I am a hypocrite.
I know because when people ask me this question – it makes my stomach leap.
So what is a ‘’Good cause?’’ They say.
The truth is I changed my mind.
I used to think nonprofits were the light.
Money was The Root of All Evil, and if we could only stop evil corporations and bad people – we could make a better world.
Upon reflection, these were arbitrary lines.
Why You’re Not a ”Good Cause.”
As far as I can tell, any project larger than a lemonade stand has unintended consequences.
Unintended consequences which may be both infinite and invisible.
That’s enough to give pause (is it not?) before making declarations of moral superiority.
Might not a single unintended consequence, as the cliche goes, cause a hurricane somewhere else?
Who is responsible for the the Soviet starvations of the 20th Century?
Stalin? Or Stalin’s father, who beat his son so mercilessly?
Perhaps it was it a thousand invisible things?
Perhaps – it was a butterfly?
Even the most cut and dry cases of good and bad reveal deep moral ambiguities.
A friend once told me about the minerals required to make the screen on my phone, and how these were mined by slave children in some Hellish African desert. And I thought how strange it was, that I could use that same phone, to find out if it was true.
Child slavery in the one hand; Wikipedia in the other.
Then a third hand appears – the illumination of the paradox itself, and the chance to do something about it.
In the old myths, the most powerful dragon can only be defeated with a mirror.
Is this then, the end of morality. Do I claim to be Beyond Good and Evil?
Putting salt in someone’s lemonde is bad.
Putting cyanide in the water supply is worse.
Poisoning the oceans is worse still.
The question is: what if you accidentally poisoned the oceans, but intentionally put cyanide in someone’s lemonade?
Things can get messy, and as human projects become larger it becomes increasingly infantile to try and jam moral frameworks on top.
When we talk about ‘good causes,’ there is guess-work involved and the rule is humility.
‘’If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
I find myself today, no longer vilifying profit-driven enterprise, and no longer glorifying nonprofits.
I am inspired by the everyday hero. Great and small acts of kindness, bravery and blessing – by mothers and fathers. Soldiers. Teachers. Musicians. Artists. Business people. Farmers.
Everyone, it seems to me, has equal claim to a portion of the ‘’good’’ pie, and they should be judged by nothing more or less than their actions.
And so Ample Earth no longer discriminates based upon an organisation’s legal status.
Our sole stipulation is that the organisation in question exists primarily to positively impact people and planet – over and above profit for profit’s sake.
Perhaps you think I caved?
Perhaps you think I sold out to make money?
But it’s a lot easier to believe you’re a good person when you can point to an external point e.g. ‘’I work for a non-profit’’ than it is to adopt internal, personal responsibility for everything you do.
As I have said elsewhere:
”Ample Earth is designed to leverage the full power of the global video-making community in the shared pursuit of growing the amount of good we can do in the world, and ultimately, the extent to which you benefit from its services will depend upon the collective wisdom of millions of video-makers around the world, whose decision about the worth of your organisation correllates with the extent to which they decide to help you.
Simply put: The greater your mission; the greater your video.”
It seems to me, quite hard to hide, from such a system.
Disagree? What are we missing? Please add your thoughts and comments below: