In 1989 Michael Lewis published “Liar’s Poker: rising through the wreckage on Wall Street.” With some humor it chronicled his brief career with Solomon Bros., and more particularly, the avaricious greed, calculated duplicity, and arrogant incompetence of those who ran the show and made the most money. The real life he recorded was not so different from fictional works such as “Wall Street”, and “The Devil’s Advocate,” but it rang no bells of warning for anyone, and was taken more as a popular, even humorous, entertainment. But avarice is not one of the traditional deadly sins for nothing. Avarice is a cancer eating at the core of an otherwise healthy body. It is a parasite living off its host until the host is dead.
To be sure, the greediest (and richest) are losing their jobs, but not without taking millions, tens of millions and hundreds of millions with them. They may be jobless but they’re not destitute. The wreckage they leave behind includes thousands of people doing honest work for modest pay down in the bowels of their companies; people who will have little in savings, may have to declare their own bankruptcy, and who now wonder what kind of life they can rebuild from the bottom up. The wreckage they leave behind are clients who entrusted them with their financial well being through pensions funds, retirement accounts, health savings plans and modest investments that now lie in shambles. Indeed, the wreckage they leave behind jeopardizes the entire American economy in every place and every way.
I would like to think that we have learned our collective lesson, but greed is a seductive evil, and evil it is, that will undoubtedly draw a new generation into its web of deceit and destruction.
As Christians, we teach and preach the warnings of the prophets and the promises of God in Christ. We proclaim the path to a blessed life marked above all by personal and institutional integrity undergirded by confession, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation that can be fully experienced only through trust in God’s presence and love.
Who knows if that healing balm will ever be taken seriously where avarice makes its home. Perhaps, at least for a moment, it will. In the meantime the voice of Jeremiah rings loud in my ears.
2 thoughts on “The Wreckage on Wall Street”
Would that Jeremiah would ring loudly in the ears of those who \”religiously\” ignore any warnings or even conjecture of their greed or wrong doing….until they are caught. Then their only regret seems to come from their having been caught in their self-serving deeds!
A very well-expressed and extremely timely jeremiad! I feel sorrier for the victims than for the greedy executives (who are not really hurt, as you noted). But people who are hurt are often those who do not read and learn from the past, or watch public TV on such subjects as the Crash of 1929 (which was repeated again in recent months), when the greed of the investors matched that of the investment counselors, and brought the \”pillars of the temples\” crashing down on the strong and the weak alike! But, as Santayana once said, \”Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.\” (That goes for wars as much as for investments and for buying on credit, and for voting on the basis of emotional appeals!)