by Kathy Ockert

A wealth of philanthropy

How many steps have most philanthropists walked in the shoes of the poor?

Philanthropy is more about enabling self-sufficiency
Philanthropy

Philanthropy is a strange beast, readily defined, more difficult to ring-fence and impossible to control. Founded upon altruism, it becomes invariably entangled with ideology, politics and ego, all allied with differing degrees of alienation.

Consequently, philanthropy has inherent flaws that lie primarily in how it is controlled by the beliefs of donors, which are usually far removed from reality. How many steps have most philanthropists walked in the shoes of the poor? Can they even begin to relate to their plight?

Warren Buffett has pledged to give away the bulk of his fortune to philanthropic causes. Bill and Melinda Gates are prominent benefactors. In South Africa, Patrice Motsepe has joined the club. Russia has Vladimir Potanin. These individuals are part of a wealthy class of philanthropists who assist causes close to their hearts.

Philanthropy, by definition, goes beyond mere altruism. Ideally, it represents love for fellow people and the environment in which they live. Philanthropy is more than charity; charity is about providing food, philanthropy is more about enabling self-sufficiency.

Modern philanthropy arose in response to public enmity to the excesses of the 'robber barons' of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

The past century has seen political currents ebb and flow, along with the waxing and waning fortunes of the corporate-political oligopoly. Yet, the dawn of the 21st century witnessed a precipitate and unprecedented concentration of assets in the hands of the wealthiest 1% of the global population.

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