When you work with other people’s money you may be tempted to play with money. Some bankers now seem to fear that no one will trust them or pay them again—ever, so they are trying to quickly grab as much cash as they can on the way out of the tower, a case of institutional ‘take the money and run’.
In a few months time, everything they value or measure value by, has been devalued by their own hand. They have undone themselves and us. As their stash of value diminishes (as does our own), by reflection, their self-worth along with their net worth—disintegrates. Their established social and professional connections fracture. They are in pain. In a moneyslide, many now tumble like mud down an over-logged hillside in a downpour, pouring down from the top and wildly grabbing at our wallets to stop their fall. They appear ready to take anything from anyone because they believe that their own lives or their way-of-life is out of control and the whole hill is washing down the sewers. The out-of-control aspect of their fall is crucial to their mental health. These folks were quite control centered orderly people when things are going their way. That is why we trusted them. As the chaos they created explodes around them, they have become disoriented and helpless. They have no control of anything. They are at a Wall Street intersection, with their pants down. It is no dream, and their panic is beyond their (or our own) control.
Something happens in the conscience (wherever that may be in the brain) when a marginally illegal, destructive, or self-destructive impulse goes badly wrong. When bankers and investment councilors lie and run off with lots of our money they also lose everything that they are or have been. They lose their sense of who they are and eventually lose their money. Once heroes of the reserved tables and the country club, they fear that they will be shunned.
Just as the depressed enraged husband who mangles and shoots his wife and children must then tip into the part of his mind from which there is no returning, and must shoot himself to stop his crazy rage, these moneymadmen tip and morph into self-destructive cash filled piñatas that will be batted about by their victims until they are entirely emptied of their hoard of sweets and pocket change.
People seem to have a tipping-point for fear. When unconscious fear and guilt dominates the mind; when a sneak becomes a thief, that thief may become a bank-robber. This is why bankers rob banks (After all, who else has the insider information to be able to rob a bank?). As we know there have been many ‘professional’ bank robbers who famously robbed banks in the kind of robberies that require a misspelled note handed to the teller, a mysterious paper bag, and maybe a gun. (Incidentally this classic kind of penny-anti bank robbery is on the increase now that the magic carpet has flown off without us, pilot-less.) Bonnie and Clyde are the archetypal characters in that dramatic tradition. But these kinds of crooks are amateurs despite the infrequent dramatic heist in which they haul off thousands of dollars in nickel and dime money-bags. They rarely vanish with billions. The pros are showing the way and providing their biographies for the next decade’s film scripts.
We are gullible. In lies we trust. Our trusting mind-sets and belief systems having learned unshakable categories for social and professional roles and behavior, and codes of conduct and ethics, we do not anticipate that the trusted experts upon whom we depend are playing with our money in an expensive version of three-card-Monte or a shell-game with our minds and our money. Gullibility, our own greed, and our ignorance allow us no hint that bankers might ever become robbers.
There is a wailing multi-million-voiced high wind on Wall Street. The card game is been busted, and the cards are scattering with the operator, the shills, and the marks money. We have seen the cardboard box fold-up and blow away, and the confident ingratiating smile twist into a smirk.
Trust not only has to be earned, it has to be demonstrated, and we must do our own and our national due-diligence by asking the kind of simple, probing, questions that must untangle and ultimately result in laws that edit out misleading language and the tiny print on the other side of our contracts. So far we have been reluctant to reveal the extent of our ignorance to our hired-in experts. But this is not ignorance. it is honest confusion in a long prevailing culture of financial obfuscation and fraud.
Once we were e a nation of people who made things. We worked with our hands, our minds, and our whole bodies to produce goods of value to ourselves and to others. That kind of effort was a full time job (and where has that gone?) that left little time or energy for a farmer or machinist to become an amateur banker or investment broker. This information-gap provided the niche for the con men. That gap and the niche will never go away. Someone will always try to exploit it. But we need to get back to the business of making stuff of real utility and tangible goods of value. We can now take off our dunce-caps. We can stop pushing paper around from pile to pile until someone looses track of it. April fools used to last only one day. Let’s keep it that way.