It's just not right to delight in Wall Street woes
Look! Up in the sky!
It’s a bird!
It’s a plane!
It’s a Wall Street executive!
Ouch! That’s gotta hurt.
OK, I admit it. I experienced a little frisson of schadenfreud when it first started raining suits in the world’s financial capitals over the past week or so, and I know it’s not right.
I guess I just never bought into the 1980s and ‘90s mantra that greed is good and the oily smugness of the those living by that credo kind of got under my skin.
They had good reason for that smuggery of course. They drove the fanciest cars, wore the snappiest suits, had all the latest toys and pretty much owned enough politicians to ensure they got what they wanted and would be able continue to leech off the public purse at will.
Well, it looks like the chickens are coming home to roost and chickens, given half a chance, will gobble up leeches.
Oh, I know, calling Wall Street executives leeches is taking things a bit far. Leeches are vital components of the wondrous web of life, an important food source for trout, crayfish and other species. They are also useful to humans, a key component in keeping the blood flowing to re-attached fingers and other assorted body bits after surgery.
I can’t imagine a Wall Street suit deigning to suck on my fingers after they got chopped off and re-attached — and I also can’t imagine letting it do so in any case.
But it’s not right for me and those like me — who value people for who they are, rather than for what they’ve got — to take delight in their distress.
There may be a few casualties amongst their lower rank and file, but the main culprits, the guys and gals who drove the world economy into the toilet will be alright Jack — they always are.
When opportunities dry up it’s almost always the people like me — on the narrow end of society’s cornucopia — who end up paying the dearest price for the follies of the rich and powerful. Our parachutes aren’t generally made of gold, but rather, lead.
That’s not to say there won’t be some opportunities kicking around for those canny enough to recognize them. When the effluvium really hits the air conditioner, I imagine someone could make a real killing selling pitchforks and torches, for instance.
So, as the economy tanks and we slide into another recession — or worse — do I predict some sort of cultural awakening that will see people will take a serious look at their value systems and measure a person’s worth by something other than the toys and bangles they’re able to display?
The consumer culture in which we are immersed is far too entrenched for that. Besides, I think it’s part of human nature.
People have always needed status symbols to give them a feeling of superiority over their neighbors and for the life of me I can’t dredge up any supposedly golden era when this was not the case.
So yeah, at the very worst they’ll get dibs on the executive dumpsters and they’ll have the best spot in the lineup for soup. That will never change.
But for now, I admit it, I’m enjoying watching them sweat.
Whoops, looks like you got a little investment banker on yer shoe there. Let me get that for ya.
Neil Horner is the associate editor of The News and is a regular columnist