Monday, June 15, 2009


Tim called today to tell me that the Bill Gates Foundation came by his Salvation Army outpost on Saturday with a glistening new tractor trailer decorated and filled with computers to give away to needy foundations. Tim and I have been biting our nails trying to get internet into his kitchen for our COHR streams - I immediately identified with how cool this could be. 

"They were all set to give us computers and then they told us that they wanted to wait until Monday so they could get better press," Tim said. The SA director in charge of this matter is a young 25 year old guy who was hyperventilating all weekend preparing for today's visit and the press conference that he would have to participate in. 

But the Gates Foundation never came back. No calls, no nothing.

"They must have found someone else to give the computers to," Tim said, an audible smile in his words. The total absurdity of the whole scam. 

I have noticed that when you commit to things the way one does when working for Salvation Army, you develop a sense for savoring the ridiculous that plays out as you try, by any means made possible, to do your work with what the world can give you. People value so much the idea of charity that the government created whole new tax laws to inspire big businesses to buy big busses, load them with computers, and go around looking for all the free press and tax write-offs they can get. Maybe Bill Gates Foundation deserves a better shake than this, but prioritizing their effort based on media coverage makes them open for the shot: Douches! Every rock star has long since known the best press is NEWS! You reach more people and its free. Just ask all the new pr firms popping up that specialize in benefit operations and non-profit operations. 

Even Kind Monitor got some juice out of an idea of making a benefit cd where they decided afterwards (by asking the artists) what organizations to give money to. 

I'm gonna knock my balls around the chinashop here for a minute more ...Tim and I have had many discussions about the ideas of non-profit work. I think that soon the matter is going to have to be held in different regard. Non-profit is, or was, the 8th largest economy in the world. And it is highly unregulated. It has been a haven for people who have abuse tax laws, but it is also a choice for people looking to be creative in their business structuring, a viable means to an end. The problem is that the title "Not for profit" suggests a kind of benevolence, as if the NFP business got certified as official do-gooders and are therefore to be trusted. You're then not just playing with people's money, you are playing with their trust.

In planning Motherlodge, the theater people I spoke with took it as a foregone conclusion that I was or would soon be a non-profit. And no wonder! We would not have what meager theater there is in this world if not for people using the non-profit fundmaking to support their program. No harm in that, but I have to say I am interested in seeing what comes from the independent theater once the effects of the funding dry-up pulls the financial carpet out from under and we see who still can't stop writing, producing, and performing. 

Makes me think of Mike's lyric in "Unreal"

"It's so thoughtful when billionaires are philanthropic
our cultrual landscape might wither and die if not for their help"

I lit a candle so I can fart to the darkness, and this soap box won't be a polarized position. If non-profit big money funding can make possible something as incredible as Shakespeare in Central Park, it won't be hard to get me to kneel before the concept from time to time. I have no axe to grind, really, except with pompous bullshit. I am just curious why a benevolent for-profit business that works to break even don't get the same respect as a lazily conceived concept waiving a 501(C) banner? This is a casualty of unexamined anti-capitalist feelings and an easily abused system called Not For Profit. 

What are we saying about the value of building community when businesses labeled as "community building" are non-profit? I don't know about how it works in Peoria or Illyria, but in Bushwick, a little profit can build community just fine. I guess it just doesn't seem as trust(news)worthy. 


Jim said...

So I used to know this guy who used to hang around Bellarmine and eat at Denny's in the middle of the night and talk about the Passion...is that you?


Ray (drawing by Michael Arthur) said...

lovin' it. :)