Sunday, July 09, 2006

Is Bill Gates' philanthropy a PR stunt?

By MARC McDONALD

``Jesus looked up and saw some rich people tossing their gifts into the offering box. He also saw a poor widow putting in two pennies. And he said, `I tell you that this poor woman has put in more than all the others. Everyone else gave what they didn't need. But she is very poor and gave everything she had.'''

---The Bible, Luke 21, verses 1-4, Contemporary English Version

The answer to the question posed by this story's headline is: of course Gates' philanthropy is a PR stunt. If it wasn't, he'd just give the money away anonymously, instead of jetting around the world with his media entourage.

Unlike the fawning mainstream media, I'm not impressed by Gates' decision to give billions to charity.

For years now, Gates has been on a mission to try to polish his image. It's been a huge success, with glowing accounts of his generosity appearing in media outlets worldwide, including a Time magazine "Person of the Year" cover story last year. That's the kind of positive PR that you simply can't buy---of course, unless you're Gates.

This kind of "feel-good" warm and fuzzy adulation certainly can't hurt the image of Microsoft, which many of us with memories longer than the past five years recall as an extraordinarily greedy, ruthless and cut-throat corporation (which is really saying something in Bush's America). And all this positive PR certainly can't hurt during a time when Microsoft's business practices are facing scrutiny by EU antitrust regulators.

But it's important to remember Gates isn't going to sell all his assets and give the money to the poor (which incidentally, is the course of action that Jesus said is the only way a rich person can enter heaven----see Mark 10:21). Gates, who is worth around $50 billion, is giving away billions to charity---but he will still have enormous amounts of money in the bank until the day he dies. More money, in fact, than he could possibly ever spend, even if he made lavish spending a full-time occupation.

I'm sorry, but I really don't see how Gates is "sacrificing" anything. He still gets to lead a life of unbelievable lavish comfort. He still gets to have everything in the world he ever wanted. He still gets to be able to buy, on a whim, anything on earth that he chooses. The money he gives away is the equivalent of you or I dropping a quarter in the charity jar at the local convenience store.

But with this philanthropy/PR stunt, he gets to do all of the above AND have the world's media bowing at his feet, proclaiming him to be a person of good works on a par with Mother Teresa. Basically, Gates gets the gratitude of the whole world for giving away money that he couldn't possibly have ever gotten around to spending in the first place.

It may impress a lot of people, but it wouldn't have impressed Jesus. As the verse quoted at the top of this article shows, Jesus wasn't impressed by the total amount people gave to charity as much as the sacrifice they had to go through to give to charity.

I have a friend who gives to charity all of the time. He probably gives away $5,000 a year. It doesn't sound like much until you consider that he only earns $15,000 a year, doing back-breaking manual labor. To me, that's a real sacrifice, not what Gates is doing: giving away money that he'd never get around to spending anyway.

What's more, across America, and worldwide, there are tens of millions of people who routinely give to charity, both in money and time. Unlike Gates, they have to make a real sacrifice to give to charity. They have to carefully sort through their finances to find enough to donate, in order to have enough money left over to pay for the electric bill and groceries. And, unlike Gates, many of these people choose to donate anonymously. None of their donations and sacrifices will ever be honored by a Time magazine cover story. None of them will bask in the glow of having the entire world bow down to them and tell them how wonderful and generous they are.

On this issue, I agree wholeheartedly with Jesus: the widow who gave her last two pennies is far more worthy of praise than the likes of Gates.

If Gates really wants to impress me, what he needs to do is release his tax returns for the past 20 years. No, I'm not implying that he's cheating on his taxes. But I do think it'd make fascinating reading for working-class Americans to see all the various generous tax loopholes that only rich people get to enjoy in this country.

19 comments:

therichmind said...

Just a few points:

Jesus wore the best clothes and always had what he needed. He wasn't impoverished.

Prosperity is abundant - it is not something which is doled out but is attracted.

However, nowhere does the Bible say that Jesus went around telling everyone to divest themselves of their money and goods. Or criticizing people because they were rich.

