I suspect that I may get a few rather pissy local comments on this post..
I’ve reflected a bit on the recent affairs concerning community reactions to Mrs. Louise Nippert and her Green Acres farm. The Nipperts, the old Gamble House, and associated other affairs have been in and out of the local news for the last few years.
In a way I think that in affair, though it’s died down a bit, here lies a good illustration of the differences between the values of Old money and New money. Old money needn’t actually be ‘old’ per se, but there is a distinctive set of values.
To be sure, these matters are complex and emotional, and the neighbors involved had good reasons for their objections, but in a way I think the whole thing settles down to values, distinctive values…
So the recent row, in the Village of Indian Hill between certain residents, and Mrs. Louise Nippert along with Lawrence Kyte, Dr. Edmund Jones’s, and a few other residents interests me. One of her Indian Hill estates has been turned into an environmental and nature preserve and farm. A certain degree of resistance has been offered by newer settlers, it seems to me – as a tri-state resident though still outsider to that community – to be somewhat obnoxious.
Men are best minding their own business, but I’m an observer and commentator on whatever my eyes alight on, so this is what I read into the affair. Some of the chief complaints on this matter amounts, essentially, to bitching about property values and traffic.
Now Mrs. Louise Nippert is a well known Cincinnati matriarch, and a grand figure in the Cincinnati area. The Nipperts and other Proctor and Gamble family scions all but built much of this town. These are the area’s grand families and to me, what they wish to do with their property deserves some respect. Surely one need not be so petty of mind to complain about property values, in the Village of Indian Hill of all places, simply because one’s neighbor – whose folk once owned much of the land one sits on – built an Eco-preserve and organic farm for children to visit and learn gardening at.
I think the mission of her farm is an important one, particularly in an age of increased urban sprawl and decreased family farming in which many urban youth badly need to be exposed to the earth and soil.
Something else that crosses my mind, the sort of set and people Mrs. Nippert represents historically have given considerably in philanthropy, often in quiet non-gaudy and discrete way. This is a social function of spending out for broader social benefits, what the Qur’an terms “infaq.” The spending of private wealth on a larger community around one, used to be an important function of the rich. The value of noblis oblige shouldn’t be forgotten by those who life bestows fortune upon, and it should not be forgotten that communities like the Village of Indian Hill, not so very long ago, were semi-rural gentry farming communities.
It’s often noted that the ultra-wealthy of today often don’t spend out on communities surrounding them beyond their own consumption and thus, apart from taxes and perhaps providing employment opportunities, are useless to the larger masses community. There is a social contract between the rich and poor that was once implicit in our society but that is increasingly forgotten and I think it’s tragic. Sure, one has the right to do whatever one wishes with one’s money and property (and in this case, back to the point, Mrs Nippert had the right to do whatever she wanted to her farm over her neighbors’ objections) but “from those to whom much is given much is expected” was a truism that even the most debauched and selfish of the rich at least payed lip service to in previous generations.
This is not mere romanticism, there have been studies done of donorship patterns among the wealthy over the last century. The most piggish in the gilded age at least built libraries and public schools, without the industrial age’s corporate magnates much of what we take for granted in urban culture and facilities would not have existed.
I mean, for God’s sake people….