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November 25, 2006


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Oh, the humanity! But sadly this wise move comes too late. Gettin' some safe distance from the Dumpster isn't that easy. The damning link is preserved on the mirror's sidebar. Fortunately, the Archive is pretty good about purging their cache of pages, if you ask them to do that.

On the internet, writing is forever. So easy to write, so hard to erase. The only way to rewrite a post is to write the next one and change the flow of the interpretation. I am sure Lucy will reconsider and restore Wealth Bondage to her sidebar. Anyone who specializes in Philanthropic Capital Markets is deep into Wealth Bondage one way or another. Might as well preempt the critics by being "out" about it.

I should never blame a blogger until I've walked a mile in her sensible shoes. Unlike me, Lucy has a daughter to feed and sober, would-be employers who would drop her like a saucerful of bees if they knew she was cavorting with the likes of us.

You are a good man, Mr. Anthropoid. I admire your moral response. My feelings were hurt. Being shunned, and treated like an invisible man, makes me feel like it is all in vain. So, yes, I lashed out blindly. You are right, to consort with the likes of us would indeed be a career limiting move. We have no one to blame but ourselves for our outcast status. We chose the life of the pariah and now we must accept the little slights and snubs that go with it.

We who live in Wealth Bondage should not the be the first to cast stones. As they pretend not to know us, so we each pretend not to know our own selves. Thus are our best impulses self-stifled. Does that not define the state of being in wealth bondage? We are invisible even to ourselves, inaudible, except when we mumble words inoffensive to our customers, clients, colleagues, superiors.

You at least were generous enough to offer her a spot on your blogroll. She long ago banished me from hers, so I, in my pettiness, returned the favor.

We are anathema, Tutor, "doomed offerings." Having once spoken some unflattering, churlish things about our betters, we will now be made to learn our lessons in exile, speaking to the walls of the Dumpster and to one another.

Phil A, thank you, actually this is illuminating and a conversation worth pursuing thoughtfully. We are dramatizing the manners and mores of the "public transcript" in philanthropy. I tried to do that with the Deputy Editor, to enforce, the rules of the public transcript, to coerce the commenters at The World we Want to play by the rules that you, I, Peter, Albert and Lucy know all too well. We have all had to make our personal choices, with personal consequences. The preferred choice, the one with the best payoff matrix is to be upbeat, open, honest, sincere, clear, educated, polite - and to pass over in silence the many, many dirty or inconvenient facts. WB, and Postcards, are a stubborn effort to create a "private transcript" in a public place, bodying forth as best we can what we are debarred upon pain of being ostracized from saying in the public transcript as peers (or ex-peers) of Lucy. Dread of being shunned is what led me to the image of the Dumpster, from there to Diogenes, and then I said to myself - "This is an honorable role, with an ancient and honorable lineage. Screw Lucy, and Peter, and all who swallow the toad to make nice with the wealthy, no matter how filthy is their lucre. There is room for the truth-teller , naked in his barrel or raving on the heath, or wandering about in a masque, or vamping in drag. Who knows, maybe if we are funny and trenchant enough, they will let us back inside as the mummers." When you showed up at Phil A. and Albert at Poscards, it gave me hope and a renewed resolve. When Peter published an essay from the nice Gifthub man, who plays by Lucy-rules, in his The World We Want, and the Happy Tutor showed up in that essay, and Peter still kept the essay, then I felt that maybe we could make this work. But still, we are in the Dumpster. We can slip back inside, but increasingly our sins are an open secret. Lucy upset me as the possible harbinger of a coming chill. Wouldn't it be terrible if the Lucy in all of us won?

I like and admire Lucy, and understand the financial and personal exigencies that determine the choice to "stick to the public transcript." I would hope that if we at WB and Albert at Postcards, and Gayle Roberts at Fundraising for Nonprofits, keep at it, willing to endure personal sacrifice for the public good, then perhaps we can create new norms and a public space where Lucy herself will find it both pleasant and to her advantage to come in a costume and tell us all in parable what she really knows, and really thinks. Here secrets are safe with me, here in the "hush arbor" out behind WB.

(The hush arbor was where Uncle Tom and the other house servants under slavery went with the field slaves to talk things through out of earshot of the master. To the hush arbors we owe the Uncle Remus stories. When the hush arbors are overheard they are razed, since the truths told there, even in folktale or parable are incendiary. Samizdat under the Total Freedom of Russia was another case in point. The truth told openly is doubly insubordinate. Truth is what must not be told, let alone openly, under oppression when oppression writes a public transcript about happy slaves, Freedom, or the rule of the People. When you give the prevailing myth the lie, do it well, do it publicly and when you attract others to it, your work becomes a provocation, and you must be made to pay a price, or the public transcript is in jeopardy and with it the distribution of wealth and power and prestige and honor. - I owe much of this analysis to the terms and insights to James Scott, "Domination and the Arts of Resistance, Hidden Transcripts," Yale University Press 1990.) Scott himself also cites Bakhtin on Carnival.