And jesus did not commend the woman with the two small coins because she was poor - it was because her motive was pure.

The verse you refer to shows Jesus talking to an individual who allowed his goods etc to get in the way. It was HIS problem - not everyone elses. But was a warning to others. Jesus had quite a number of Rich disciples.

And certainly 'sacrificing yourself' and struggling with money is anti-human.

There is nothing noble, decent or spiritual about poverty and financial struggle.

And I agree with Eric Butterworth who loosely wrote - "The best way to help poor people is not to become on of them."

Anonymous said...

In response to the previous poster: in a word: horsesh*t. You right-wingers have been twisting around the words of Christ and the Bible long enough. Jesus, on a number of occasions, very specifically condemns the wealthy. You can't get much more specific than: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."
Jesus also VERY SPECIFICALLY tells the wealthy young man who asked him what he must do to enter heaven that he must sell everything he has and give the money to the poor. The Bible even specifically mentions that the young rich man departed from Jesus sad and grieving "for he had great possessions." You right-wingers have been twisting the words of Jesus, and the Bible, around long enough to promote your sick extremist agenda. You've been ignoring the words of Jesus and his message of love, peace and forgiveness and instead cherry picking obscure verses in the Bible to try to defend your hatred of gays, etc. I urge everyone to ignore the right-wingers' message of hate and instead and read the Bible for themselves and make up their own minds.

Anonymous said...

The Jesus depicted by the first poster sounds ludicrously like the "Supply-Side Jesus" satire in Al Franken's book "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them." Unfortunately, this kind of nonhistory is as pathetic and toxic as it is unintentionally funny -- because so many fools believe it.

therichmind said...

As I wrote before...Jesus didn't condemn anyone just because they were wealthy. He condemned people for their impure motives and not keeping the spirit of the law.

The rich young young ruler provided a warning of what can happen IF they allow wealth and possessions to get in the way. And it is true, having lots of possessions (which I don't want anyway) can be an easy stumbling block.

Which is why Paul later warned rich people not to be high minded but to rest their hope on spiritual things. he didn't tell them to give everything away and live an impoverished life.

A life without distraction is important. But each one is responsible for their own actions.

We can choose our actions, but we can't choose the consequences of those actions.

Helping poor people and giving to poor people is important. Jesus did it with a moneybox. But not at the point of a gun.

God promised Israel much prosperity IF they obeyed him. I can't think of anywhere where God blessed people with poverty.

therichmind said...

One more thing...

I guess you won't be reading 'Atlas Shrugged' anytime soon.

But I've got some good news for you.

Job was said to be 'the greatest of all the Orientals.'

He had....'seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels and five hundred spans of cattle and five hundred she asses, along with a very large body of servants.'

Job 1 v 1 says he was blameless and upright.

And that was with all his riches.

Solomon was probably the richest person who ever lived. God made him rich.

Being materially rich in itself doesn't mean someone has God's blessing - anymore than being poor.

Poor people think differently than rich people. Healthy people think differently than sick people. And happy people think differently than sad people.

The good news is we can make the choice.

Anonymous said...

re:
>>>However, nowhere does the Bible
>>say that Jesus went around
>>telling everyone to divest
>>themselves of their money and
>>goods

Uh, actually, Jesus did exactly that, on several occasions. In Mark 10:21, he told the rich man to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor.
You also claim that Jesus "wore the best clothes and always had what he needed" and wasn't poor.
Where, exactly, are you getting this information from the Bible? Or are you just pulling this info out of your ass?
The fact is, Jesus had no possessions other than the clothes on his back. What's more, he urged others to follow his example and live the way he did. (It was this that has inspired generations of monks and other spiritual people to take vows of poverty).
Look, if you want to get rich and earns lots of money, go ahead----knock yourself out. But do us a favor and don't twist around Christ's words to try to justify your pro-capitalist/screw the poor/Republican/greed-is-good beliefs.

therichmind said...

You sound like a very angry person with a 'hate the rich' mentality.

