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In the interest of justice, let’s dismantle the “solidarity industry”

In the interest of justice, let’s dismantle the “solidarity industry”

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Published by A.J. MacDonald, Jr.
How is it possible that the noble causes of liberation of oppressed peoples has in some ways taken on the connotations of a business venture that has no regard for ethics? Is there even a danger that it is more sinister than that and we are actually witnessing a devastation of the role of activism into actions that resemble pyramid schemes or cons? A closer look at the matter certainly seems like a good idea. (Mary Rizzo's paper on the necessity of financial accountability within peace and justice organizations, which grew out of her bad experience with con-activist Ken O'Keefe,and his recent Road To Hope convoy to Gaza. O'Keefe appears to have a very duped cult following, despite his obvious financial misdeeds. Rizzo, here, gives us good advice.)
How is it possible that the noble causes of liberation of oppressed peoples has in some ways taken on the connotations of a business venture that has no regard for ethics? Is there even a danger that it is more sinister than that and we are actually witnessing a devastation of the role of activism into actions that resemble pyramid schemes or cons? A closer look at the matter certainly seems like a good idea. (Mary Rizzo's paper on the necessity of financial accountability within peace and justice organizations, which grew out of her bad experience with con-activist Ken O'Keefe,and his recent Road To Hope convoy to Gaza. O'Keefe appears to have a very duped cult following, despite his obvious financial misdeeds. Rizzo, here, gives us good advice.)

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Published by: A.J. MacDonald, Jr. on Oct 22, 2011
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05/12/2014

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In the interest of justice, let’sdismantle the ‘solidarity
 
industry’!
Posted: 08/31/2011 by
Mary Rizzo
in
Grassroots Activism
,
Ideas and Projects
,
Rant / Musings / Discussion
 Tags:
accountabilty
,
 Activism
,
ethics
How is it possible that the noble causes of liberation of oppressed peopleshas in some ways taken on the connotations of abusiness venture that hasno regard for ethics? Is there even a danger thatit is more sinister thanthat and we are actually witnessing a devastationof the role of activisminto actions that resemble pyramid schemes or cons? A closer look at thematter certainly seems like a good idea.There is a subjectof enormous importance in the management of things that are considered to be of “public interest”, be they government, the thirdsector and companies, and that isthe issue of ethics. Ethics has evolvedas such a necessary topic even in private industry and corporate managementthat there is no longer any serious company that has not invested in anapproach that makes them “competitive” even regarding ethical conduct,something that mistakenly has at times been considered only a problem for
In the interest of justice, let 
ʼ   
s dismantle the “solidarity industry” 
 
volunteer or non-profit organisations. On the surface ethics may seemabstract and complicated, and thus ignored by the vast public, (allowingthe violation of ethical standards to become the norm since they are noteven on the table) but ethics are instead really extremely basic and simpleto understand and, it goes without saying, essential.Ethics are not just for philosophy students anymore, they are afundamental component in any fair social contract, and there areparameters that exist to determine whether or not conduct is ethical orunethical, not only for profit-making activities, but for those involvingactivism and in those entities that are NGOs. Since we are involved heavilyin activities “for causes”, we can’t subtract ourselves from scrutinyregarding ethics.For a very long time, based on a perceived need to enhance effectivenessregarding causes and mostly in order to remove the governmental (andthus political) interests from things that are considered “charitable” such asenvironmental and heritage conservation, human and animal rights andglobal poverty issues, hundreds of thousands of groups have emerged (infact, given the tax benefits they obtain while collecting money, there is avirtual explosion of them) and set themselves up to accomplish tasks thatare separate from governmental control and policy. There is the furtheradvantage in this setup in that they can tap into a greater spectrum of thepublic (or even a better one) if they are perceived as removed frommainstream political interests, since many people have come to associatepolitics with special interest groups that seek to obtain power. And again,power itself has the perception as being negative though it is soughtfervently. But remember, it is only someone else’s power that is perceivedas a threat to the common good.These charitable groups and NGOs are often run like businesses, and yet,they depend upon private financing or support from foundations withoutany personal return on investment beyond the image factor in order toadministrate and deliver their services, (development programmes, aid andthe like). Yet, no matter what it is they do, they would cease to existwithout private financing. Usually these services have an aura attached to
In the interest of justice, let 
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s dismantle the “solidarity industry” 
 
them that is positive and as such, they are attributed a further layer of values, and it is only with this intangible item (selling power of the idea/value) which they promote heavily that they obtain the private financingnecessary for their survival. As an entity that requires money and handlesother people’s money, they have to comply with specific standards to beable to operate and also be subject to a different and more favourable taxregime, but they also are expected to adhere to ethical standards thatsupport their mission statement and make whatever is written there astheir primary objective. They are “good guys” after all, we believe they aredoing charity work with our hard-earned money, money which we freelyaccept to donate for someone else’s benefit, thus fulfilling various needs,making us feel better that we “save the world” and concretely obtainingmaterial benefit for those who are the beneficiaries. There is an exchangegoing on that often translates into a kind of symbiotic need for one anotherand there are thousands of charities that hook us once, but otherthousands that have us contributing to them on a regular basis. It can evenbecome an emotional issue and at times we donors identify so deeply withthe charity that we buy their stickers to put on our cars, we promote themin social networks and we even start to use their slogans in our speech. Wedo get a return of sorts from the arrangement, and this is something thecharities tap into as part of their campaigns, since group belonging is atimeless social need and doing good for others is a positive human value.In activism, we can argue back and forth all day about what is ethical andwhat is not, (some might say that the ends justify any means, but otherswill disagree) but to cut to the chase, in this paper we are not dealing withthe vast and interesting subject of ethics, but simply concentrating on theethics in the aspect of activism concerning most specifically an economicagreement, determining what is the core of the relationship between the “charitable organisation” and its “lifeblood”, i.e., its donors, and that can besummarised briefly in adherence to several key parameters. These are notin any way based on abstract principles, because if your bank, which isinterested in making a profit off of your need to obtain liquidity to live onor loans so that you can develop your own projects (personal or collective)is required to fulfil the obligations of ethical standards, how much moreshould a charitable organisation be ready and willing to comply with themin order to obtain your support and money with no personal return on your
In the interest of justice, let 
ʼ   
s dismantle the “solidarity industry” 

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