Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues

Greed is a Terrible Thing

Freshly in office, president Obama told it like it is: Wall Street is a den of shamelessness. It’s a miracle!–and refreshing to hear from someone in authority, considering we low-lives get nowhere with our protestations. Knock on legislators’ doors and they’re always gone to lunch: nobody talking, nobody listening, as far as they’re concerned–and so soon after the begging stage known as a political campaign, with winsome words like, “If elected, I will LISTEN to you!” But the perks and bennies of public “service” prove to be the solvent of good intentions (“Want to see me?–Is your hat in your hand? Got a contribution? Wanna buy a senate seat?”).

Power corrupts, as we know, and absolute power, well, we know about that too. It’s also the ultimate aphrodisiac, though prior histories usually exist, to which political privilege gives absolute authorization. I’ve pored over books of forgotten lore to find where that is written and came up empty every time. My research skills must be slipping.

But greed? Holy cow, there’s a monster for you. It’s one of the Seven Deadlies, but who cares about them anymore? They are but prudish old things–just ask the corporate snakes turned up by the same plow that first unearthed Enron. Not too many years ago banks and investment houses were well-run and deserving of our trust. Then the bottom dropped out of their ethics and the fix was in on our savings and pensions. So who  died and made unethical rich bastards the God of the Western world? Bernie Madoff is just one name and face among a multitude of his ilk. No telling how many in our own towns and cities are victims of him and his unethical clones. Ah, and there goes Diogenes, shuffling by with his lamp, still looking for an honest man after all these years.

Actually, we like and respect people who have more money than they need or deserve. But it’s not them, it’s, well, the money. If they didn’t have it, we’d tell them their tie is crooked, their spouse ugly and their kids stupid. But when introduced to someone who’s loaded, we bow and scrape–and never ask how they came by it.

I recall a certain Daddy Warbucks who was a tad too evasive whilst squirming at my persistent though mannerly questions. Finally, all was too clear: beneath his code-language, he was a loan shark, something a little lower than a tumblebug. He was, nonetheless, respected for his “success.” What law says that talking  people into signing something that stands to improverish them, is okay? Well, right there, in laws written by people just like him.

I once knew of a club exclusive to rich white men. Their great service to the community was an annual drunken event where they staged a “pirate” takeover of the town as a gesture to the burg’s history. In time this raised their profile and revealed their membership policy. Public outrage was huge but the Yo-Ho-Ho boys were unrelenting. This claimed conversation at many social gatherings, at one of which, after much grousing, assertions were made that social pressure, in time, would pry open the club’s membership.

Then a woman once married to one of those Jolly Rogers, before she wisely dropped him, stood to say that we simply didn’t understand such people: they don’t care what you think, she said; they think their money makes them special, regardless if they inherited or otherwise didn’t earn it; furthermore, they think it makes them better than you, so to their minds you and your opinions don’t count.

Needless to say, that threw much water on the discussion and left us with more to grouse about. But next time you wonder how Wall Street and their ilk can continue to take public money and spend it on themselves, remember her words and ponder their meaning: such folk think they’re different, and need a good hard shake and a few years in the slammer where room and board are in abundance, just like their former bonuses–along with bountiful sex–not to mention more than they can stand. Of course, they will consider that to be so unfair but, as mentioned, it’s all part of their being “different.”

Unhappily, we too are big losers. When the crash of ‘29 came and broke the grip of corporate capitalism, Edmund Wilson commented on the “barbarism” of the era preceding it, and finally “the collapse of that stupid gigantic fraud.” So here we are again, and why do we still worship money and the greed-heads who steal it?

As Santayanna said, to ignore the past is to risk the doom of its repetition.

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