Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Dog-Eat-Dog

Sometimes it takes me a while to get around to things, Bush. That documentary about the Enron collapse, for example--"Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room." It came out quite a while ago but it wasn't until yesterday that I played the DVD I'd ordered a few weeks back from Netflix. I'd postponed watching it, fearing just another depressing couple of hours. I wasn't far wrong, but it was an impressive job, I thought. A carefully researched, carefully written, carefully edited piece that documents the whole sleazy history of that debacle. Your friend Kenny Boy does not come off too well, I regret to say. I'll be interested to hear what his jury comes back with in the next few days. While I didn't of course, hear all the evidence, I say thumbs down for the pair of them, both Lay and Skillings.

Listen, I confess to being a bit of a dunce when it comes to the intricacies of big money and corporate law. Some of the business dealings explained in the movie went way over my head. What I did respond to was the culture that Enron represented, the get-ahead, win-at-any-cost ethic that was promoted by the Enron executives and accounted for the corporation's spectacular rise--as well as for its eventual rape of the California energy system. The revolting self-congratulation of the Enron traders as they gleefully ripped off the victims of their scam represented, for me, the nadir of the culture that I'm talking about. These people, like their masters in the board room and executive offices, had no ethical restraint, no conscience that might serve to question the ethical basis of their triumph. For them, it was success and financial gain alone that counted, along with the joy at having screwed the innocent. The "losers."

But the values that Enron came to represent in the business world are more deeply and broadly ingrained in our culture at large, Bush, and that's the real scandal. The same dog-eat-dog ethos pervades your Republican Party and the lobbyists from whose labors you all benefit--while the rest of us lose. Consider your Delay, Bush. His sole preoccupation was to win, and it appears he didn't mind much how he did it. If it involved redrawing the congressional map of Texas to discount the votes of those of other persuasions, so be it. The hell with democracy, The hell with the voice of the people. Screw them.

By the same token, consider your Rove, whose sleazy political tactics are now legend, and who would slime anyone--including wounded veterans--to secure your victory. The aggressiveness and ruthlessness that characterize his operations are the same values, I believe, in cultural terms, as those that elevated Enron to the top of the corporate ladder on the basis of nothing but strategy, illusion and lies. There was no there there. Just the image that was conjured out of posturing, diversion, and the gullibility of people too greedy and too delighted with their own success to notice anything was wrong.

Is this culture, I wonder now, beginning to implode? The Enron trials are a signal that perhaps, finally, there's a reluctant recognition that actions without conscience do have baleful consequences. The polls are suggesting, finally, that the voters who brought you to power on the basis of the deception and the lies that they were fed have begun to see the pitiable, impotent Oz behind the curtain. Bad karma, Bush, coming back at you.

The sad thing, though, for me, is to see a whole younger generation coming to maturity, who have learned that to be successful means necessarily to be ruthless and aggressive. There's a distinct split in this generation between those who have learned this lesson and exploit their skills to empower and enrich themslves, and those more sensitive, more creative, whom they trample mercilessly on their way to the top. The problem with this, Bush, is that while the ruthless may be winners in the present, the future depends very much on our culture's creative resources. We sacrifice them at our peril, in favor of immediate success and wealth. I trust that the Enron fiasco will be a wake-up call to alert us to the misguided values that made it possible, and show the way to something more lasting, more substantial than that corporation proved to be.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hate to say it but from the looks of things this country may be one of the quickest to rise and fall as did Enron. Same principles seem to be valued and followed by delusional humans; greed, hate, deception (or ignorance, not really sure) and a general arrogance & unhappiness with ones internal self.

denn said...

From the Second World War on, America left relative isolation and began its assimilation with the rest of the world. The creative peak to date of the US has now past, about a ten year period around '58 to '68, culminating in the Summer of Love, the farewell swan-song. The American masses did not adopt the wise, wild, and abundant creativity up to and through that period. Bucky Fuller. Kurt Vonnegut. Jack Kennedy. Walt Disney. To think of the visionary brilliance!
Instead, they listened to Niedermier and build a coast to coast shopping mall.
There are more valleys than peaks in this country's short history. We are deep in a valley. A valley of illusions not laws. If the US is ever to climb out, there is only one way out. That way is to take our proper place among nations, not as a superpower, a radical and selfish nation, trampling on the weak with brute force, but as a friendly nation leading only in the one way open to us now - innovation in energy and environment for the good of all, in concert with other equally brilliant and inventive countries.
For some time now, we have been watching the beginning of the end of the beliefs and practices of all that doesn't work, in an overpopulated world. We are witnessing a system which can too easily be highjacked. Those who cling to that system have stolen billions. They should be satisfied for a while. Their lack of clarity led us into minefields of obstacles. Those under that system are living an illusion of doublethink, simultaneous belief in contradictory ideas. Massing capital, waging warfare, shunning reason: these forces are collapsing, The last five years reveals the dying gasp of vast numbers who ignorantly attempt to resist the inevitable. The choice is simple: accept it now, or resist and be forced to accept something worse, soon.
The old European legacy is no longer viable, kings and knights and vassals and such. The new legacy will be acceptance and service. Witness China. She serves US business purposes now, but her ancient wisdom is, "those who would rule must first learn to serve". Or as the song goes, "everybody's got to serve somebody".
If Americans do not heed this wisdom, they will find it rough going, because America will continue to be altered by assimilation, by its own business and search for opportunity. To understand this, all one needs to do is try hard to envision the country two hundred years from now. Let us hope, we do not see the rich living off world.

PeterAtLarge said...

To which I say Amen, Dennis.

PK said...

Nothing so deep as Dennis here:). Just to say that, these are all Bush's friends, just gives you the warm and fuzzes thinking about it doesn't it?