Lucy, come dance with us, under whatever pseudonym you please. Your mind is too fine to wear the golden chains of Wealth Bondage, 24/7.

Great comment and conversation. I think something similar happened with Lenore. She wanted to engage in the conversation, but the understanding that it is public and unruly commenters who will not be intimidated by the available means made her pull back.

Peter's path is particularly interesting, risking to be friends and even publish the nice man's words even as he lapses into the Tutor's voice, but still carefully playing the moderate role all the way (at least publicly).

Good points, Gerry. Lenore had to pull back because in blogging, as opposed to punditry, the public transcript, the official voice, is so easily questioned and disrupted. We and our comments made it impossible for her to continue without conceding points that would have put her at odds with her funders and their libertarian ideology. We mocked her official voice and her status as a paid spokesperson and captive ideological talent. She was willing to pay others to join her blogging back against us, but they wouldn't do it. I am not sure any amount of money would induce them to fight that losing battle on our ground.

Peter is a far more interesting case. The nice man at gifthub wrote a harmless, Saturday Evening Post kind of essay for Peter, feeding him the stuff he apparently wanted to hear, about democracy and all that, but harmless and idealistic. A song of innocence. Peter accepted the essay, or cowrote it actually, since it was a phone interview, but his voice at the end remarked, "This somehow seems unfinished." That was his final comment in the piece he submitted back to me for approval. Well, it irked me into action; I rose up from the Dumpster, and held Carnival. As far as I know that is the version that will be published.

Peter's own voice is hard to fully discern. He truly loves democracy and philanthropy and the American enterprise system. He started out as the child of a Russian emigre Jew who owned a local store, and grew up hearing his father around the store conversing with all comers about issues of public moment. Peter's life reads (in his own telling of it) like Horatio Alger. He sold pots and pans, then life insurance, then owned a real estate company, then started the Philanthropic Initiative, becoming a friend of some of the Rockefellers and others of that level of prominence. So why shouldn't he be a happy man, and one for whom praise of the system would come naturally? At the same time, he has been an advocate for the poor, and an organizer in the days of Martin Luther King (when of course that was fashionable enough in Boston).

His own hidden or suppressed voice comes through in certain poems or in odd sentences, or in the shifting tones of certain essays. He has night thoughts, and his own night terrors. He has not forgotten his roots, nor can he suppress or embrace them, it seems. He is an arriviste Jew, turned social entrepreneur, poet, and philanthropy maven, and Unitarian, among the Rockefellers and Omidyars and the Wall Street super-money. He is in his own way a contested space, a colloquium of many voices - and above all that is what draws me to him. He is writing the official, indeed the canonical public transcript of philanthropy, one to which the ultra-wealthy are invited and do come. His book, The World We Want, is a feast by and for such people. Yet Tutor is the final voice, upending the Dumpster in the midst of the feast, and Peter is the host.

You tell me what is going on. I think he left the hook off the latch on purpose, but will side with the wealthy when they toss me out. His will be the hand that shuts the door, wishing me goodnight. And his will be the hand that opens the window in the drawing room, or shuts off the burglar alarm, as I appear with the crowbar.

My conversation with him is deep, like sonar between whales. What I write to him goes always unanswered but reappears months or years later, cited or alluded to in an essay or poem or note.

Sleepwalkers - the price of awakening is so great. That is what this conversational thread, about Lucy, is about. The price is high for those on the inside. That is why the official transcript is so polite, empty, and occluded. To rend that discourse, to let into it the voices not just of the funders and advertisers and corporate foundations and the professionals who work with wealth, and the nonprofits who appeal to the wealthy in respectful tones seeking a gift, but also to include voices from the hidden transcript of resentment, of fury, of alienation - is a scandal. Particularly when it is Uncle Tom who convenes the dissenting and insulting Carnival. Lucy stands firm inside the official game. I, Albert and Gayle do as well, but are also defectors-in-semi-secret, who write almost compulsively the hidden transcript of philanthropy, and of the wealthy more generally.

In the interplay of these transcripts, the bidden and forbidden, the dicta and the interdicted, the act and the actors own rebuttal, is the site of real social change, the danger zone, where nothing is predictable.

