“Today & Tomorrow. Azerbaijan in Focus”.-2007.-¹6.-P.4-9

 

Philanthropy: from social pity to corporate social responsibility

 

 Nazim Safarov, Doctor of Philosophy

 

Notes from "Western Notebook"

 

Many years ago I started two travel notebooks, conditionally named "Western" and "Eastern". Every time I take them with myself in business trips. They happen not so frequently, but I try to use them to the best advantage in sense of obtaining new impressions, knowledge or information. And the notebooks help to rec­ollect details seen, little known geographical names or, say, names of corporations. It is quite natural that in the "Western Notebook" I keep the records concerning trips to the West. And looking through it recently, I came across the notes about the poorest American districts, missionaries, about charily and philanthropy, about those who receive assistance and those who help ...

 

Charity and philanthropy are different mat­ters

 

We frequently use two close terms -chari­ty and philanthropy - as synonyms. However, the western tradition of the social assistance and market system itself in prac­tice precisely divided charity and philanthro­py. They began to serve different purposes. But before to stop in detail on their functions, importance and the changes which took place in the West in sphere of charity and philanthropy, I shall note, that the scientific and educational literature of the post-Soviet period still identifies charity and philanthro­py. For example, neither the authors of the known manual for universities entitled "Ethics" (A. Huseynov, R. Apresian "Ethics", M., 2000) could avoid that error.

As is well known, there was no place for charities and philanthropy in the Soviet time. The prevailing ideology did not leave a place to "petit-bourgeois" practice of the charity "humiliating" dignity of the person and undermining the principle: "from everyone according to abilities, to everyone - accord-ing to work". Certainly, indications of "spontaneous" charity took place also dur­ing socialism at the level of separate, volun­tary acts, however, it could not exist as a phenomenon. As to philanthropists whence could they appear from in conditions of the socialist "equalization"? But at market econ­omy it has come to light that there is enough people and organizations ready to charita­ble and philanthropic activities, as well as eager "recipients". From the moral and psy­chological point of view this aspiration is quite understandable. There are many ways in which a person's life may come to have a meaning for him in itself.

In the West the philanthropy has old tra­dition and there is a lot of witnesses of a dis­interested aid not expecting for gratitude, especially, public. Precise distinction, between charity and philanthropy in the modern West consists in that charity is con­sidered as the help, temporarily or for any period facilitating sufferings of the poor lay­ers of the population, but not capable by the definition to solve significant problems. The philanthropy is the activity directed namely at the decision of essential problems. Here lies their basic distinction. If to return on our ground, from this point of view, for example, Z. Tagiyev was sooner a philan­thropist than a patron of the arts (as he is frequently named). So, having created the first school for Muslim girls in the Islamic world in Azerbaijan, he made investments into the solution of problems of female liter­acy, change of the social status of women. His wide public work - construction of the centers of culture, training of the students becoming later statesmen - testifies that he was a deliberate philanthropist. Undoubted­ly, the foundation created by the American magnates Warren Buffett and Bill Gates is a philanthropically oriented unit for it sets as the purpose investment in development of research on struggle against Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and otherincurable diseases.

As a known Latin proverb reads, "tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis" - times change, and we change together with them. Now in the West the philanthropy has become a part of the corporate social responsibility (CSR). The corporate social responsibility means promotion of business providing a steady economic development. But, first of all, it is understood as an achievement of commercial objectives with­in the framework of ethical principles. As a matter of fact, this is a ratio of business and a civil society. Moreover, the corporate social responsibility nowadays is inconceiv­able without philanthropy. Now large com­panies cannot work successfully, if they do not have an action plan in this area. Besides an annual report on business, every year they issue reports on the corporate social responsibility. In relation to them the public opinion encouraging or condemning a cor­poration is formed. But the most interesting is that large companies cannot refuse the corporate social responsibility also by virtue of economic reasons. So, you cannot be list­ed as a company freely selling shares at a stock exchange if you avoid the corporate social responsibility. That is, the very sys­tem of market relations forces you to be engaged in solving social problems, and not just to follow a lucrative interest. The level of development of mutual relations of the society and the market, citizens and busi­ness in developed countries are so nowa­days. We see that now philanthropy is a market category, philanthropic activities are not only voluntary acts any more, but also economic necessity.

