Anand Giridharadas: Are Elites Really Making the World a Better Place?

In “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World,” Anand Giridharadas compels us to take a deeper look at elite leaders, their institutions, and their initiatives to make the world a better place. “In the very era in which elites have done so much to help, they have continued to hoard the overwhelming share of progress, the average American’s life has scarcely improved, and virtually all of the nation’s institutions, with the exception of the military, have lost the public’s trust.”

Today’s elites are some of the more socially concerned individuals in history. Yet, according to Giridharadas, while their philanthropic missions may attempt to reform the root causes of unjust systems, many elite initiatives serve only to maintain the very power structures they claim they want to fix. So, who really benefits? To what extent are the elite working to create real progress and systemic change for people and communities?

Anand Giridharadas was a foreign correspondent and columnist for the The New York Times and currently teaches journalism at New York University. He joins us for an in-depth discussion on elite leaders, how their philanthropic efforts preserve the unjust status quo, and how communities might work together to create a more participatory democracy.

 

We have 74 billionaires in San Francisco and 74,000 homeless.

Philanthropy:

  • changes the public conversations
  • how many newspapers have a philanthropy correspondent?

Ask not what you can do for you country, first ask what you’ve done to your country and stop doing what you’ve done.  Let’s stop the bleeding.  (43:20)

Bezos made his money because workers didn’t have bargaining power in the time in which the internet rose.

Jeff Bezos should give money away in a way that can make sure there isn’t another Jeff Bezos.

Google’s maturity will have them accept that they are power, not fighting the power.

There is nothing more dangerous than a Goliath who thinks he’s  a David.  (Google didn’t want to release it).

Lebron James is making small change to a school (a band-aid), and using it as a cudgel against the cancer.

inviting documentary film makers to compare it with a “regular school”

Brené Brown

Listening to shame | Brené Brown (2012)

Vulnerability:
  • Vulnerability is not weakness. It is our most accurate measure of courage.
  • Vulnerability is the birthplace of
    • innovation,
    • creativity, and
    • change.
Shame: has focus on self.  Guilt is focus on behavior.
  1. Shame has two scripts:
    • You are never good enough.
    • Who do you think you are?
  2. Shame is correlated with:
    • addiction,
    • depression,
    • violence,
    • aggression,
    • bullying,
    • suicide,
    • eating disorders.
  3. Shame is organized by gender:
    • For women is not being able to do it all perfectly while never letting them see you sweat.
    • Shame for men is appearing weak.
  4. Shame is fed by
    • secrecy,
    • silence, and
    • judgement.

The antidote to Shame is Empathy.

The power of vulnerability: TEDx Houston (2011)

(Jan 2011) Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.

 

Brené Brown: Create True Belonging and Heal the World with Lewis Howes (2017)

 

Whenever there is not love and belonging there is suffering.

Belonging:

  • Belonging is being part of something bigger than yourself, but belonging is also the courage to stand alone.
  • Belonging never asks us to change who we are.
  • Fitting in can mean betraying yourself if it asks us to change who we are to belong.

Teams and Groups can deliver the illusion of belonging.

If you become so adaptable that the goal of adapting is to make you like me, you betray yourself.

There are two kinds of kids:

  1. Kids who ask for help
  2. Kids who don’t

Lewis: my way was of asking was getting angry, mad, and lashing out, turning fear into rage and ploughing over others

  • In 3rd or 4th grade, Lewis was shamed by getting picked last in a dodgeball game
  • He turned his loss into fuel for athletics, eventually playing football in the NFL.
  • He felt like every loss was an attack on his life because he feared he couldn’t be accepted.
Vulnerability
  • Involves: uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure
  • You can’t be a courageous leader if you aren’t willing to be uncomfortable

The ability to opt-out of talking about Charlottesville and having it “not affect her” is the definition of privilege.

  • Charlottesville is about powerlessness

I can’t imagine a way though the next decade that doesn’t involve dealing with pain. (34 min)

James Baldwin: people hold on to their hate so stubbornly because once they let it go their is nothing but pain.

After a difficult breakup while at college, Lewis took out his rage on the football field.

Every social crisis, almost without exception, is about our inability to deal with our pain:

  • Opioids: physicians
  • Medicated, addicted, in debt, obese.

Our inability to deal with pain and vulnerability is what leads to many problems.

The football team that acknowledges its vulnerabilities will be more successful.

Charlottesville comes down to identity, belonging, and power.

  • This is the concept of “power-over”‘s last stand
  • last stands are violent, desperate
  • nostalgic: “It was so much better when people knew their place”

We can’t solve the next issues with national solutions

 

Vulnerability is not weakness.  It is about the willingness to be seen when you can’t control the outcome.

