Even a master contortionist couldn’t cling to the cherished illusion of fairness these days. There is no way around it: life is not fair. I held the illusion that the financial wizards who created this mess weren’t suffering because they worry in fancier houses, while the rest of us look for safety net. The suicide of David Kellerman, the chief financial officer of Freddie Mac, is a stark reminder that this economic tsunami cuts across all socio-economic lines.
When we became good friends, a friend confided that his parents live on Social Security income in the Gary, Indiana area. His father sweated for forty, count ‘em forty! years in the steel mills before dumping bankrupted his employer. Dumping, in international trade parlance, is selling a commodity for less than the cost of production, a time honored strategy to obliterate the competition.
One reason holding up the economic recovery is that we humans demand fairness in an unfair world. Reckless spenders shouldn’t get a free ride. No one should have to pay for others’ mistakes. In the real world, however, the Tooth Fairy is about as close to fairness as we get. It’s not fair that Bernie Madoff defrauded friends and worthy non-profit organizations. It’s not fair that, despite years of warnings, the Securities and Exchange Commission looked the other way. It’s not fair that George Bush lied about the weapons of mass destruction and led us into a horrific war under trumped up charges. It’s not fair that the majority of people serving in Iraq are from disadvantaged backgrounds. It’s not fair that some will come home brain damaged, maimed, and violently angry, stretching their families even further.
None of this is fair. But it is reality. Further compounding the inherent unfairness is our scorecard, which currently is money. Money does not recognize qualities such as service, integrity and compassion. I look forward to a new paradigm that encompasses a more nuanced accountancy that includes the full spectrum of what it means to be human.
In a way, the randomness of the collapse reflects the random mystery of life. One person is born into the lucky sperm club but squanders the opportunity while someone else is born to a crack-addicted mother. Or there is someone like Dr. Kumar Bahuleyan. Born into poverty in India, he was so intelligent that he became a neurosurgeon in Buffalo, New York. When he went back 50 years later, his village was unchanged, so impoverished that sanitation was unheard of. Fulfilling a dream, he returned and built a hospital with $20 million of his own money.
Life is indeed unfair. We can look for a magic lamp to rub. Or wait for the Tooth Fairy, or the government, to come and fix our problems. Or we can gather with our friends and neighbors to cooperatively brainstorm for creative, durable solutions that improve our lives. Brainstorming Ideas and Reach Out For Opportunity suggest, several ideas. We are limited only by our imaginations.