Anand Giridharadas @AnandWrites @TIME editor at large. Author of @WinnersTakeAll, THE TRUE AMERICAN, & INDIA CALLING. MSNBC political analyst. @PriyaParker's man. Father. Rhymes with "almond." Nov. 27, 2018 4 min read

This #GivingTuesday, an awareness is rising.

We don't just need more giving. We need less ruthless taking.

We don't just need the rich to do good. We need them to do less harm.

We don't just need the powerful donating. We need them stepping off backs. 

As recently as the last #GivingTuesday, the conversation we had about giving was very different. In this moment of the #techlash, phony billionaire populism, and existential threats to democracy, there is a spreading recognition that giving back is not going to save us.

"Philanthropy is commendable," the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary."

That is the mindset we should bring to #GivingTuesday.

In recent months, I've had the privilege of traversing the country talking to all walks of people about both giving and those circumstances of injustice that necessitate giving.

I want to share some of the highlights in case it’s a conversation that interests or implicates you.

To give better, we have to face certain truths about giving.

For one thing, giving, as currently practiced by the reigning global elite, often serves to enable extreme inequality instead of attacking it: 

When the rich and powerful give back and take up social change, they are seldom content to lurk in the back.

They insist on leading the pursuit of change. They change change. They defang change. They promote the kind of change that doesn't hurt winners. 

Many of the most powerful and monopolistic companies in our time -- like Google and Facebook -- use a language of "changing the world" to consolidate wealth and power, when what the world really needs is for them to have less power. 

Some of our most powerful tech companies use a language of giving and fighting the Man to appear as rebels when in fact they are kings that need to be taxed and regulated more. 

At the heart of this culture is the idea of "doing well by doing good." You can have your cake and give it back, too.

And this culture implants itself early, reaching into college campuses to hijack students' idealism and channel it into big companies: 

As the banks that helped cause the financial crisis have shown, giving is all too often used as a reputation-laundering machine, as this 2007 email from Goldman Sachs reveals: 

Here's the good news: We are increasingly hip to the game. We understand how the rich and powerful use giving to cover up their sins, cling to power, and promote winner-friendly change that doesn't change the system that keeps them on top.

So many shout-outs to so many writers, scholars and actors helping this great rethinking: @robreich, Chiara Cordelli, @BenSoskis, @tompkinsstange, @gendereffect, @davidcallahanIP, @MaribelMorey1, @histphil, @VillanuevaEdgar, and so many others. A new conversation.

Shout-outs to all the secret people I can't name who work within the bellies of the beast -- big tech, big philanthropy, Wall St., corporate America -- and who are woker than you'd think and trying to subvert things inside and think about quitting every day but still haven't yet.

I want to end this by sharing a couple thoughts on #GivingTuesday on how it is possible to give better -- to give in ways that push for a better system, not just some lipstick on this piggish one.

I believe that many who give -- especially the rich and powerful among us -- need to make two pivots:

From "giving back" to "giving up."

And from "crowding government out" to "crowding government in."

Giving back is standing atop a bad system and tossing down scraps. Giving up is fighting to change that system.

Giving back is donating to a charter school. Giving up is fighting to end your rich town's hoarding of its public-school dollars for itself. 

When @JeffBezos announced he was becoming a philanthropist, his approach was squarely in the "giving back" camp.

But if Bezos was willing to give up, not just back, he would donate to those trying to build the worker power whose absence he has exploited. 

Second, pivot from "crowding government out" to "crowding government in." 

One of the often-forgotten elements of an earlier generation of giving, as @BenSoskis and others remind us, was private giving that served as a startup incubator for public government action.

Use giving not to work around government, but to make government better.

Give to organizations like @ProPublica that expose public problems, so that we can act through democracy to solve them. Give to organizations that advocate for equalizing public-school funding. Give to organizations that increase workers' bargaining power to fight for policy.

As you decide whom to give to today, apply the following test, adapted from Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Is this gift making the chains of the powerless more comfortable, or breaking the chains?

Give to foster solutions that are public, democratic, institutional, and universal.

You can follow @AnandWrites.


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