 

Good differs from good

 

It is obvious that the West differs from the East much, including, open public debate on the major problems of the society. In this respect the corporate social responsibility, despite of this, apparently, positive sense, is not only a subject of approval, but also of rigid criticism. Here critics are divid­ed into two basic groups: the first considers that corporations have their action field not related to the social responsibility; the sec­ond proceeds from that social programs of corporations are no more than a manipula­tion with public opinion. So, the world famous economist, Nobel Prize Winner Milton Friedman and his supporters (the first group) considered that the task of cor­porations is a maximization of the profit of shareholders within the framework of the current legislation. As to the social responsi­bility, corporations cannot bear this respon­sibility. The second group of critics assumes that with help of CSR large corporations only distract attention of the society from social-ethical problems generated by their activities. First of all, tobacco and oil corpo­rations are among such companies.

Certainly, there is some logic in the points of view given here. Moreover, if to consider CSR from positions of captious morals, it is vulnerable. However, if to look at CSR as at a result of the development of relations "business - a civil society", it is a phenomenon of the positive meaning. Anyway, we see that in the developing countries there is no talk about any corpo­rate social responsibility, business is fre­quently far from social subjects, and the profit outside of legal and moral borders has become a widespread phenomenon. Corporations of the developing countries at the best limit themselves to a holiday distri­bution of the foodstuffs to the poorest layers of the population. That is, in the developed and developing parts of the world both the practice of business dealing, and discus­sions on moral problems of business are at completely different levels. If in the devel­oped countries the question is motives of activities, a level of ethics of corporations, in the developing conversation the point can be generally absence of any ethics and morality in this area.

But not everyone can be engaged in phi­lanthropy in the Wes either the most part of the social assistance is carried out as charity. This activity is also characterized by its orderliness. Here the basic welfare funds and organizations are known and have a corresponding image in the public, a strate­gic development plan, etc. Being in the USA and the European states, you can, for exam­ple, meet active volunteers of the charitable "Salvation Army" with its branches operat­ing everywhere. This organization (the for­mer "Christian Mission") was already creat­ed in 19 century by a monk for the help to the poorest inhabitants of London.

On the post-Soviet space charitable and philanthropic activity have no such ordered character. Here in many respects amateur performance dominates. Moreover, the charitable and philanthropic actions carried out by commercial or state organizations, are not the actions accomplished on the basis of any serious research, or social mon­itoring. How to define, who requires assis­tance more? Why do we help these, instead of others, similar indigents? How to devel­op correct criterion and volumes of material aid? All these questions are solved sponta­neously, without any serious argumenta­tion. But these are technical issues of the rendered assistance.

 

Non-technical issues of "good"

 

During the historical periods before 20 century and the most part of that century charity and philanthropy were not market notions. The assistance to other people was basically rendered from humanistic aspira­tions. In such situation quite a natural ques­tion excited philosophers: "How do the problems which are not mine, become so important that I act, trying to help the needy?"   Arthur   Schopenhauer   argued about it and made very exact following remarks on this point:" How does it become possible that the suffering which not mine, doesn't touch me, nevertheless, is so natural as in other cases only my own, becomes a motive for me, induces me to act? It is pos­sible only due to that I co-feel it, feel it as my own and nevertheless, is not inside me, bit in the other. Thus, it happens so as expressed by Calderon "there is no differ­ence between a show of suffering and the suffering". But it assumes that I got to a cer­tain extent identified with another, and, consequently, for an instant, the difference between "me" and "not me", hence, got can­celed: only then another's circumstances, his needs, his grief, his sufferings become directly mine" (Arthur Schopenhauer "Free Will and Moral" M., "Republic, 1992, p.222, Russian edition)

