Wednesday, July 01, 2015


the great lie is that it is "Civilization", it's not civilized. It's been the most blood thirsty...brutalizing system ever imposed upon this planet...that is not civilization, that's the great lie...or if it does represent civilization, and if that's truly what civilization is, then the great lie is that civilization is good for us" John Trudell, on Western Civilization (in "Trudell" documentary by Heather Rae, 2006)

John Trudell was making an important point about the effectiveness of a bias when it is built right into the language. Bias embedded in language is that much harder to overcome because you need language to be able to describe the problem.

My favorite illustration? A riddle: A father and daughter are in a car accident. The father is killed and the daughter taken to the hospital. The surgeon looks at the girl and says "I can not operate on her, she is my daughter"! How can this be? (answer at bottom of post)

Why was I thinking about the intersection of linguistics and belief today? And how, oh how, am I going to segue to nonprofit financial management? Simple. I came across an online quiz: the CFO Fitness Quiz: Are You Tough Enough for the Caring Sector? on the Bridgestar website (you have to sign up, but it's free and really worth it).

Until that moment I had not thought about the juxtaposition and contradictions inherent in personality type and industry. The questions hidden in the question are these: is the nonprofit sector an easy to manage industry? does working for a caring profession imply you are a kind person? are kind people necessarily competent?

Our industry has long had to be defensive on that last point. The underbelly of the nonprofit world. If we're here because we are caring, are we also here because no one else wanted us? Have we perpetuated the problem by hiring for heart and not skill?

This issue is, of course, tied to our fears about the coming "leadership crisis" (and I don't really believe there will be one). The truth is, our industry has done a lot of growing up. Our pay scales don't always look low to me anymore; our talent is (sometimes) formidable; we mission and vision with the best of 'em; we invest in training and marketing; and we account for our dollars as good (or even far better) than our for profit equivalents.

Answer: The solution, of course, is that the surgeon is a woman.

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