Zuckerberg: The Righteous Rebel of Modern Philanthropy

The philanthropic mobilization following the Notre Dame inferno, once again proved that nothing brings the world closer together better than a tragedy — But Zuckerberg is slowly changing that.

Photo by Tom Parsons on Unsplash

We witnessed it in 9/11, and again in the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. We see it following every terror attack across the world, and we see it today with the Notre Dame blaze — Tragedy unites us.

Well, as long as its solution is relatively simple to overhaul, that is.

In a world full of misfortunes, it is always heartwarming to witness the citizens of planet earth come together to support one cause. While such efforts should never be disregarded, it is just as important to note that these sporadic gestures don’t exactly provide long-lasting solutions and are nothing more than a quick-fix, at best.

More often than not, tragedies (just as deserving of our attention, mind you) tend to go unnoticed. Contrary to popular belief, however, it’s not because we don’t care — And it’s also not because people are self-centered, and only care about cinematic or picturesque causes. Not at all.

In my opinion, tragedies such as the Notre Dame fires, receive more attention for one main reason: They‘re easily fixed with money.

Tragedies that are more complicated, and require greater time, effort and sometimes resources, often get pushed to the sidelines, presumably because they can’t be solved with a quick solution. Some tragedies start off as seemingly simple to solve with money and later prove more difficult. It is then that we lose interest in them and move on to other, “simpler” tragedies . That is, we no longer take the time to address issues from beginning to end.

And who can blame us? We’ve practically lost the ability to delay gratification. We want things to happen here and now. We want everything to happen fast and tend to assume that anything that takes more time than expected, can’t be done.

Unfortunately for us, change doesn’t happen overnight and it seems that many respectable personas worldwide have forgotten this small fact — Except Zuckerberg.

When his various contenders like to throw a big cheque to a variety of favored causes, Zuckerberg prefers to look the fire in the eye. No matter how painful the journey is, Zuckerberg is powering through the endless criticism (in the form of bad press and governmental hearings) and continues to move forward despite the many obstacles in his way. He follows his truth, and isn’t quick to conform… Kind of reminds me of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

Zuckerberg persistently attempts to answer the difficult questions, and sets to solve difficult problems such as, “curing all diseases in our children’s’ lifetime.” He doesn’t have an answer for everything, and despite his seemingly “cop-out answers” during publicized hearings/events, I still think he’s more of a philanthropist than many of those claiming to be — at least when considering the root of the term.

The Origins of Philanthropy

Philanthropy at its base translates to “Love of humanity”. Nevertheless, just as with anything else, it too has undergone a series of modifications and most individuals would typically understand it as something along the lines of grants/donations towards a greater cause.

Nonetheless, modern philanthropy can also have negative repercussions, most of which tend to go unnoticed. In his latest book, “Just Giving Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better”, Professor Rob Reich of Stanford University, states:

“Though we may laud wealthy individuals who give away their money for society’s benefit, Just Giving shows how such generosity not only isn’t the unassailable good we think it to be but might also undermine democratic values and set back aspirations of justice… Big philanthropy is often an exercise of power, the conversion of private assets into public influence. And it is a form of power that is largely unaccountable, often perpetual, and lavishly tax-advantaged… Charity, it turns out, does surprisingly little to provide for those in need and sometimes worsens inequality.”

I agree, and this is also apparent when analyzing the latest events of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Case of Notre Dame

Photo by Rohan Reddy on Unsplash

Following the tragic Notre Dame blaze, billionaires and other multinational corporations were quick to declare that they were going to be donating billions of dollars toward mending the Notre Dame Cathedral. While there are plenty of other worthy causes, the Notre Dame, a highly religious symbol of the world, received top priority.

Though amending this supreme religious symbol may also be a rightful testament toward an iconic world-structure, I still think it’s an easy fix in comparison to other tragedies of similar nature. I also think it makes perfect sense that there would be plenty of individuals and corporations that would be quick to reap the benefits.

I mean, think about how great such a fix would look on a billionaire’s resume/Wiki page:

Significantly contributed towards the mending of the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral.

How great does that sound? And at such a great price, too! After a few short years (relatively speaking), once the establishment will have been restored to its previous state, the billionaires will always have something to show for their efforts (if writing a big cheque can even be constituted as effort, that is).

“Curing all diseases in our children’s lifetime” or “Bringing the world closer together” on the other hand? That’s not exactly empirical. It’s just wishful thinking, is what it is. Moreover, such challenges don’t have a distinct finish line, nor are they an easy fix… But such factors aren’t stopping Zuckerberg from trying to change the world.

Unlike his fellow world influencers, Zuckerberg doesn’t aim to change the world by earning his estate from luxury goods, such as LVMH, and then dishing out some of the funds to mend an iconic religious structure. Instead, he changes the world by dedicating his entire product, time, and endeavors to the mission. Like it or not, Zuckerberg is changing the world — Debatably, better than many others.

Zuckerberg, the Righteous Rebel

Against all odds, Zuckerberg continues to look the fire in the eye so that humanity can continue to prosper. In a 2017 interview, Zuckerberg stated the following:

“I think the core operation of what you do should be aimed at making the change that you want. A lot of companies do nice things with small parts of their resources. I would hope that our core mission is the main thing we want to accomplish, in that almost all of our resources go toward that … It’s not that people [at Facebook] don’t believe in that, I just think what we are doing in making the world more open and connected, and now hopefully building some of the social infrastructure for a global community — I view that as the mission of Facebook.”

I can’t help but agree, and believe that he’s right to put all of his resources toward making the changes that he wants to see in the world.

That’s love for humanity; that’s philanthropy; and that’s how you change the world.

While many corporations such as Apple and Disney, have declared that they were going to be making a generous donation towards rebuilding the cathedral, Zuckerberg stayed put. That’s not to say he may not contribute in the future, but judging by his past statements and undertakings, it would be out of character if he did.

I know I sound like a fangirl here, but worry not, I have my fair share of criticism as well. Nevertheless, there seems to be enough of that out there (a quick Medium/Google search would prove it) and therefore, I chose to pay attention to what most people don’t talk about.

For someone who’s truly working hard to change the world with more than just his wallet, I think we need to give Zuckerberg more credit and even cut him some slack… Or at the very least, give him more time to prove us wrong. Because unlike most of us (or his colleagues, for that matter), he understands that change doesn’t happen overnight. He doesn’t look for a quick fix or short-term solutions; He’s in it for the long run and is willing to power through the hardships — Like a true rebel.

So, rebel on Zuckerberg. I hope you prove us all wrong.