Enraged in the Enron Age
'Angry Dan' Friedman

People don't seem to care enough that they are being abused. Slick Willie lying to the nation about his affairs, Bush and the Supreme Court illegally and unconstitutionally stealing the election, Giuliani stealing city property in order to rewrite his own history, Kenneth Lay taking the Fifth: all this, and the US population is still only worried about Al Qaeda? Thieves and liars in the highest elected and non-elected positions in the only remaining global superpower, and everything's OK except the spread of the 'Axis of Evil'? What's up with the people of the USA?

I decided to write the following editorial in the style of those tabloid editorials that reach a vast readership, despite the fact that whenever I read the New York manifestations of them at the barbers, they seem like a poor excuse for toilet paper. Unlike the real tabloids', all my figures are substantiated and the arguments are logical, but like them, the rhetoric is over the top. I wanted to see whether it was just the style that makes them sound stupid, or just the aggressive right-wing propaganda. You decide.

- The Rich Need to Deal with It

We are all affected by Enron and it's not just about the money. A friend of mine, let's call him Dante, had a bad day last week. The reason: he was working with someone, let's call her Vanessa Keller, whose father had been indicted for possible fraud. She was taking it badly, taking it out on Dante, and he was taking it out on me. The whole sob story. Now, normally I am full of what they call the "milk of human kindness," and I try to be understanding of my fellow man. But, it's so easy for fatcats to get away with legalized robbery these days that if you've actually been indicted for fraud, you must be guilty of something.

So I have little sympathy for the Keller family, least of all for poor innocent Vanessa whose daddy might go to jail. It goes like this. The father does well, spoils the daughter. The daughter expects the best and thinks the world of her precious Daddy-O. She gets a ritzy education, good dental work, fancy designer clothes, all the while looking down on the common man as not being worth her attention, and never learning how to deal with real problems. Now, when she suddenly finds out, as a supposedly independent adult, that Daddy's wealth came from theft (after all, what is fraud but stealing someone else's money; the only difference is that rich defrauders get fined, but poorer robbers get thrown in jail) she can't deal with it. Can't handle the truth, and can't make do the way regular folks do all the time - like someone who's had to "deal with" the fact that their mother has been underpaid as a nurse for twenty years.

You know what, Vanessa, just get over it. Your Daddy's a crook.

But not only can poor Nessie not deal with Daddy being a thief, she's so spoiled she expects the rest of us to sympathize with her sudden loss of faith in Dear ol' Dad. Needless to say, she didn't apologize for thirty years of wearing stolen clothes. Nor did she offer to put her expensive, Ivy League education to use helping the victims of her father's crimes. No, she just cried on the shoulder of anyone who'd listen and behaved badly to those who wouldn't. Even if she was no criminal, she had inherited her father's self-centredness and was stealing people's attention with as little cause as he had stolen their money.

There is an emotional economy out there, as real as the financial one, and the wealthiest five percent are eating up more of their fair share of it, just like the rich businessmen and their lawyers grabbing ever-larger shares of the money pie.

- The System Feeds Itself

I haven't heard it yet, but I am expecting smug capitalists to start explaining how the Enron affair is actually the triumph of the Western capitalist system rather than a damning indictment of it. It will go something like this: "We caught them through the system, we reformed the auditing process through the system, and now the system is better than ever."

What the Bill Gateses of the world don't realize is how right they are. The system will improve - it'll get even better at ripping the rest of us off.

As the name suggests, the aim of "capitalism" is to maximize capital and the scope of capital. Anything else is just tacked on afterwards. Other ideologies have (or had, before the violent intervention of the capitalists) different aims: to help the members of the community (communism), of society (socialism) or of humanity in general (humanism). Now you may say, hold on Danny Boy, I'm no Communist. Fine, but it's just common sense to think that perfecting a machine (capitalism) whose only aim is to produce more and more capital without any thought as to what to do with the product (hey, why not hoard it in Houston!) could have seriously bad social and environmental effects.

You know, for a society paranoid about the power of computers and machines taking over the world, we show strangely little concern at the power of money to take over our world. Money has many more rights than people: it can travel into and out of countries without any sort of passport, it can change its name as often as it likes, it doesn't have to pay taxes if it is out of the country, and, as we have found out with Enron, Cendant, Sunbeam, and Waste Management, it can disappear magically, only to reappear years later in an unmarked bank account belonging to some crooked corporate exec. If the USA, with the world's largest and most important economy, doesn't decide what should happen to its money, the wealthiest few will just keep it.

Jon Levin   1     [2]     [next->]

April 2002

jay's head