Albert Schweitzer, the bearer of the European culture who expanded his activi­ties in far French Congo, was such a person. He was called "the monster of mercy" owing to an extreme persistence in the problems of gathering donations for the construction of hospital in that African country. Schweitzer, doctor of philosophy and theology, the musician and expert of Bach, has left Europe for the realization of a humanitarian project and treatment of patients in heavy climatic and sanitary conditions. Volun­teers-doctors worked in his hospital with­out salary, only following the great human­ist's call. Schweitzer's moral paradigm was highly appreciated by the world communi­ty, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and his book "Culture and Ethics" became one of the most readable. Schweitzer preached philosophy of reverence before life, for him, everything that served preser­vation of life was good, and everything destroying it - evil. An important point is that Schweitzer helped people not so much on motives of pity, as according to strong convictions and the realized program of his life. Having moved away from vanity of the European civilization, he did not begin to call for a fundamental change of existence, but only built his existence according to the personal perceptions about it. He just created good according to his perception of good. Sufferings of others became his sufferings.

Probably, the second Schweitzer will not appear for a long time, but there are now many people involved in philanthropy. Though they do not have a special philo­sophical concept on the issue of compas­sionate benefit, but the factor of a good will itself is already a moral factor powerful enough to cause respect of the public. Nowadays both private persons, and organ­izations are engaged in voluntary or not up to the end voluntary philanthropy. And, if the first, as a rule, endow a part of their per­sonal profit on these purposes, the second distribute the help accumulated in corre­sponding funds, formed due to donations from many sources. "Kindness should be quiet" is a natural principle of a social aid going from the heart and sincerity. But in practice motives of philanthropy come to be the most different - moral convictions, a cal­culation that later "it will be rendered", social pity. It can be also of a campaign char­acter or. be made with the purpose of other reward - political, economic, etc. It is stimu­lated also by the fact that in a number of countries businessmen are released from payment of taxes on the sum equal to the spent on charity and philanthropy. Such kind of assistance is often "noisy" and, cer­tainly, newspaper articles, television reports bring their ideological mite in the process of popularizing this or another patron of arts. However, a participation in suffering of another person, as A. Schopenhauer wrote fairly, "should have a moral value, i.e. should be free from egoistic motives and for -this reason to waken in ourselves that inter­nal satisfaction called kindness satisfied, approving conscience"(ibid, p. 221)

 

"Pitfalls" of charity and philanthropy

 

Charity and philanthropy should not discourage, spoil people, at the same time. The habit to receive a small sop (charity) and not trying to make something in order to change own destiny - what can there be better for a person's degradation? The same is related to a hope on philanthropy and to refusal of attempts to take the destiny in own hands. Who visited the USA, for cer­tain, observed that in all cities there are dis­tricts, zones where live the so-called "lower lowers", have-nots. In different years and in various American cities I also observed this picture. Dwellings of these people are untidy and they live really awfully. The social assistance programs enable them "to make ends meet". However, there is to the fore another phenomenon - development of a dependence in these zones. People idly spending the time, slowly sipping beer from a bottleneck or hours playing board games is a rather widespread picture in such places. A part these people cannot work really: some - for the physical reasons, oth­ers - for the social-psychological. The latter appeared in such a situation that there is no wish at all to employ them even for day work owing to mistrust to them. In the American cities on roadsides one can often meet individuals with a poster on the breast: "Work for food". There are also such who could work quite fully. But these peo­ple will give you a hundred arguments for an explanation of their way of life and refusal of activities. The social danger here is in that the similar way of life if it is long in time, forms morally, psychologically dis­abled people, sliding in "the hole" to get out of which is already impossible, though physically, they can be good for any kind of work.

