I have another Yiddish Proverb for Bernie Madoff: “God is not rich; all He does is take from one and give to another.”
Does that sound like a Ponzi scheme or what?
I was with some dear friends at a little family seasonal-social gathering last evening in the West Village in Lower Manhattan in New York–a few families and friends, with quite a few kids.
It was Tree Trimming time –Hanukah Bush and Christmas Tree combined, and we hung baubles and angels and stars and tinsel, and ate some food and drank some wine. It is an annual low-key event, enormously civilized and very enjoyable: people of diverse faiths and philosophical outlook for whom diversity means enrichment.
Yesterday’s snow quickly turned to black ice, treacherous underfoot. Earlier in the day, just outside the studio I slipped and fell hard –no damage done, but I saw immediately that I should not try to ride my bike into Manhattan. But I was not going to miss our get-together if I could help it. A rare user of public transport, I do marvel at how well and how quickly bus-ferry-subway travel works in this city, when I do use it. And was somewhat amazed to find that the bike paths on Seventh Avenue had all been absolutely cleared of snow. It seems that Mayor Bloomberg’s common sense approach to mayoring is popular with a lot of people.
At the get-together, all the (adult) talk was about –yes, Bernie Madoff. The localness of his depredations was obvious.
A couple of people there knew a chap whose parents had been badly taken. Their lives –I should really say their lifestyles– had already taken a serious downturn: Bernie had taken from them and given to others who were higher up the Ponzi food chain. We are now just beginning to hear about the voracious mathematics of the collapsing Ponzi pyramid, and the insatiable escalations involved.
And –it seems to me– that one Big Madoff Lie is already being challenged, if not refuted –the lie about Bernie’s circumspection, his unwillingness to take on new clients. There was, it seems, a mad, mad rush to get new clients in the door while trying to keep the rising tsunami of the demand for cash at bay.
It seems to me entirely possible that the media is buying, has bought, the Madoff line that he was very restrictive about taking on new clients. We are beginning to hear of the intense world-wide activity: a recent comment from Beijing was that the legendary exclusivity had gone by the board, and the observer’s impression was that client pitches were being made to “anyone who would listen”.
One of our group –a psychological counseller– compared BM to a sociopath that she dealt with in her practice. She has seen that “Bernie” smile often. She talked about The Game approach that I mentioned yesterday. I know the game of Poker is widely popular, but I have always considered it as a game based on hostility and deception. I think it bears a strong analogical relation to Bernie Madoff’s behavior.
Another friend who was involved in Catholic charity activity, reported that many Catholic institutions had suffered very considerable losses, and I suppose it is quite possible that when we finally get to see the Balance sheets –furnished by those forensic auditors– we may find that Bernie’s victims cut across lots of lines.
In my survey of what the media is saying on Day 10 (from the U.S. to the U.K, to the right-of-center Jerusalem Post) it seems that –across the board– people are beginning to make the point about the erosion of trust; many don’t see it returning for a long, long time. I was making this point in my post yesterday: if you injure me in some way, I surely cannot easily forgive you unless you apologize. There have been untold numbers of victims in this global financial collapse –but has anybody said they are sorry?
Exactly! We cannot trust –and shouldn’t, if there are no Mea Culpas.
I don’t know if capitalism has to behave this way. But it has failed us badly –and yes, we have all been party to the failure.