What you can do...

Sep 18 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

Dr Wrasse, a very thoughtful person (and if you're not following him, you're missing), tweeted this in the middle of a convo about Ben Carson:

Aside: The convo started with Carson's view on student debt, the short version of which is (including my reasons for not being able to watch the man talk):

Lots of other discussion followed this, but Dr. Wrasse stayed with me this morning, as I heard this bit on NPR about a new museum The Broad Museum, on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, opens Sunday. Admission is free.in LA. The Broads who made a fortune, invested a lot in art (and yeah, yeah, lots of it went to the 1% of the art world, not to struggling artists, and their money is dirty, etc etc), but they decided to build a building, put the art in it, and make it free to everyone. Its not my taste in art. But I do understand the impulse. I'm not rich, but I did buy art when I lived in Australia. I'm not buying things for value, but because they speak to me. My dear friends, the farmers who have a more precarious existence than a postdoc, once said to me when I hesitated to spend money on art for very first world reasons: "Potnia, if you buy this painting, you will be supporting a whole family. The artist is an aborigine, and her family has a very different sense of money and worth than you do."

But I also try to give away money. Here are things you can do:

DonorsChoose.org is long-standing favorite of Scientopia. Pick a classroom that appeals to you. Lots of science to support. I've often tried to find more local groups, and given directly to them. There are many groups to support women, TG people, other marginalized types. Remember to check in with Charity Navigator to learn about where your money is going.

For the refugee crisis, one of my Jewish friends pointed me to this group:  HIAS, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. They've got a top rating from CN, and are the world's oldest organization to protect refugees. They are working hard on the Syrian Refugee issue, and here is a list of things you can do to help. Not all of them are giving money.

So, I can hear you saying (because I have): but Potnia, I am a grad student/postdoc/junior faculty who earns nothing. Well, actually you don't earn "nothing". You earn less than you would like to earn. I have to pay daycare/commuting/health benefits. Yes, you do. But look at what you earn, and ask yourself, what is 5% of my monthly net income? And how many people in the world live on that? Or less? Are you in grad school or are you in a refugee camp? Do you worry about your thesis or whether your child will be sleeping in the open tonight?

Make what you give a percentage of your income, and if you start now, you will make a difference. On one hand there are lots of rich assholes donors who try to use their money to determine the direction of this country and the world. They give huge amounts of money to idiots who, among other things, don't believe in science and think Dred Scott is the law of the land. We all spend lots of time bitching and moaning about them. But there are also rich (perhaps not so idiotic) people who collect art and donate it and subsidize a museum so everyone can see something different. The Broads are worth billions (plural) and perhaps they will do other things with their money. Perhaps not. But you cannot base your life on what other people do or do not do. You can chose right now to be better than you have been. To acknowledge that if you are doing science, you are in a privileged position. Not every, and probably not most, Malala's get to have an education, get to make the choice to be a scientist.

Dr. Wrasse knows this. Now, you do too.


4 responses so far

  • Cerastes says:

    It's also worth noting, for the truly cash-strapped, that donations of time and work can be even more valuable than cash to some organizations (though this tends to emphasize local concerns); someone has to do the actual implementation, after all.

  • The Broad Museum is precisely about Broad's vision of imposing what he thinks is important on the public. Not just in what art he thinks is important, but how public schools are run, too. Sure, he bought a lot of expensive art for the public to view, but it also comes at the cost of genuine education. If The Broad was just about sharing art with the public, they'd be doing it very differently than how they are:

    For more context on this: http://smallpondscience.com/2015/09/28/educating-the-ignorant-masses-eli-broad-style/

    • potnia theron says:

      Thank you for sharing this perspective. I didn't know about the public school stuff, and I intend to read more.

    • potnia theron says:

      BTW, I am not sure how much he (personally) can be held responsible for the behavior of the Broad Institute (wrt patent issues). I have great respect for Michael Eisen [The @broadinstitute press release on Cpf1 is a masterclass in pettiness https://www.broadinstitute.org/news/7272%5D. But to my perception, this is a different issue than telling one what to think in an art museum.

Leave a Reply