When you experience shame:
  • Talk to yourself like you talk to someone you love.
  • Talk to someone else: shame can not respond to being spoken

You either own your story or it owns you.

What is Greatness?
  • Greatness is owning your story and loving yourself though that.

 

Brené Brown Shows You How To “Brave the Wilderness” (2017)

(Warning: There is swearing in this video)

 

Dehumanization is not a social justice tool (15 min)

Police-Protester Dichotomy: shaming us for not hating the right people.

I’m not going to let my imperfection move me away from the conversation because its too important

I contributed more than I criticized.

There is a difference between holding people accountable and shame.

Shame is not a strategy.  It will hurt them and you.  Shame begets shame.

Holding people accountable is not as much fun as raging against them.

There should be more tools in your tool bag than shame and coddling. (25 min)

As China Talks Begin, Trump’s Trade Negotiator Tries to Keep President From Wavering

WASHINGTON — In the middle of his crowded dinner in Buenos Aires with President Xi Jinping of China, President Trump leaned across the table, pointed to Robert Lighthizer, the United States trade representative whose skepticism of China runs deep, and declared, “That’s my negotiator!

He then turned to Peter Navarro, his even more hawkish trade adviser, adding, “And that’s my tough guy!” according to aides with knowledge of the exchange.

Now, with talks between China and the United States set to begin this week in Beijing, Mr. Lighthizer, aided by Mr. Navarro, faces the assignment of a lifetime: redefining the trade relationship between the world’s two largest economies by Mr. Trump’s March 2 deadline to reach an agreement.

And he must do it in a way that tilts the balance of power toward the United States. His approach will have significant ramifications for American companies, workers and consumers whose fortunes, whether Mr. Trump likes it or not, are increasingly tied to China.

First, however, Mr. Lighthizer will need to keep a mercurial president from wavering in the face of queasy financial markets, which have suffered their steepest annual decline since 2008. Despite his declaration that trade wars are “easy to win” and his recent boast that he is a “Tariff Man,” Mr. Trump is increasingly eager to reach a deal that will help calm the markets, which he views as a political electrocardiogram of his presidency.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly told his advisers that Mr. Xi is someone with whom he can cut a big deal, according to people who have spoken with the president. On Saturday, Mr. Trump called Mr. Xi to discuss the status of talks, tweeting afterward that good progress was being made. “Deal is moving along very well,” Mr. Trump said.

The administration has tried to force China to change its ways with stiff tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese products, restrictions on Chinese investment in the United States and threats of additional levies on another $267 billion worth of goods. China has responded with its own tit-for-tat tariffs on American goods. But over a steak dinner during the Group of 20 summit meeting in Argentina, Mr. Xi and Mr. Trump agreed to a 90-day truce and to work toward an agreement that Mr. Trump said could lead to “one of the largest deals ever made.”

Mr. Lighthizer — whose top deputy will meet with Chinese officials this week ahead of more high-level talks in February — has played down any differences with Mr. Trump and views his role as ultimately executing the directive of his boss. But the trade representative, who declined to be interviewed, has told friends and associates that he is intent on preventing the president from being talked into accepting “empty promises” like temporary increases in soybean or beef purchases.

Mr. Lighthizer, 71, is pushing for substantive changes, such as forcing China to end its practice of requiring American companies to hand over valuable technology as a condition of doing business there. But after 40 years of dealing with China and watching it dangle promises that do not materialize, Mr. Lighthizer remains deeply skeptical of Beijing and has warned Mr. Trump that the United States may need to exert more pressure through additional tariffs in order to win true concessions.

When Mr. Lighthizer senses that anyone — even Mr. Trump — might be going a little soft on China, he opens a paper-clipped manila folder he totes around and brandishes a single-page, easy-reading chart that lists decades of failed trade negotiations with Beijing, according to administration officials.

Bob’s attitude toward China is very simple. He wants them to surrender,” said William A. Reinsch, a former federal trade official who met him three decades ago when Mr. Lighthizer was a young aide for former Senator Bob Dole of Kansas. “His negotiating strategy is simple too. He basically gives them a list of things he wants them to do and says, ‘Fix it now.’

Mr. Trump’s selection of Mr. Lighthizer last month to lead the talks initially spooked markets, which viewed the China skeptic’s appointment as an ominous sign. It also annoyed Chinese officials, who had been talking with the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, a more moderate voice on trade and the primary point of contact for Liu He, China’s top trade negotiator. Mr. Mnuchin has urged the president to avoid a protracted trade war, even if that entails reaching an interim agreement that leaves some issues unresolved.

