On Philanthrocapitalism – Part Five

At last, the finish line is in sight. Once this mammoth set of blog posts is out of the way I can get back to working my way through a list of things that I have been meaning to write about for some time. This will be the final post on the book Philanthrocapitalism and the topic. I promise.

So, where were we? Towards the end of the book. Chapter 11.

Once again Philanthrocapitalism continues its seduction of the large multinationals with more grovelling to Nike, Shell, Barclays, Pfizer, and Coca-Cola. Walmart is singled out for numerous pages of praise, despite the innumerable criticisms it has faced. Even with the text in the book, the criticisms still far out way the praise. Celebrities are then introduced and afforded a hefty pat on the back themselves. Bono, Angelina Jolie, and Madonna are just some of those who appear.

Continue reading “On Philanthrocapitalism – Part Five”

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On Philanthrocapitalism – Part One

Writing for The Daily Mail in 2008 (says it all really doesn’t it) Richard Branson said: “Entrepreneurs have made the world a better place, taking the risks involved in innovating products and services that make people’s lives easier, better and safer.” A bold, sweeping statement that is not entirely accurate.

Branson’s piece for the newspaper was titled “In defence of capitalism” and is precisely the argument you expect to hear from a man that is worth, according to Forbes’ latest estimate, some $5 billion.

For Branson, capitalism is the answer to the world’s problems. He admits that it may need a few tweaks and changes, but he is insistent that it is only through the pursuit of profit that societies are to improve.

The Virgin boss is just one of a number of billionaires that appear fairly frequently in Philanthrocapitalism: How The Rich Can Save The World. It is a book that I read a few months ago, but did little to convince me that the wealthy are indeed the world’s saviours.

Continue reading “On Philanthrocapitalism – Part One”

Do What You Can For The Life You Can Save

It was in February 2014 that I first heard about Peter Singer’s The Life You Can Save, and I have not looked back since.

I was, unfortunately, stuck at home living with my family in South Wales, in a similar position to many university graduates; hunting for a job, lacking any money, and with no real direction.  Despite the fragile state of my finances at the time, having to rely on Job Seekers Allowance whilst I sought employment, The Life You Can Save (TLYCS) really struck a chord with me, and I took the pledge immediately after I finished reading all the information on the site.

Charitable and voluntary work have always been activities that I have taken great pleasure involving myself in. Following my time in university I embarked on a six-month voluntary placement in Ankara, Turkey, in order to help out at a youth centre. Whilst there I was also able to establish a small aid giving project of my own that helped Syrian refugees who had had their lives devastated by the conflict raging across the border. It was named Do What You Can, which has since become a mantra that I try to follow in whatever I do. Following those experiences I knew that helping others was a duty that I had to perform.

As well as participating in such activities I have always been fascinated by the concepts and theories behind such actions. Why do we do what we do? Is there such a thing as true altruism? I experimented with a few things myself during my time in university, participating in small projects of my own in order to see what was possible. Monthly donations to charities, participating in charity fundraising events, and giving out roses to members of the public on Valentine’s Day free of charge. It was always a case of “what can I do to improve this world?”

No doubt my time in university laid the foundations for the work I was to do later in Turkey and in Syria. The seed had been planted, and as the years progressed it began to sprout and grow. Signing up to TLYCS can be seen as simply the next step in this process.

So, back to 2014. My measly weekly income of £57.35 did not go far, but what little income I did receive, I made sure that I honoured my pledge. 3% of anything that went into my bank account would then be donated to my chosen monthly charities. For a good few months, times were very tough. I was lucky in that I had a caring family who were able to support me through my unemployment, as without them I would have struggled tremendously. Eventually I found a job, and life became slightly easier again.

This job brought with it greater income, and as well as making my life easier, it also meant that my chosen charities were receiving more money from me each month. A true case of “everyone wins.”

As the year progressed, circumstances changed, and big changes occurred. I left the family home in Swansea, Wales, bought a one way ticket to Brighton on the south coast of England, and began to start living the life I wanted to live. A new job soon followed, as did a house with some incredible housemates. By the end of 2014 I had found myself in the most open, liberal, and progressive city in the UK – a place I had fallen in love with when I was at university – and was working in the non-profit sector for a renewable energy charity. (Check us out if you get the chance, we are called Renewable World).

As 2014 came to a close my life was coming along nicely. But more important than how content I was with my own existence was the fact that in the 12 months of that year I had been able to give a total £268.02 to my chosen charities. A figure which doesn’t seem like a lot, but when it represents 3% of my entire earnings for the year, you can understand how difficult my own situation was at times.

For Christmas of that year I requested, and received, a number of books on charitable giving and philanthropy. Once I had looked through these I knew that it was time to progress once again.

Though 3% of my earnings for 2015 would be a higher amount than what was given in the 12 months previously, I didn’t feel it was enough. In the spirit of Do What You Can, I knew there was greater potential to do more. It was for this reason that as well as reaffirming my own pledge I then actively recruited friends of mine to take the pledge themselves. Knowing the tremendous difference that donations can make, and as this personal project was very much related to TLYCS, I chose to call it The Lives We Will Save.

I set about recruiting, and by mid-January I was joined by 7 of my friends. All of them had taken the pledge and had committed to giving 2, 3 or 4% of their monthly income. At the time of writing, the 8 of us have just received our first pay checks of the year, and true to our pledge we have all donated a percentage to the charities listed on TLYCS. The total amount donated in January alone has already surpassed the £200 mark.

This is just the beginning of something that I hope will grow and attract more like-minded people over the next 12 months. Individually I was able to make a small difference by donating my own money, but collectively, as a group, the members of The Lives We Will Save are set to make an even greater difference. By the end of February, the group will have already given away more than I did in the entire 12 months of 2014. As the months pass I hope the group will expand in numbers, with more people coming on board and wanting to be a part of something that truly makes a difference.

As an initiative, TLYCS is truly incredible. It is moral, admirable, and open to absolutely anyone, no matter where they live in the world, and no matter their financial situation. As Singer himself has said, we as humans have a duty to help our fellow man and woman, I aim to dedicate my life to this cause, and if I am able to persuade a few comrades to join me along the way then that is even better.

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