Peter and Tracy Gary are opening that space for me, if only because I offer them an alibi. Who me? Which one? The nice man who writes of giving or the Happy Tutor who writes of Wealth Bondage? He who is so sincere or he who is duplicitous, riven, and not inspired, but possessed?

When the hidden transcripts of the repressed, the suppressed, the subordinate, the pushed down, the trucklers, salespersons, and wheedlers, the beggars, and the flatters surfaces in public, even just barely within earshot, it is a scandal - best to ignore it, to pass it by in silence, because it would disrupt and ruin the public script.

That is the state of the action as of today. Overheard and met with deafening silence, the discourse of Wealth Bondage continues in the margins of another text, far less intersting, but official and backed by shall we say "real world incentives," whereas WB gets by on nerve, jokes, riddles, and gall. When Uncle Tom is unmasked, what is his real face?

Both Lucy and I work for a community -- the so-called "foundation world" -- that, ironically, believes it is under siege by regulators out to score political points, by media eager to uncover a good scandal, and by critics from within.

Here, as in other domains, alternative procedures must apply during a time of war to preserve ordered liberty.

Yes, Albert, but you should read, as I just have, James Scott. It would buck you up and do you good, as well as help you see the logic of your own writing, and the tradition of which it is an honorable part. You are writing compromised texts as I am, going as far as can be without losing your job, and that is far enough - farther than almost anyone else dares. The compromise formations, like Countess Apraxina, or Sally Wilde, or Enrique the Gay Philosopher, or the more trustworthy speaker of Postcards are survival strategies. "Disguise the messenger or disguise the message," as Scott says. But speak as truly in disguise as the official transcript permits, under the watchful gaze of one's supervisor.

We play both sides in this game, both Uncle Tom and the outspoken slave he suppresses. We train the other slaves in the art of getting along. We could write the Human Resources Manual for the Plantation, in fact I have. So, when we write veiled or compromised texts, with cracks in them, where the hidden shines through as if by mistake, or the voice cracks and another more menacing voice is heard for one split second, we are playing off not against the Censor, but the Censor within. We are dancing with our elite self, the self with the accolades, the positional authority, and deeply ingrained habits of going along to get along in a hierarchy attuned to wealth and power, a hierarchy that always feels itself imperiled and is always closing ranks, in a time of perpetual war against "insurgents," social disorder, and the importunate. We are in/out, on the cusp. Vamping and voguing, and joking at the margins of the game where Lucy and Lenore hold forth with the nice man from gifthub.

"Felicity," wrote Swift, "is the art of being well-deceived, a fool among knaves." Thus the blank and happy faces of our official writing, and of Peter's too, I am afraid. We know more than we let on, the hard part is how and when to say it without losing our position as Uncle Tom.

Here is a familiar rhetorical dilema: I speak truly of the elite frame in which I operate. That truth spoken I am outed and cast aside, tossed into the dumpster. So, Lucy, Lenore and the other figures I can so easily discuss here, and deconstruct, and mock, have power over me too. They are powerless against the critique, but with little effort can demonstrate that I live the same lies they do, live those lies daily, and by outing me as a trouble maker who uses bad language in contravention of propriety, can force me into recanting, apologizing, pulling down my site, or suffering the consequences suffered by an Uncle Tom who snarls at the hand that feeds him.

We can dramatize all this in masquerade. That is our contribution to the common weal. By having it both ways, we can do well by doing good. Why not? Hypocrisy is the least of my sins. Call me two-faced. What an understatement.

So the two frames stand in stymied counterpoint. Wealth Bondage is a stellar critique of the Lucy-World, of the Gifthub World, of the world of the World We Want, but the price of being right is virtually prohibitive. Hence the disquise of both message and messenger.

Albert, I do take your point and appreciate the links re: foundations under siege. The level at which you are writing, however, is not that of muck-racking or scandal mongering, or cheap shots. You are writing as a philosopher, really, trying to square the language games of foundations with the public purposes thereof. As such you are providing even in secret the leadership that might uplift the sector, and bring it through its perils to a brighter future.

Admitting bits and pieces of painful truth into a falsely hunkydory worldview is difficult. Yet, as Jesus said, "The stone the builders rejected, that is the keystone." You are the builder who has wandered off the lot to work on the keystone even as your peers insist propping up an arch that is already collapsing for lack of that stone.

I wonder, Tutor, how pervasive the phenomenon of the "hidden transcript" really is. Do we constantly tell ourselves lies about our country, our families, ourselves? Sometimes the hidden transcript, if revealed, would be shocking and embarrassing. Most times, I'm guessing, it would be far less interesting than the public transcript, and often less interesting than we would like to imagine.

