An online journal of politics, policy, and society with a special focus on Maryland -- Contact: on_background at yahoo.com.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Your Money is Not Enough

Your donations alone do not and can not change the direction of the country. It is not the average supporter of $10, $25, or even $50 that enables movements for social change, environmental justice, civil liberties and civil rights to succeed. The startling thing you learn when you really get into the thick of liberal advocacy, is how dependent progress really is on those it claims to be against.

If you take a hard look at the financial disclosure documents of the great nonprofit champions of the causes you support, those who battle racism, sexism, poverty, pollution, infringements on your rights, etc. and you'll find that they alternately suckle at the teat of the same corporate behemoths that they are all too often must battle. The most ardent consumer advocates apply for funds from the mercilessly mercantile, the purest enviros take money from current or former polluters of the highest order, and all but the rarest of groups are forced to follow the dollar trail. And those corporate barons, their descendents and inheritors, dictate how those resources are used.

Of course, the organizations we support try to find funds that enable their missions, look for independent and string-free dollars, and have some discretion to do what they feel is best. But as is true in so many areas of human endeavor, those with the money make the rules. Since you and I do not really give that much or use our time to support the causes we believe in, nonprofit agenda-setting organizations must fund their efforts as they can.

Here in America, at least, that means that all too often the advocates of the causes that we passionately believe in must follow the agendas of those who really do not share our beliefs. That means that change will be at the margins. That means that progress will forever be a distant goal.

So if you really feel that we have fundamental rights that should not be infringed upon, that preserving a healthy environment for our children is the moral course, that everyone should have a chance to succeed and no one should starve in the richest country in history, that people should come before profit, or that real change is needed for our society to be just, then you have to do more. We have to join the movement for change, not just send a few dollars each year and then ignore the problems. We have to give a bit more, yes, but not just of our money.

Vital organizations and movements are built through the efforts of volunteer activists who give money, but who also organize, who learn about and vote conscientiously, who spend their money and their time responsibility, who talk to their friends, neighbors, family members, contacts, and political leaders about how best to create the society that we want to live in and want our children to live in.