Above I have noted that private persons and social organizations are engaged in phi­lanthropy also. But the policy of the USA carried out in relation to their citizens - the small indigenous groups - can be attributed to the category of "cynical state philanthro­py". Such sort of "philanthropy" is a direct way to a moral-psychological destruction of the rests of native peoples. The "state phi­lanthropy" in relation to the American Indian ethnic group consists in the grants, providing it a living minimum and, thus, forming socially incapacitated people whose destiny has become everyday alco­holism. Trying namely by "a sop" to smooth down the historical guilt before the extermi­nated people, the state finally undermines the viability of this ethnic group. My obser­vation of the stage props Indian reserva­tions in states of Texas, Oklahoma, confirms that the life of the Indians themselves is more similar to stage props. There is nobody living in the reservations -"muse­ums", here for a couple of dollars Indians can show you their dances or be pho­tographed with you for memory. They live in cities, but their life differs distinctly from the life of decent Anglo-Saxons, Afro-Americans and others.

If an individual is capable to work, he should work. Already at the dawn of 20 cen­tury this simple truth was well understood and put into practice by Henry Ford, the well-known manufacturer of cars, for the first time in the world using industrial assembly line. He created conditions for work even to disabled persons. Ford wrote that it was not the charitable mind to which he objected. "God forbid that we ever grow cold toward a human being in need. Human sympathy is too fine...One can name very few great advances that did not have human sympathy behind them. It is in order to help people that every notable service is undertaken. The trouble is that we have seen using this great, fine motive force foe ends too small. If human sympathy prompts us to feed the hungry, why should it not give the larger desire to make hunger in our midst impossible? If we have sympa­thy enough for people to help them to get rid of poverty, surely we ought to have sympathy enough to destroy poverty com­pletely. Expel fear and we can have self-reliance. Charity doesn't exists any more if self-reliance dwells" (See: Henry Ford "My life and work" Kessinger Publishing, 2003, p.296)

I share thoughts of the outstanding busi­nessman: really, it is necessary to wipe out economic reasons leading to a humiliating dependence. Nevertheless, the reality is such that the society of common prosperity remains only a sketch, a certain Utopian social design. Therefore, if the state cannot provide a total employment, and if there are socially vulnerable layers of the population, charity can cease social tension. It is well seen in the case of refugees on the territory of Azerbaijan. In addition to the state help they receive big assistance from various charitable organizations and private per­sons. Due to such combination of support, passions-strain weakens a little among the refugees, for years remaining outside of the lands they left. However, this help, on the one hand, cannot be infinite. And from the other, it does not always appear "free of charge". As Vergilius spoke, "Timeo Danaos Et Dona Ferentes" - "Be afraid of Danaos bringing gifts". "Payment" can be not only financial, but also ideological. It is known that tens of missionary organizations try to spread under cover of humanitarian assis­tance their religious ideas among these peo­ple who fall an easy pray of sectarians because of psychological vulnerability and material deprivations. At that, the point can be both Christian missionaries, and Vahabis. The charitable help on the eve of every possible elections - parliamentary, municipal, deserves even a greater moral condemnation. "Ethical" over any measure candidates for "representatives of the peo­ple" widely use a theme of charity and phi­lanthropy in their pre-election "propaganda sources" with an indication of concrete acts and addressees of such help. It is needless to say what is behind such assistance. Big problems exist also in the so-called informal "charity funds". Points dealing with gather­ing money for such "funds" exist across Azerbaijan in a set of mosques and places of worship. Being uncontrolled by public or government, these points are completely independent both in criterion, and in vol­umes of the help for the needy. Naturally, there arise suspicions in, whether the assis­tance is distributed in general. Here there is, on the one hand, a moral ambiguity of char­itable practice which huddles under a reli­gious "roof", and, on the other, - an obvious presence of the legislative "vacuum" creat­ing a basis for selfish interest in this sphere. Nevertheless, costs of the process should not slay a social role of charity and, especial­ly, philanthropy. The first, certainly, does not resolve social-economic problems and cannot do it in the literal sense of the word, but it is capable to ease the burden. What kind of expectations and claims can there be in relation to the small "screw" of the mech­anism of a social assistance? The case is dif­ferent in philanthropy. It is necessary, as in the West, with development of business to create conditions under which philanthrop­ic activities becomes a necessary part of suc­cessful and large-scale business. But if we rely only on moral motives for solving social problems, we are doomed to failure...