Its etymology describes the motive and ambition to aid and to improve the progress and quality of living of others. In practice, philanthropy builds public good, by granting money to numerous causes and by supporting the less fortunate and unprivileged people. Promulgating philanthropy is a socially desirable initiative. From a utilitarian point of view, there are citizens gratified with getting funds for free. The vital query is the reason for which wealthy individuals would experience the “love for humanity” and reward less capable people. Such eagerness to concede the profits of one’s performance derives from society’s propaganda convictions to do so.
Taking as an example American government, when US politicians are elected, they pursue to act in the sympathies of the majority of voters. Given high costs related to the election process, the same leaders have to appeal also to the rich voters to receive financial contributions for their politicking. The politicians must find a precise balance between the rich (who donate the money) and the poor (the majority of who give votes). (Bertrand M., 2018) Manipulation and propaganda are the sole viable means to carry out this aim.
This essay will disclose interconnectedness among societal convictions and philanthropy, a politico-social mean that shapes power through mass manipulation.
From the British documentary entitled “The Century of the Self” of Adam Curtis, one understands about Sigmund Freud, and his nephew Edward Bernays, who revealed how mankind can be manipulated. Freud argued humans have subconscious minds, which hid various impulses and appetites inherited from their animal past (Academy of Ideas, 2017). Thus, by addressing to hidden irrational forces, it is imaginable to manoeuvre people. Bernays further considered that propaganda was unfair only when it spread lies or when it was used for nefarious ends: “if you could use propaganda for war, you could use it for peace”(Freedom in Thought, 2017).
For instance, reporting the potential benefactors that their donations make the State stronger, and better, is a process to appeal to primordial drive for power and dominance. In this way, well-off individuals give up wealth and feel as important and as involved in their country’s prosperity as politicians. Politics made the act of philanthropy a norm, dividing the country between those who have resources to share and those who do not have them. The wealthy figures set the model of patriotism and pour influence from the elite of the hierarchy down on other citizens. They compel the rest of society to “fit in”: to be sincere patriots, people need likewise to respond, volunteering for charitable purposes or serving in the army.
Philanthropy manipulates humans by setting the “norm” that represents what true citizens are presumed to do and what behaviours are normal, honourable and worthy of praise. When such norms are established, it becomes difficult for an average person to confront the status quo without looking unpatriotic or revolutionary.
For instance, claiming that America is waging war in oil-rich regions for reserves would be offensive for Americans who consider that America fights for democracy. This is the case, when billionaire philanthropists and mass media owners, recognise the US foreign policy to act solely for freedom rights. ( Lynn-Jones, Sean M., 2019)
Once philanthropy is set as the criterion of sharing or giving, it involves people to offer up even their viewpoints to fit in. Most times, people are expected to change their assumptions on sensitive matters, when philanthropists think otherwise. Philanthropy thus expresses the power philanthropists have to dictate what is proper and right. Since they previously demonstrated their virtue, commitment, patriotism and character with their giving, their voices are counted as more meaningful, unlike the view of an average citizen.
Manipulation takes place at a cultural level too. Just as Christian beliefs, philanthropy manipulates people with delicate issues such as altruism, and self-worth and trains them to obey and praise the monied men. Just as Jesus gave up his life to preserve humanity, so do philanthropists with their resources to solve societal problems that “sinners” who cannot deal with on their own.
Thus, just like Christians are expected to feel gratitude to Jesus and follow the canons of Christianity, so do non-philanthropists are supposed to respect the rich and powerful people and consider them as examples of nationalism and goodness. In this way, the politicians overthrow the wealthy 1% of the population that leverage to bend policy in their favoured direction.
Overall, philanthropy improves people’s perception of the world, it appeals to primordial desires for control, superiority and dominance, sets the standard of patriotism and goodness, calls for reciprocity and obedience. But philanthropy is not a simple by-product of resources’ inequality. It is a reflection of an economic reality that favours the 1% of the population, taking private profit and converting it into public power. It is the result of a plutocratic bias baked into public policies that structure how philanthropy operates itself.