of facts and hard science, without either being present, and it becomes clear that philanthropy has been hijacked by some whose motives are anything but inspired to improve the human condition.


Hopefully, as I continue reading, I will find ample evidence that philanthropy, like all tools created for and by men, can be used for good and bad.  And that, as quoted from Nuruddin Farah, "Every gift has a personality - that of its giver".


 






 

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