WHY THE ELITES TAKE A WRONG TURN – THE EVIL POWER OF ONE
January 8, 2009
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These days the corporate world seems to read like the opening chapters of the memoirs of a geisha – everything seems to be giving way; like the onion story, the more one peels, the more one cries, only to end up with nothing.
Just when you think, we have finally seen the last skeletons breaking out of the cupboard; another just popped out today like a demented Jack in the box – “Indian software boss quits, admits faking US$1b in profits” – no need to even read on – they all read exactly the same (might, they all be reading the same book or something?) – like facsimiles- just like Madoff, Satyam boss Ramlinga Raju was once described in glowing terms in the Indian chamber of commerce, as “a man you can trust.”
Looking at his picture his clear, serene face, lively eyes, and big reassuring grin, reminded me of Madoff – someone who you’re always told you should trust; someone who can do no wrong, except serve your best interest.
Somewhere between two stations it dawned on me the crime these motherfuckers committed will always remain unfathomable because of their apparent normality and soundness of carriage.
I can understand if someone who is worth squat decides to hold up a convenience store with toy gun; it makes perfect sense; they’re worth squat; they have nothing to lose.
But with these motherfuckers; it’s different; it harder to understand why or where they could have taken a wrong turn in life; the gentleness of their characters. Their moral rectitude which so many once regarded as a paragon of virtue; here I am reminded my suspension of disbelief isn’t so odd from what many in the Nuremberg trials and the Hague would probably have to said about criminals who once commit despicable war crimes against humanity.
The more you realize that criminals might be perfectly ordinary people, the more afraid you become.
Yes, the journalist who likes to collect Netsuke dolls only to line them in neat rows in her cubicle; she could very well be a psycho. The fatherly figure who once steered you successfully through your first job after university; he could also be a closet embezzler; even the man with the white shirt, I saw on TV yesterday could be a conman masquerading as the purveyor of the good life; danger it seems lurks in every corner these days; in even the most benign and unsuspecting of places.
I know some of you may chaff at the idea how I’ve come to equate the likes of Madoff, Fud and now Ramlinga to the likes of Adolf Eichmann and Slobodan Milosevic. But I do, only because when one considers the scale, magnitude and degree of suffering that these motherfuckers wrought on thousands of unsuspecting law abiding and hard working folk. Then surely, even that rubbishes our understanding of white collar crime. To me at least, it seems closer to some thought-defying act of evil banality – I haven’t found the word adequate yet to describe my sentiments, except perhaps motherfuckers.
To be perfectly honest with you; I cant think of anything worse than someone working all his life and putting his money in a stock or giving it to a hedge fund manager; only to wake up one fine day and discover it’s all gone up in smoke.
It’s a cruel undeserved twist for many hard working folk. And it’s sharpened considerably by how these figures once wielded so much influence and power; in the case of Madoff, not only was he an economic adviser to the Bush administration; but he was even considered one of the supreme watchdog figures who regularly advised the SEC – just imagine Count Dracula being in charge of the blood bank and you get the whole idea.
But how did it go so wrong? I mean, did folk like Madoff and Ramlinga or even Adolf Hitler just wake up one morning and while they’re shaving and suddenly say:
“Hey, man I am going to fuck the world up today!”
You know what? I dont believe people take a wrong turn in life that way – my take is it has to be like slow acting poison. It’s a progressive process. I am reminded even the worst of humanity start off with the best of intentions; all Adolf Hitler ever wished for was to be admitted into the Vienna academy of fine arts. Believe it or not, all he ever wanted to do in life was to paint one church spire after another in some idyllic village in Bavaria. The same holds true for Stalin, all he really yearned for was to own an American caterpillar tractor and dedicate himself to the good earth as a productive farmer. I guess the same can be said of the likes of Madoff and Ramlinga. They too I am sure started off with noble intentions to make the world a better place. Truth is no one really aspires to be a criminal – they must have taken a wrong turn.
But where? How did it all happen? What’s the anatomy of the fall from grace?
While the details of Madoff’s fall still remains sketchy; if I had to plumb. He must have slipped into a life of crime; that’s really the standard pattern for corporate crooks. With a highly successful hedge fund already churning out stellar profits in the 80’s and 90’s, it seems highly unlikely that Madoff even made a conscious decision to turn to white collar crime in his humble beginnings.