This is my last post on this subject so I will say it once again....

The rich young ruler had the problem....NOT everyone or every rich person Jesus spoke to.

To earn money a person does not need to 'knock themselves out' as you say. The more people you serve, the more you make. The loess oyu serve, the less you make.

And I'm NOT a republican or political in any way. Even Jesus said his kingdom was no part of this world. I'm neutral on Politics.

By the way...Poor does NOT mean impoverished. Having few belongings is a good thing.

Live well but live simply.

therichmind said...

You sound like a very angry person with a 'hate the rich' mentality.

This is my last post on this subject so I will say it once again....

The rich young ruler had the problem....NOT everyone or every rich person Jesus spoke to.

To earn money a person does not need to 'knock themselves out' as you say. The more people you serve, the more you make. The less you serve, the less you make.

And I'm NOT a republican or political in any way. Even Jesus said his kingdom was no part of this world. I'm neutral on Politics.

By the way...Poor does NOT mean impoverished. Having few belongings is a good thing.

Live well but live simply.

Anonymous said...

re:
>>>You sound like a very angry
>>> person with a 'hate the rich'
>>> mentality.

An angry person? Yes, definitely. Watching Bush methodically destroy America can have that affect on us liberals (particularly when you consider that Bush stole both elections).
Hate the rich? No, I really don't. However, I do get pretty fed up with wealthy people twisting around the words of the Bible.

Just as I get sick and tired of the GOP claiming that THEY are the party of Christianity. All I see from them is hatred and bigotry---a million miles from Christ's message of peace and love.

One thing about the rich, though. They really need to stop stealing from the poor in this nation. Halliburton is only the tip of the iceberg. Corporate welfare amounts to some $300 billion a year. If the rich keep leeching from the rest of us, civil war will surely ensure one of these days.

Anonymous said...

To the poster who calls himself "therichmind:" There are 2 words you should look up:

Smug: (Sense 2, Webster's Unabridged) narrowly contented with one's own accomplishments, beliefs, morality, etc.; self-satisfied; complacent.

Solipsism: in philosophy (a) the theory that the self can be aware of nothing but its own experience and states; (b) the theory that nothing exists or is real but the self.

I think, between the two, we have a thorough and direct description of the disciples of Ayn Rand and her silly-ass "objectivist" philosophy. These are people who never actually had to work a factory line, get injured in a haphazard industrial accident, be exploited for years by some amoral boss, try to figure out how to pay next semester's tuition at college when you're holding down a real job, etc., etc., etc. Plus, Ayn Rand had supreme disdain for Christianity. Why in the world would you even bring her up, when you are trying to make some kind of silly, misguided point about Christ? You, sir, are a consummate fool. But I suppose that, ultimately, that really isn't your fault. Somebody got to you in some asinine way, very early. By the way, I'm the poster who compared your silly depiction of Jesus to the Al Franken satire. The resemblance would be funny if it weren't so frightening and imbecilic.

therichmind said...

Not only are you angry but you make personal and rude attacks.

Get a grip on yourself and start to take responsibility for your life.

James Allen in Asamanthinketh wrote: >>A strong man cannot help a weaker unless that weaker is willing to be helped, and even then the weak man must be strong of himself; he must, by his own efforts, develop the strength which he admires in another. None but himself can alter his condition.<<

As Randy Gage wrote: >>people who allow others to steal their freedom have serious issues of prosperity consciousness<<

>>So, rich people who are sick, bitter and lonely are certainly not prosperous. By the same token, however, if you are healthy, spiritually grounded, have a great marriage, but struggle to pay your credit cards each month—you are certainly not prosperous either. And most certainly not experiencing the spiritual harmony your Creator is offering you<<

An article well worth reading... http://www.randygage.com/artman/publish/article_47.shtml

May You Be Prosperous!

Anonymous said...

One more post for "therichmind". It's me, who compared your first posting to the Al Franken satire.

