Who Will Sponsor Yesterday’s Salad?

December 2, 2007

Living in an ivory tower has few benefits (not the least of which are regular assaults from Elephant-loving protesters. Sigh, where is Quatermain when you need him?), but being behind the times, and thus way ahead of the Times, is one of them. Although this post should probably be written by the Ciceronian, the youthful innocence with which the Times reported this story on philanthropic naming rights deserves immediate commentary from a modernist perspective.

Let us examine the article:

Indeed, from top to bottom the new theater is all but covered in this graffiti of the philanthropic class. Attending a performance can be like leafing through somebody else’s high school yearbook. Who are all these people? Should I know? Should I care? How much would I have to give to get my name on, say, a drinking fountain? And would a urinal be cheaper?

Is there anything new about any of this information such as to deserve mention in a newspaper? Or anything timely to deserve mention in a Zeitung? This wouldn’t have even been worthy of note in Cicero’s journal, The Daily Declaimer. Indeed, as Paul Veyne has shown in his monumental Le pain et le cirque, this type of giving, “euergetism,” was one of the defining characteristics of the ancient world. As Veyne describes it, “[euergetism] always has two characteristics: it is civic, it is to the benefit of the city or of the ensemble of citizens, and it is the deed of a class, that of notables, which gives because it feels superior to the body of the people.” (Source; jstor access required to see beyond the first page). As anyone who has been on the campus of a university in the United States can tell you, euergetism (or euergetisme in French) has long been, and remains a salient feature of our society.

Despite this, it still does not appear to be a word. The OED does not have an entry for euergetism, and, sadly, neither do the hoi polloi over at urbandictionary. The closest the OED comes to “euergetism” is “euectic” a now obsolete word for “that part of Physic which shews how to get a good habit of Body.” Both words come from the Greek. Euectic coming from euektikos, meaning “pertaining to a good habit of body.” Do not be surprised if euectic makes a comeback.

The reasons for the Times‘ anachronicity become clear at the end of the article. The rationale is apparently this episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, “The Anonymous Donor” in which Larry donates a wing to the NRDC only to be overshadowed by the not so anonymous Ted Danson. As Larry succinctly puts it, “You’re either anonymous, or you’re not.” Rather, the article appears to be a stealth critique of Curb:

If anything is likely to curb the enthusiasm of the rich and tasteful for the practice of personal branding in philanthropy, perhaps it is the possibility of being compared to this exuberantly crass fellow.

Is this article really only a belated counter to Alessandra Stanley’s season 6 review? I can’t imagine that Mr. Isherwood really imagins that anyone, even Larry David, is noxious enough (and I like Curb!) to keep people from euergetism. The Times should give its critics a better platform for disagreement than misplaced articles on named coat-checks.

Until next time, we remain Rachel Ray’s Yummo Time-Traveling Salad.

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One Response to “Who Will Sponsor Yesterday’s Salad?”

  1. theciceronian Says:

    Please don’t underestimate Cicero’s journal. Far pettier things are in there, particularly how angry he is that some now defunct blog called him a snitch.


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