Thursday, February 10, 2011

Awards for Mer ...? Never Mind,

Roger and I, thanks to an endorsement by Scot McKnight, buy mail order Fair trade coffee beans from Dean's Beans or did in those halcyon days of prosperity. I found this e-mail from Dean's Bean's in my mailbox this morning and wondered what you think:

"I just got off the phone with PBS Biography, a show I have watched since I was a little kid (that's how I learned about the great figures of history when I was young). They called to say they were interested in doing a spot on me and Dean's Beans. I was honored, but I have been here before. So I bluntly asked what it would cost me. They said the same $22,000 "production fee" that they would charge George Bush or anyone else they were working on. I told them that $22,000 would go a lot further doing development work in farming villages or even keeping our prices down here at home. Also, to me, if we are doing something newsworthy, I still believe that newsworthy outfits, be they blogs or national newspapers, will pick it up and report it. We don't pay to play.

This is not the first time this has happened around here, but it is happening with greater frequency. We were approached by Visionaries, another series. That one was $40,000 We have been hit on by a ton of food shows who would feature us if we wanted to pay to play. Similarly, we were awarded the National Republican Council Small Businessman of the Year Award and the Ronald Reagan Gold Medal for Business Freedom several years ago on the promise that we would be big contributors to their cause (I did send $25 as it also got me an invitation to the Inauguration Dinner with then President Bush - if I was willing to fork over an additional $4,000-no dessert at that price - I still have the invitation, which is a pretty cool memento).

More problematic for me are the number of times we have been approached for Green Awards from organizations that want to recognize our achievements in sustainability. Several prominent new organizations supposedly dedicated to sustainability have offered to consider us for an award - for a fee. Even the august United Nations Global Compact, with whom I have worked for about five years, recently offered to put me on a board of top world thought leaders in sustainability - for another $20,000.

I know I might be naive to think in the current ethical climate that recognition for good works should be based on the works themselves, not on the ability of the person or organization to pay. Just call me old fashioned."

I had no idea awards were for sale this way. Did you? I was distressed, especially having just read Margaret Benefiel's moving The Soul of the Leader, about company heads who care about people and principles and prosper as a result. Beyond that, with all the self-examination a Quaker seminary education invites, I have been wondering at my own distrust of ... everything, and I realized that it's not an isolated, pathological paranoia but rooted in the reality that almost everything in this culture these days is commodified, almost everything for sale. An e-mail like the above suggests I am probably still too trusting. I know there is hope, but where, incarnated, outside of the Divine (of course, everything is part of the Divine, but you know what I mean) and prayer, both obviously powerful, is the hope manifesting? What can we do?


Hystery said...

That's just yucky. On a much smaller scale, I was saddened when I was not able to attend a reception for the recipients of a national hall of fame. The recipients were not asked to pay for the honor, but the judges who had given their service and expertise without charge were not allowed to attend to see the results of their work unless they paid. If you had even more money, you could sit with the honorable folks instead of out in the boonies. I did not have the cash so I was not welcome, not even in the commoner seats. What bothered me about this was that the entire idea of the award was to recognize women's service to the world despite barriers of sexism, classism, racism, and other oppressions. The fact that only well-to-do women could afford to attend an event to honor women who have stood up against oppression kind of turned my stomach. I had been proud to assist until I realized that it was just a party for a bunch of bourgeois women celebrating how lovely poor women can be. Too bad there were no poor women present.

Diane said...

Hi Hystery,

It's enough to make you want to scream. The ironies. I can imagine, from past experience, that the people in charge possibly couldn't conceive that someone couldn't pay whatever they charged ... and I have mixed feelings at that sort of cluelessness ... or maybe they just didn't want the great unwashed.