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No More Non-Profits!

We Can Do Better…
We Need a Change in Priorities

by Roy Krantz

I am a happily married 68-year-old male living in what many people describe as a progressive and liberal neighborhood of Boston Massachusetts.

So, why am I so frustrated about the way we Americans treat each other?
Well, I think I’ve figured it out for myself… hopefully this will make sense to others.

Most of my frustration comes from realizing how much opportunity we have to do great things… and that, sadly, we most often choose not to.

For the amount of resources we have in this country, it us absolutely amazing to me that we do as little as we do to fix things everyone agrees needs fixing… yes, they seem like insurmountable tasks sometimes, but they are not.

If we spent just a fraction of the time and money we put towards developing new cell-phone service, or paying our professional athletes… toward curing cancer, or feeding hungry people, we could make amazing strides.

So… why don’t we? That’s not an easy question to answer. Why don’t the faculty in all of our schools challenge their students to ask that question everyday? What would the world be like if everyone woke up in the morning and asked… “What can I do today to make the world a better place?”

OK, OK… beautiful dreamer and all that crap… I hear it all the time. Get a life, my friends tell me…. “You can’t fix everything!” Well, damn it, I can try.

I believe strongly in neighborhood and community… so much so that I am convinced we must start solving the BIG problems by first getting to know our next-door neighbors.

In the 60s & 70s I blamed our Governments for everything… the bad policies, the war, discrimination, the intolerance. May 4, 1970 was a watershed day for me… the realization that our government could kill our own citizens for no logical reason. It was then I realized our government cannot and should not be expected to fix anything.

Thanksgiving day in 1985 I was sitting on my stoop in the south End of Boston. All of a sudden, a college student who couldn’t get home for the holiday shows up with a turkey dinner for my next door neighbor…. Mrs. Moody was 87 at the time… often, my wife and I would chat with her… maybe pick up  a few groceries… anyway… this kid shows up… we passed pleasantries… he went in and had dinner with Mrs. Moody.

So, what’s the big deal? I went in the house and asked my wife…“Why isn’t Mrs. Moody having Thanksgiving dinner with us? Why didn’t we know that her kids weren’t coming this year?”

At that point, I finally understood the bumper sticker I’d seen for years on all those VW busses… “Think Globally, Act Locally.”

It all starts with our next-door neighbors… not our governments.

How did we get so isolated from each other… well I have way too much to say about that to keep your interest right now… but the end result stems from a great lack of civility on our society.

Things are definitely out of whack. Yes, I understand that for capitalism to work well, certain amounts of greed are required. I think we’ve been a little too successful in the capitalism department.

The average American works to make money and more money. That’s the wrong reason. We should work to provide a livelihood, a lifestyle. Most of us agree we have lost sight of what’s important.

The past several decades have seen a major erosion of what used to give us some balance to how we live our lives….

Our educational system has all but collapsed. What was once a strong infrastructure for civility no longer exists.

Churches used to provide strong support for the concept of neighborhood. Sadly, the hypocrisy of religion that goes along with most churches has made real participation difficult for too many of us.

Add to that the major changes in the American family structure and mostly what we have left is a disjointed system of schools trying to do a little of everything, and not doing any of it very well at all.

The major disappointment to me has been our inability as a society to create alternatives to fill the vast voids created with the radical changes in our social fabric…. We have spent far too much time criticizing others for their lack of religion, or wondering why the divorce rate is so high…. Societies change, as they should. We must get better at embracing those changes and helping each other take advantage of them.

I went on the Internet yesterday… I did a Google on “Civil Society” and other similar phrases. There are many, many web sites… most of them defining and explaining and researching… none of them DOING. I found nothing about what people are actually doing to create a more civil society… and most of the sites I visited mostly talked abut the non-profit sector and what it is doing to help us be more civil.

How come whenever we talk about a better quality of life, we talk about non-profits? Why isn’t our “for profit” sector openly concerned about improving quality of life? Oh, I don’t mean that some researcher doesn’t feel that the new product being worked on isn’t going to improve someone’s life, but… you know what I mean. Why is it that “improving the quality of life” is only left up to the visionaries and volunteers?

Yes, I actually have a point to make. All this rambling is leading up to something.

I want to create a structure that will create jobs that create community. I guess in my own funny way, religion aside, I do believe in creation.

We need a new industry in this country… one that figures out how to get the important things in life out of the not-for-profit realm and into mainstream America. Non-profits should be few and far between… only created for short-term fixes until we can catch up and find a right way to make necessary social changes a part of everyday life.

After many frustrating years of trying to find this “miracle industry” by creating projects, starting and closing for-profits as well as non-profits, I am refining my ideas and wish for your input.