My gut feel tells me Madoff, just as Faust, took his first step down the slippery slope of crime because he figured out; he was smart enough to beat the system. In the case of Faust, since he had a pact with Devil, he gained access to knowledge on the cheap. With Madoff, a large chunk of his confidence had to do with knowing the in’s and out’s of the system; he knew exactly where the trap doors were along with how to work the smoke and mirrors to stage the epic lie. Somewhere along the way he believed his own myth; he became a legend in his own mind and that’s when he cocked up.
Madoff like Ramlinga and even Faust probably had plenty of chances to pull out when they first started their cheating ways – as I said, this isn’t a game where someone just dives into the deep end from the word go; usually it starts off in small steady increments. Then like the fable marijuana addict, they aspire to the harder stuff. Maybe he came up short a few times at first and manage to make up the short fall. When he lost too much; that presented him with a Faustian dilemma: face up to the truth and tell all and admit to the world; I am not a super duper Mr Midas. Or fudge the numbers and keep my way of life and sterling reputation intact. All the while, he probably said to himself; I’ve make it right; when the market turns; I’ve just put it back in the pot and no one would ever have to know. Problem was things didn’t get better; they got worse.
Some where in this lost narrative; we can of course level the blame squarely on the regulators; where was the system? Why didn’t the SEC drill deeper? How could they have been blind sided by a fraud on such an epic scale? How’s that even possible? Why didn’t the fail safes kick in?
If you must know – I don’t really blame the regulators or the system. No amount of regulation or fail safes could cut through the high walls of kudos, chupazh and personality cult these characters astudiously nurtured for so many years in the public eye; they were in every sense untouchables; not only were they regularly feted by industry as worthy leaders; they were even mythologize as soothsayers and their raison was even considered worthy for emulation: that to all intents and purposes must have rendered all attempts at close and objective scrutiny impossible.
If anyone is to be blamed; its ordinary folk like us; we were the ones who laurelled Madoff and his type to demi-god status by rolling out the red carpet and 21 gun royal salute; we gladly bestowed his rubber bona fide the appellation of best in the world; we even acquiescence to his seemingly perfect logic without even so much as asking or demanding to know whether it squares off with how the world really works. But worse of all many of us lost sight of the fact like us, he’s just human. We foolishly elevated him to the status of a god, who could do no wrong.
Now you know why I’ve never ever been a big fan of the power of ONE; doesn’t matter how’s its even hyped, spun and packaged by the marketing manifesto; it’s no good; it just doesn’t come around.
Doesn’t matter if it happens to be ONE reliable purveyor of truth in the form of ONE newspaper; ONE blog called the online citizen; ONE political party that churns out the good life; ONE chicken rice vendor in a food court; or ONE anything.
The power of ONE is just a guaranteed recipe for disaster-waiting-to-happen. :et me just be crystal clear; they’re no buyers here for that bone shaker bullocart; not in this corner of blogoland at least; elsewhere maybe but certainly not here.
These days, it doesn’t even matter whether it takes twice the time to work things through with more people. Anything is better than listening to ONE fucking Führer. Doesn’t even matter, if all of us bring the whole house crashing down; we will just have to find a way to all fit into a padded cell and continue our conversation; doesn’t even matter if all of us are so two, three or four minded that we may even be so indecisive that we cant even agree on how to tie our shoe laces; never mind we’ve just go barefoot, anything is better then having a kwai-kwai politburo were everyone sits in neat rows and has a frozen smile like a dolphin agreeing to ONE party rule logic; doesn’t even matter, if there happens to be ONE committee out there that wants to impose their ONE version of how online discussions should be rightly conducted. You can go and fuck off, please go your way; we will go ours; we want nothing to do with you. That’s just how it has to be for now onwards; too many things have passed under the bridge this time to ever pledge blind allegience to the idea of the power of one – my take is like making love on a Sunday afternoon; it best to take it slow…the slower, the better…there’s no need to rush…in other words; it always pays to keep it a multi-player game if you in it for the long haul – the game of life that is.
Otherwise you may end up taking a wrong turn.