Mr. Mnuchin, who attended the G-20 dinner, helped Mr. Trump craft an upbeat assessment declaring the Buenos Aires meeting “highly successful” in the presidential limousine back to the airport, according to a senior administration official.

The disparate views among Mr. Trump’s top trade advisers have prompted sparring — both publicly and behind the scenes.

During an Oval Office meeting with the trade team the fall of 2017, Mr. Lighthizer accused Mr. Mnuchin and Gary D. Cohn, the former National Economic Council director, of bad-mouthing him to free-trade Republican senators.

The argument grew so heated that the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, quickly pulled the combatants into the nearby Roosevelt Room and away from the president, where the argument raged on for a few more minutes, according to two witnesses.

Emily Davis, a spokeswoman for the United States trade representative, disputed the account.

Mr. Lighthizer has since worked to increase his own face time with Mr. Trump. He has joked to colleagues that he has more influence with Mr. Trump during winter months because he is able to hitch a ride on Air Force One during the president’s flights down to Mar-a-Lago, which is several miles from Mr. Lighthizer’s own $2.3 million waterfront condo in Palm Beach, Fla.

He used that access to argue to Mr. Trump that the United States has never had more leverage to extract structural reforms on intellectual property, forced transfer of technology from American companies and cybercrime. But while Mr. Trump has jumped at the chance to claim victory in changing China’s ways, experts say that what Mr. Lighthizer is demanding would require significant shifts in how Beijing’s central government and its manufacturing sector coordinate their activities, and that might simply not be possible in the short term.

“Good luck with that,” Mr. Scissors said.

Those who know Mr. Lighthizer say he will try to force concessions through a combination of pressure tactics, like tariffs, and public condemnation. Mr. Lighthizer — who described his own negotiating style as “knowing where the leverage is” during a 1984 interview — typically presents few specific demands during initial talks while publicly bashing efforts by the other side.

He used that approach during recent talks with Canada and Mexico to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement, criticizing foreign counterparts as intransigent and characterizing complaints by American businesses as pure greed.

Mr. Lighthizer’s unsparing view of China comes, in part, from his childhood in Ashtabula, Ohio, an industrial and shipping town on the Great Lakes hit by the offshoring of steel and chemical production. For much of his career, Mr. Lighthizer was a lonely protectionist voice in a Republican Party dominated by free traders, alternating between jobs in government and a lucrative private law career representing large American corporations like United States Steel in trade cases against China.

Mr. Lighthizer found his way into Mr. Trump’s orbit through his work in the steel industry, where he gained prominence by filing lawsuits accusing Japan and China of dumping metals into the United States, in violation of trade laws. In 2011, Mr. Lighthizer caught Mr. Trump’s eye with an opinion piece in The Washington Times, in which he defended Mr. Trump’s approach to China as consistent with conservative ideology and compared the future president to Republican icons like Ronald Reagan.

Taciturn in public and self-deprecating in private, Mr. Lighthizer sees himself as a serious player on the world stage: Two recent guests to Mr. Lighthizer’s Georgetown townhouse were greeted by the stern visage of their host staring down at them from an oil portrait on the wall.

The trade adviser is guarded around Mr. Trump, often waiting until the end of meetings to make his points and quietly nudging the president away from actions he views as counterproductive, current and former officials said. That was the case in mid-2017 when he cautioned the president against withdrawing unilaterally from the World Trade Organization, adding for emphasis, “And I hate the W.T.O. as much as anybody.”

He does not always get his way. In the wake of a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada this fall, Mr. Lighthizer urged Mr. Trump to consider easing steel and aluminum tariffs on those countries and replacing them with less burdensome quotas. Mr. Trump rejected his plan, according to negotiators from all three countries.

A poker-faced Mr. Lighthizer broke the news to his Mexican and Canadian counterparts by declaring the proposal was inoperative, one of the officials said.

The president also ignored Mr. Lighthizer’s advice in early December when he announced that he intended to begin the six-month process of withdrawing the United States from Nafta in order to pressure House Democrats into passing the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

That threat undermined months of quiet negotiations between Mr. Lighthizer, labor groups and Democrats like Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California to try to win their support for the new trade deal. Mr. Trump has yet to follow through on his threat, and Mr. Lighthizer continues trying to work with Democrats to get the new trade deal approved.

Bob is trying to provide stability and focus in a completely chaotic environment,” Mr. Brown said. “I can’t speak for Bob, but I am certain he is frustrated. How could you not be frustrated as the U.S. trade representative for a president who knows what his gut thinks but hasn’t put much of his brains into trade?