Some would say it was inevitable that I would find some reason to gripe about a miracle. I was voted “most likely to be negative” in summer camp, after all.
That said, maybe Izod-wearing teeny-boppers needed a little dark edge in their lives. It was the eighties: someone needed to prepare them for the grunge era, right?
At any rate. Back to my miracle.
In the first draft of this post, I was going to say what I’ve said before: our moral duty to stand up to wrong-doing and a lack of ethics, what a wonderful world it would be, blah blah blah. Honestly, it would be nice if someone doing the compassionate thing — the right thing — didn’t seem like a miracle, if it could only seem like, you know, Tuesday.
That’s where I was going. Then it seemed a bit redundant.
Evil, wrongdoing, selfishness, let’s face it — they are as inherent to the human condition as the common cold. They’re pains in the ass, but there just ain’t no cure yet. You’ve just got to treat the symptoms and wait until the disease has run its course.
And honestly, a little fierceness and selfishness is what we need to survive. You hope you can defend your family against violence, against wrongdoing. If the powers that be need to resort to treachery to rescue the defenseless, liberate the oppressed, and enforce justice, then I give it the big two thumbs-up.
So, given the context, certain tactics are tools: simply tools. Evil is defined by the reasons people use them, the ends to which they apply them, and how many innocent bystanders they are willing to take down for no moral purpose. My own humble opinion is that in 99.9% of cases, evil is defined as taking down a number of innocent bystanders equaling one. Just one. And the pursuit of titles, money and fame do not qualify as a moral purpose. Just wanna be clear.
I have a profound belief, based in my faith, that evil is always, eventually, discovered and righted. My problem is this: whatever mischief is at hand usually takes down a few innocent bystanders by the time it’s discovered. I don’t like the idea of being one of those innocent bystanders. And if someone I love is one of those innocent bystanders taken down in someone else’s sociopathic little path to glory, I get even more pissed off.
So this is where I will repeat my call to the outside world (and I realize that I’m preaching to the choir for the most part), that we must call out graft, corruption, all manner of social ills when we see them. And keep at it.
We need to make integrity a central part of our cultural identity. We need to have a cultural goal that identifying wrong-doing in our world so much so that people don’t need to have courage to face the risk of ostracization or retaliation. As Michael Moore put it, we need to start thinking in terms of “we,” and not “me.” If not, our culture will, indeed, fail.
Today in the news there was a story about a MIT deputy dean at the Sloan School of Business who ran a hedge fund scam with his son, the Harvard MBA.
Looking for that, I found this from 2007:
Then of course, there’s the latest fashion in a complete lack of integrity: plagiarism.
It’s such a hot trend, even A-list celebrities can’t resist:
These are people who are supposed to be above the mainstream, protecting the echelons of achievement. Instead, they are wallowing in trickery and deception.
I have to ask sometimes if we’ve lost all sense of what wrong is? Has a cutthroat “gotta get my own” edge become so ingrained into our cultural identity that we’ve lost the ability to make moral distinctions at all?
Or are we so inured that we assume the prevalence and ubiquitous level of corruption and moral bankruptcy we face is inevitable?
Is that why it is so hard when one person does try to stand up, call out a fraud or a crook or your garden variety criminal, is it so damned hard?
Harry Markopolos , the man who tried to report Bernie Madoff for what my dad would call “a coon’s age” tells his story in this 2010 Today online article:
You can read more here:
The thing is, it’s hard to convince me that Mr. Markopolos was the only living soul familiar with Bernie Madoff’s operation who had a sneaky suspicion something was amiss. Really. Only him? Right. So what the $#&! were all the other people who saw something wrong doing? Apparently, they weren’t calling the SEC. And if they were, then the SEC wasn’t listening. Shame on them.
And this is what gives my not-so-little sphincter a big ole’ spasm. No one listens because generally speaking, so many either don’t get outraged anymore or are too lazy to take action. For others who do have a moral compass, many are either afraid of the consequences or feel it’s too useless to try.
Not to be harsh, because those consequences can be pretty serious, but, if the world is falling apart around you and you do squat about it, don’t complain when you’re standing in nothing but ruins. And don’t go cryin’ to people like Peter Scannell about your fears. In 2003, Peter Scannell, got hauled out of his car and beaten for his efforts to make his little corner of the world a more honest place.
But he did it.
I understand how cruel retaliation can be, and the unbelievable steps some people will take, but you don’t want to be the person that hides in shame and fear. You’re going to be scared anyway, but you owe it to the people you love and the strangers you don’t know to try. Trust me. You do.
I also understand about thinking it’s useless. I truly do. But you keep plugging away not just for how it might make the world, but also for the kind of person it makes you.
Harry Markopolos and his associates devoted nine-ten years to reporting Bernie Madoff to the SEC. At some point, it must have seemed hopeless. In some people’s eyes, he probably seemed obsessive. And if you were absolutely convinced Bernie Madoff was a saint and a genius, spending a decade to prove him a crook would seem downright creepy. I imagine more than one person tried to sit Markopolos down and suggest he “talk to someone” about his “fixation.” But it’s 2014 and between the two men, who seems creepy now?
As a closing, let me pose this question. Think about all the scandals we’ve seen lately that arise from laziness (V.A. Hospital scandal, Markopolos’s account of SEC ineffectiveness), vindictiveness (i.e., the Christie Bridge scandal), and all the people who hid or cooperated at the time. Think about after the fact: when the truth comes out, accountability is reckoned for lives ruined and futures lost, and the dust settles to reveal the depravity for the world to see, where do you want to be standing?
The FBI arrest of Bernie Madoff should not have been a miracle ten years in the making. It should have been … Thursday.
[i] I have mixed feelings on this one. What is the body of his work of contributing to society? He committed an academic crime, but most crimes have statutes of limitations. Surely there is a way for him to atone without torpedoing a career that otherwise benefits society.