Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"The Philanthropist" episode 1

Every Center on Philanthropy student's dream starts in one hour: the premier of NBC's new show "The Philanthropist." You won't be disappointed. I'm not much of a t.v. critic, so instead I'll point out some of the philanthropic questions you can mull over while you watch the show. If only this was airing when we were in Gunderman's ethics class! (*oh, maybe we'll discuss it when I take his doctoral seminar this fall!)

Here are a few philanthropic dilemmas you'll see in the pilot:
  • One of the first things Teddy Rist declares in the episode is, "Happiness is the art of living well." What is the relationship between giving and human happiness?
  • How is corporate social responsibility defined and measured? Rist makes a point in noting that his private plane is a hybrid.
  • What is the relationship between profits and corporate giving? How much should corporations give? Is it enough to simply write a check? What's the return on investment?
  • Are Rist's motives altruistic? [They obviously are not, and he recognizes it.]
  • The episode only skims the surface of the problems in getting humanitarian aid to people, including: government corruption, lack of roads and infrastructure, political roadblocks, rebel forces, snake bites, and how to keep vaccines from going bad.

I honestly didn't know much at all about humanitarian aid before I took Professor Lenkowsky's international civil society course this past spring. There's still a lot to know, but I'm sure glad I took that class now. As I was watching the show, David Rieff's book A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis, kept ringing in my mind. His book describes the major obstacles and dilemmas of humanitarianism as he saw it during his time as a journalist in crisis areas.

Rieff says, "When all is said and done, humanitarianism is an impossible enterprise. Here is a saving idea that, in the end, cannot save but only alleviate." (page 83)

We'll have to watch and see how Teddy Rist navigates his philanthropic calling in situations where it's almost impossible to succeed.

1 comment:

SKN said...

Here's another review of the show, from Alan Sepinwall, a critic I read often and how I generally agree with.