Suppose the hidden transcript were suddenly revealed and acknowledged by all. Suppose we admitted that our present way of doing things has had terrible consequences for Iraqi civilians, for detainees held in secret prisons, for the poor in our own country. Would we then be able to agree on a course of action? Would the cost of revolution appear too high, or would the possibility of change appear too remote, prompting many of us to sink back into our former nescience, into the web of myths that enables us to carry on, some in bad faith, others not?

The hidden transcript strikes me as a term of art, like "Zero" in math, or "truth" or "fact" in philosophy. The hidden transcript by definition cannot be tapped directly. It is the forbidden language, the repressed language, it was what may have been spoken in our absence. The hidden transcript by definition is known only through the traces it leaves on the public transcript, in slave narratives, folklore, the ravings of lunatics recorded in asylums, in the accounts of hysterical illnesses, and moral panics. The hidden transcript is inferred rather than observed. The action is at the margins, between the suppressed and the suppressive. The hidden transcript is inchoate, I suspect, not a text, but a yearning, a dread, a malaise, a miasma. The expression of the hidden transcript in consciousness can be depression, ennui, hopelessness, despair, smoldering fury, introjected rage, a fascination with violence against the self, a stammer, a stutter, an odd fleeting smile, sick jokes, unfunny antics, the wringing of hands. But at the margins of acceptable discourse are prophecy, drama, satire, the scurrilous, gossip, rumor, innuendo, vamping, drag, carnival, clowning around, masquerade, the cabaret, the cross roads, the place out back of work where people go to smoke, the jakes where they write obscenities. The hidden transcript is a riposte, a rejoinder, a half or fully smothered counterstance. It is not in itself a solution any more than is the Unconscious a solution to repression and nuerosis. We heal ourselves by thinking the forbidden into thought at all, by traversing the boundary between reality and fantasy, the forbidden and the required, the polite and and the rude. We recover the unspoken like a Dutchman recovering a polder from the sea, by pumping the waters of oblivion constantly. What we find there will be mud, but the mud can be planted and harvested.

Your work like mine is compulsive, we experience it as something shameful we dare barely acknowledge and must disquise - so precisely have all mad prophets, jesters, and priestesses speaking drugged on the fumes that well up from the crevices at Delphi. The solution is not in the public transcript. We know that. We also know we do not have another ready made transcript. What we have is the courage of our compulsions.

Yes, of course the hidden transcript pervades much of the world. In youth it is often that we just don't know, we haven't learned enough of the world or ourselves to know the truth from the lie. When we grow and mature and if we are lucky to have teachers and friends such as we find by the dumpster, then we finally learn to lift the vale. It's not a game of perfection, but of uncovering layer upon layer and never sighting the bottom.

If/when this conversation is publicly acknowledged, we will have entered another phase of mankind and planet Earth. I have faith that this will happen, probably in our lifetimes or not at all. That doesn't mean it will be finished, just that there will be a new game and a higher level.

"When it is acknowledged" is a fine phrase, Gerry. Now our discourse is homeless. It is a message in disguise from a disguised messenger. Can it ever be other than that and true to the logic of art? Yes, all it requires is a signatory, and unfortunately the Author Function is already dead of mysterious causes, while under the protection of Homeland Security. He is among the Immortals. Meantime, we must fend for ourselves awaiting his Resurrection and Return.

Whatever the hidden transcript turns out to be—zero, asymptote, limit—it might matter less than our ability to love.

The hidden transcript is enacted more so than written; it is the play without footlights, including the rituals of a love that dare not say its name - the love, say, of Jesus. "Transcript" is a funny word, for the hidden dialog since by definition the hidden transcript must be unwritten, over-written, blotted out, or confined to whispers. What is written into the public transcript are distortions, the grimaces, the contortions that the public transcript makes it its efforts to efface, preempt, coopt or censor the hidden transcript that is always already in the Dumpster.

Ah hell, boys, have a chocolate. Everyone deserves a treat now and then.

Well, what is art? I know it when I see it.

Sometimes I dream that I'm talking to birds. Last night a hawk used the word "polyphony" in conversation and I didn't know what it meant, so when I was awake today I looked it up in Wikipedia.

Should have just asked the hawk. They are excellent sources. http://dict.die.net/source/

I wish I could have asked the hawk. I was driving to a shopping mall when the gosh darn hawk landed in a tree by the side of road. I thought it might have lyme disease or something.

Last comment, I meant the real hawk, not the dream one.

'at dang hawk. At it agin:

She was nearly deported from England and public officials charged that she could not talk and take off her clothes at the same time.

This is pure speculmation, but they probably got Karen's chocolate mixed up with Annie's Sprinkles. Typical Brits.


Art of another odor.

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