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Documentary Accuses the World’s Philanthropic Rich and Powerful of Hypocrisy


By Steven Gloss

It’s a matter of some irony, John Steinbeck once observed of the robber barons of the Gilded Age, that they spent the first two-thirds of their lives looting the public only to spend the last third giving the money they stole away. Anand Giridharadas’s documentary, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, takes viewers into the inner sanctums of today’s new gilded age, where the rich and powerful fight for equality and justice any way they can—except any ways that threaten the social order and their position atop it.

Occupy SMA will screen this call to action to elites and everyday citizens alike on May 20 at the Hotel Quinta Loreto TV Room.

Giridharadas’s documentary characterizes the elite as rebranding themselves the saviors of the poor, lavishly rewarding “thought leaders” who redefine “change” in ways that are friendly to them. They constantly seek to do more good, says this film, but never less harm. Why should our most dire problems be solved by the unelected upper crust instead of the public institutions they erode by lobbying and dodging taxes, Giridharadas asks.

These days, the film says, the global financial elite has reinterpreted Andrew Carnegie’s view that it’s good for society when capitalists give something back to the maxim that it’s good for business to do so when the time is right, but not otherwise. It asserts that business has co-opted philanthropy, such that any “world-changing” efforts come with the proviso, “If you really want to change the world, you must rely on the techniques, resources, and personnel of capitalism.”

We now live in an era where philanthropic spending is approaching the level of nonmilitary discretionary spending by our entire federal government. Giridharadas’s conclusion is that the global elite should practice “followership” rather than leadership and simply stay out of the way of those trying to resolve the problems the wealthy often cause and perpetuate. He exposes efforts to “change the world” as hypocritical schemes that often reframe social problems as market problems. Giridharadas argues for less charity with strings attached and more effective government with people working together.

An open discussion follows this screening. Admission is free.


Meeting and Film

Occupy San Miguel presents

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World

Mon, May 20, 1pm

Quinta Loreto Hotel

Loreto 15

TV room




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