Responsibility for my life? Are you frigging nuts? When did I ever have a choice? You have no idea, sir. Being born in a situation in which my father had a terminal brain disease, and my mother was, in a more conventional way, mentally ill, and basically unable to function? We were rendered wards of the state. And there I was, a kid with an Mensa-level IQ, trying desperately to go to college? You truly, truly have no idea, sir. You are a smug fool. There are people who are forced to live lives of incredible desperation, and you are clearly clueless. And then you wonder why there are people out there who are genuinely offended by this self-satisfaction that you offer as some kind of philosophy? I really do not wish you ill, and I sincerely hope that an epipheny of some sort is in your future. But clearly, you have led a sheltered life, and it has condemned you to a fool's paradise.

Anonymous said...

A POSTSCRIPT: By the way, despite such oppressive conditions, I made a few good "choices." Thanks in part to the far more adequate financial aid that was available before the GOP started gutting it, I earned two university degrees and have become fairly successful in a profession. I am not rich, but am no longer poor. (Bill Gates was shocked, shocked to discover that two-thirds of the world's people are poor. They are usually born that way.) Along the way I found that in order to pull oneself up by one's bootstraps, one must have boots first. There are circumstances in which people have no such hope. Open your eyes and behold them. And in many cases, their plight was imposed upon them by organized thieves who magically "attracted" wealth.

Anonymous said...

The point is not to decrease HIV-infections but to increase them. And HIV is a CIA lab created virus.The whole world's population 4 billion thirsty people could get water for (what was it ) 5 billion dollars. But nah, that's not a problem. Gates doesn't really donate anything here. He's transferring his taxed 30 something billions into a tax-free foundation. The money has never lost it's owner. Only now no taxes are paid for it. What was it, only the super-rich like Ford's and Rockefellers got foundations, and they're of course tax-free. Thats why they stay rich.
Gates is worried about the HIV-problem. Of course that's doublethink, he's really worried that HIV isn't spreading fast enough. Not enough people are getting infected and that's why the dicease needs to be studied further, and find out why it's performance sucks. And just recently the UN spoke in favor of HIV-tests for all western citizens.
The UN was worried about HIV because HIV-infections were on the DECREASE. Get it? Theyre' only worried that we're not dying fast enough.
Looks like hundreds of millions will be getting HIV. You don't even have to have it, you can get a positive test anyway. Then you buy the 'cure' from a corporation that's sponsored by the Gates foundation. And then the treatment kill you. Some of the money 'mercifully' goes into "treatment" which really does the killing, not the dicease.

therichmind said...

Thank you for yor points. All of which are valid.

I am not yet rich or smug as you might think. But even in our better moments, a human part of us still exists.

A few years ago I was in Bogota Colombia and saw a young boy lying in a doorway filthy. To this day, I don't know if that boy is still alive. Tears come to my eyes thinking about it. I regret not doing anything at the time. The poverty was way below anything I'd ever seen.

When I can, I plan to go back there and do what I can within my means to personally help those individuals can.

I will make a point of looking for a child and helping them.

Anonymous said...

To therichmind: I know I was much too rough in making these points. There is an anger that people, those who have seen certain circumstances, can end up carrying through life. It is indeed important for a person to be industrious and responsible, and I almost managed to become an example of this. But -- almost. Some people at the top of the heap, who generally have no idea what people like me were up against, would regard me as just one more middle-class also-ran.
I apologize that I attacked you so harshly.

Anonymous said...

bill gates doesnt need PR maybe he wants to be an exemple for other rich people(an million donations from poor people is equal one rich donation) and maybe he wants the world to see where the real problems are -heś word means something all world knows him

Anonymous said...

JUSTICE
NOT
CHARITY


FREE EDUCATION TO phd


living wage

S. Donmann Wisemann said...

well, if Bill Gates is now into philanthropy, it is a good achievement because the Bible says, ''give and it shallbe given to you...'' (luke. 6:38). There might be variuos hinderances like greed from those who may benefit form such philanthropy. But then I want to know if there are any of Bill Gates philanthropic foundations which I can benefit from because I am currently just over-broke!