More Than Money
Issue #11

Embracing Our Power

Table of Contents

“Embracing our Power”

With Dorothy's dog Toto trapped in her basket, that "wicked old witch" Elmira Gultch storms into the kitchen of Auntie Em's Kansas farmhouse. Auntie Em stands firm. "Elmira Gultch!" she snaps. "Just because you own half this county doesn't mean you can own me!"

We looked up from the video (to which our five-year-old son was still glued) with our mouths open. This line from the "Wizard of Oz," which we must have heard a dozen times in childhood, suddenly penetrated in a new way. Of course Elmira Gultch was mean, but we never before realized that she was rich!

Wealthy people in the movies are often villains--vicious, power-hungry, even willing to hurt poor little farm girls like Dorothy in their compulsive quests for control. As with most stereotypes, the image of the rich bad guy has seeds of truth. Unscrupulous rich people dominate and exploit others through the four corners of the earth. Even well-meaning people with wealth at times have unwittingly trampled on the needs and dignity of those with less.

What guidance does this stereotype (and its underlying reality) offer us and our wealthier friends about constructively using the power of our wealth? Not much: it only points out the most blatant forms of what not to be, what not to do. And so many of us recoil from our money, hoping we will never, ever, turn into a Ms. Gultch. But we often remain immobilized because we do not have clear models of how to use our money and power for good.

In this issue of More than Money , we set out to explore the terrain of positive power. We sought to define power that grows out of self-loving confidence rather than the need to prove oneself important; power that respects the wisdom of all people rather than controls out of arrogance; power that creates closeness rather than distance; power that tries to build security for all rather than opulence for a few.

How do people with wealth navigate this barely-mapped terrain? We began, as always, by interviewing people with financial abundance (inherited and earned) about their experience exercising power. Through a variety of arenas--work, philanthropy, relationships, business, politics--we found forward thinking people grappling with tough questions:

  • Can our life's work be not only a way to make money, but a way to share power?
  • How can our philanthropy build bridges instead of resentments between those with more and those with less?
  • Is it possible to cut through the power differences that money too often brings to relationships?

In addition to nine of their stories we have included articles, interviews and resources that amplify the vignette's themes and distill their lessons.

Certainly there are many other sources of power besides money, as Gandhi and other mighty but voluntarily "poor" people vividly demonstrate. Nor does wealth automatically bestow influence. Money alone is neutral, simply a tool for whatever intention we bring to it.

Yet financial surplus is undeniably a source of potential power. The question is, will those of us seeking a more just and sustainable world harness that power for what we believe in? Or will we run from it, afraid and overwhelmed? We hope this issue illuminates some of the questions and pitfalls, and brings us all inspiration to use our money with greater power, humility and respect.

--Anne Slepian and Christopher Mogil, editors


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