MOLA:42’s Guide to “Noblesse Oblige”
However, this isn’t any soup kitchen; it’s one of the soup kitchens paid for and run by the gangster Al Capone. The grateful citizen sings Mr. Capone’s praises and ends up with a rousing, “Three Cheers for Al Caponey!”
His mates cheer along in a dutiful sort of way.
I used to think to myself, “My God, this man has sold his soul for a bowl of soup.”
Jump ahead in history to when PALCO was going bankrupt.
In the online Times Standard comments a person defended PALCO as a community booster since they gave him $500 for his Little League Baseball team. I thought to myself, “Get real! There is a reason why large corporations call that kind of money, ‘Chump Change.’”
More recently than that I saw a blog comment or two that suggested that since Robin Arkley has given three million dollars locally in charitable contributions (I have no idea how accurate that number is) he should get some kind of a break on the property taxes he owes on various plots of land in Eureka and the nearby county.
My thinking has mellowed somewhat over the years.
The fellow in the soup kitchen may have sold his soul for a bowl of soup… but that bowl of soup wasn’t just a bowl of soup to him; that bowl of soup was his survival.
To the person who praised PALCO for the $500 dollar donation, it was also a huge deal; perhaps the difference between fielding a team of Little Leaguers or no team at all.
That doesn’t change my opinion of contemptuous powerful people taking advantage and buying loyalty for a song.
There is an old concept called “Noblesse Oblige.” In medieval times the peasants owed everything to the Nobles who ran their lives. But there were also obligations a good Noble (I guess there might have been some good Nobles) in turn owed the people under his rule.
Noblesse Oblige gave the Noble a chance to see his peasants pull some forelocks and fawn in gratitude.
Today acts of Noblesse Oblige are usually done with an eye to the bottom line (or for the boost of an ego).
If Al Capone could feed enough people then a lot of pressure would be put on local governments to look the other way when he and his henchmen misbehaved.
If PALCO could sponsor a few baseball teams then perhaps the community would not rise up in arms when it was known the intention of the corporation was to drain a major local lumber company dry of its assets and throw away the shell (after the hefty tax breaks, of course).
Don’t laugh; it worked for quite a few years.
I’m not saying every act of corporate or personal charity is a cynical move to a cynical end. We just have to look at these things with a clearer eye.
So, let us look with a clearer eye at Mr. Arkley’s situation:
The bad news first surfaced (to the best of my knowledge) in the late lamented Humboldt Herald and was followed up by the North Coast Journal back in 2011.
Basically, after years of being the county’s Sugar Daddy, Mr. Arkley fell on rough times when the Great Recession hit. He owes Bank of America a bunch of bucks he either cannot or will not pay. And he owes back taxes on property he owns here (including the fabled “Balloon Tract”).
I don’t know the exact amount of taxes owed, nor have I seen an update since 2012. That information can be found since tax records are public documents; but it’s not as easy as that since Mr. Arkley uses many shell companies to obscure his movements. The Humboldt Herald had to provide a list of the names of Arkley’s shell companies when they published the amounts of back taxes owed two years ago.
Since many of these shell companies were used as collateral for the Bank of America loans it might turn out Bank of America will wind up taking responsibility for those back taxes (which frankly does not titillate my happy thoughts).
I have been mean to Mr. Arkley in the past (not that he noticed or cared). I probably will be mean to him in the future (not that he will notice or care). But I am not entirely heartless: I do hope all the best for Mr. Arkley; it does no one any good to see him in the poor house.
“So,” you may be asking, “Why am I down on a man who gave freely when he was flush with money and is now down on his luck? Isn’t that being a tad ungrateful?”
My answer: No.
Here’s my point: There is a difference between a Gift and an Investment.
In my little world, a Gift is given to another without expectation of getting anything in return. A gift is given freely and without obligation. An investment is something given with every expectation to get back what has been given with interest on top.
PALCO never gave anyone a gift. All the “community” stuff PALCO ever did was nothing more than public relations items to be charged-off its taxes.
As for Mr. Arkley, for an investment of thereabouts of three million dollars (before taxes) he bought himself a town (and a good hunk of the county too) he could Lord over.
He got to play at being the worthy nobleman (Baron Sir Robin of Arkley Count of Humboldt). He spent his reign handing out sweetmeats and bullying his peasants. A growl from him would cause minions to fall quaking to their knees for forgiveness.
Mr. Arkley bought fealty. He donated nothing; he invested. And he got his money’s worth.
We owe him nothing.
And I for one would not feel sorry if Mr. Arkley’s purchased loyalty is running low now that his money is running low.
Like Mr. Arkley’s other investments his fiefdom is going sour on him. Like his other investments he has mismanaged this asset to its ruin.
But I don’t think he will abandon the endeavor he has here.
After all: How can Mr. Arkley walk away from being a baron?
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Standard Disclaimer: My opinions are my own and not necessarily those of the Tuluwat Examiner. I am not on the staff of the Tuluwat Examiner. I don’t even know who these people are. But I am told the Staff of the Tuluwat Examiner, in order to raise some “easy” cash, opened a language school for courses on “How to Speak Progressive.” They even put out ads sporting pictures of sexy Progressive Women proclaiming; “Amazing Trick to Learn Progressive the other language schools don’t want you to know”.
However, they were driven out of the business by competition from the Arcata City Council (they hold classes twice a month for free).
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