About neuroscience and music (mainly classical). Exploring the relationship of music and the brain based on experience of two careers.

May 12, 2013

Charitable Libertarians

by Carl Ellenberger, MD

Like music, “philanthropy” distinguishes humans from other species. Aeschylus coined the word in Prometheus Bound (460 BC). Known for his intelligence, Prometheus “loved” (phil) “humanity" (anthropy). He gave fire (civilization) to the earliest humans who had no culture (and he paid dearly for giving it). With this gift humans became distinguished from other animals by their power to complete their own creation through education and culture. “Philanthropy” is thus, “love of what it is to be human.” 
By the first century BC philanthrôpía was translated into Latin as humanitas, and was understood to be the core of liberal education: the study of humanity, or simply "the humanities," in which the study of music was a part (one of the four sciences of the quadrivium). During the Middle Ages philanthrôpía was superseded by caritas (charity), selfless love, necessary to achieve personal salvation. The Renaissance revived the classical humanitas and it flourished through the 18th century as a central value of the Enlightenment.
In our time “philanthropy” and “charity” tend be used interchangeably, though not everyone would agree. A discussion of the differences -- too long for this post -- might include a definition of “philanthropy” as “good deeds, usually brought about by a monetary gift” or (Wikipedia): "private initiatives, for public good, focusing on quality of life." One definition of “charity” might be, “help for those in need” or (Wikipedia): "relieving the pains of social problems." Such a discussion might necessarily cite the Internal Revenue codes, especially 501(c)3 & 4.

The discussion might also take a wild (right) turn as well. Jane Mayer wrote about the philanthropic Koch brothers, Charles and David (Covert Operations, New Yorker, 2010):
The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against...Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program....“
But wait! The Koch family foundations, among them the Charles G. Koch Charitable (sic) Foundation and the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation, have also generously (albeit on a smaller scale) supported arts, education, and medical research, including the New York State Theater in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (now called the David H. Koch Theater), American Ballet Theater, PBS, the Smithsonian Institution, Deerfield Academy, and the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. At their annual strategy meeting last week at an undisclosed hotel near my winter home in Palm Springs I doubt they discussed arts, education or medical research. I don't know for sure because the hotel was heavily guarded.

I have no idea of the reasons for all the Koch's 'philanthropic' impulses. But the reason I started all this in the first place was to examine what my thoughts might be if a Koch-like opportunity should present to us. I haven't reached a conclusion so I am glad it almost certainly won’t.

We do, of course, appeal to foundations and corporations to help us bridge “the gap” between ticket revenues and expenses. Most arts organizations, including those above, have that gap too, at least since the Esterhazy family disappeared. 

We like to think that bringing people together with musicians and music in rural Pennsylvania is philanthropic, humanitas. Like education and culture, music is indeed a gift to humanity. But it is only a matter of time until we will need a climate-controlled new indoor hall now that CO2 levels have reached 400 parts per million. Glue in violins will soften and pads fall out of oboes in the humid summer heat. Try playing the flute with sweat dripping off your face! 

Maybe our new hall should be Koch Hall.

Our 38th Summer Season opens on July 3 with violinist Sarah Chang.

Flex Tickets are available: 717.361.1508; gretnamusic.org

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