Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Holocaust Gift

The Memory Book 
Holocaust Era Memory Book From Hungary


- Welcome home. How was Europe?
- Fine.
- Enjoy yourself?
- Recovered mostly. How have you been?
- Who cares about me? I've been fine.
- I care about you.
- Why would you care about me?
- I know you.
- And that's enough to care about me?
- When what I know is good.
- Tell me about good. Or better, tell me about gratitude and ingratitude. About this Hedge Fund Guy you spoke to a few times in the park who out of nowhere bought you the ticket to Europe. Do you feel grateful to him?
- No.
- No, you don't. I thought so. Why not? You don't like guys who run hedge funds?
- I don't know him.
- Can't you like him and feel grateful to him for his dropping all that money on you?
- I can't.
- Why not?
- Gratitude is for receiving a gift, not for getting back something that is owed, that is already our own. And what is a gift?
- Something belonging to another is transferred to you.
- Transferred to you for good reason or bad?
- Does it matter?
- Yes.
- You think the Hedge Fund Guy bought you the ticket to Europe for bad reasons. You said you didn't know him. Did he give you his reasons?
- When I was in Europe he made me a business proposition: he'd guarantee to sell for me The Memory Book, my only asset, before I returned to L.A., if in exchange I wrote a mission statement for his hedge fund he could post on his web site.
- Did he sell the book?
- No. Starbucks Coffee advertises that they give the desperately poor farmers who grow their coffee a few cents of the profit from every four dollar coffee they sell. Customers get coffee and give charity at the same time.
- You're against Starbucks giving charity?
- Yes.
- What's wrong with helping people?
- Charity is helping people you don't know or care about. You make no effort to change destructive conditions that you the giver participate in creating and profit from.
- Giving with one hand what is taken back by the other. You thought that the Hedge Fund Guy was doing that to you?
- He wanted to create an image for his fund as the meeting place for elite investors who wanted to do good.
- Drive people into poverty by their speculation and then throw a few pennies at them. He threw you more than a thousand dollars. Doesn't sound like the same thing to me. He must have cared about you.
- He didn't.
- You know that.
- Yes.
- How? So he didn't know or care how you lived. He met you in the park. He knew you could use some help and he helped. He's a busy man who didn't have time to get to know you. He gave charity and you should be grateful. Tell me about the memory book.
- In a minute. Someone grateful wants to make a return for gifts received. The return gift expresses gratitude. Have you thought why this should be?
- It's not a gift if it has to be returned is it?
- So why do we expect the return?
- You tell me.
- The most basic, most important gift you can give a friend is to know him.
- Why is that a gift?
- Because your friend sees you know him. He receives that knowledge that you know him into his own life. It becomes his. And what does he do with it?
- What?
- He returns it to you by knowing you and letting you know he knows you. He recognizes you as good, and in doing this naming of you he gives you the power to name him as good: he is good for you as a friend because he pays attention to and knows you and tells you so. His act of  naming is creative, creates a new thing, creates the you that is known by him to be good, and gives you the power to create a name for him as good.
- Which back and forth can go on endlessly. I say you are good and that gives you the power to say I am good for telling you which gives me the power to say you are good for...
- Exactly. Lovers locked in each other's eyes. Goes on for a while, until the body distracts with its demands.
- And gratitude is like that locking of eyes of lovers?
- Yes. The return is immediate and in a way infinite. It creates a relation. A gift that must be returned at some future time is the opposite, the story of relation begun with the first gift ends with the return gift being given.
- No locking of lovers' eyes for you two. Instead, he made the deal about the memory book, the kind of relation that ends when a return gift is made. Technically speaking, you gave, performed on your promise, and he hasn't; he is in your debt now isn't he? Is he still trying to discharge his obligation, and as you say, end your relationship?
- No. I ended the relation.
- How? Why?
- The memory book. He'd talked of a price for the book, of which he'd receive about half as sales commission. He failed, as I said. I was back in L.A. He asked for a few more days to try. He came up with an offer: at a price of one-tenth we'd talked of, he'd have his mother buy the book from me and then donate it in her name to the L.A. Museum of the Holocaust. Their Executive Director had agreed to provide a receipt his mother could use for a tax deduction.
- You accepted the one-tenth price?
- Yes. Desperate need, as they say.
- Then why didn't the deal go through?
- When you donate something it is treated like lowering your income. If you have to pay 40% tax on your income, and you lower your income by $4,000 from the loss of donating an historical artifact to a museum, you need to pay $1,600 less in tax.
- So to see to it that the transaction cost his mother nothing he offered you one and half thousand and would get a receipt from the Holocaust Museum for $4,000.
- In approximate numbers, yes.
- A typical tax scam. Because of that you said no? All you had to do was get a receipt for the real one thousand six hundred and the fraud, if that is what it was, isn't your problem.
- Is that what you would have done?
- No. I wouldn't take $1,600 for something worth ten times as much.
- And if your situation was so desperate you had to? You mean you'd feel that there was something a little unfriendly going on?
- He gave you charity, gave to you the champion ingrate who has contempt for charity. Now this was business, and he the typical cheating stock speculator. What else did you expect?