At some point in the course of our journey through life, we all encounter those people who simply cannot think ill of others. So pure of heart are these folks, that even entertaining the notion that those who do harm to others should do so out of malevolence, rather than misguidedness, is simply unfathomable. These good Christians will steadfastly maintain that those who steal, those who lie, those who manipulate others, suffer from a distorted worldview – they basically mean well, but either through mental defect, or lack of education, are not able to fully think through the consequences of their actions. Ever since childhood I have been frustrated and intrigued by this particular quirk of the Anglo-Saxon culture. I have come to refer to it as the ‘see no evil’ syndrome.
Over the last few months I had the privilege of having lengthy discussions with two prominent members of the London financial scene, one an international risk management specialist, the other the dean of a prestigious business school. Both men are acknowledged experts on corporate malfeasance, regularly invited to give keynote addresses on the topic.
In both cases the discussion was most enlightening and stimulating. However, when I broached the possibility that much of this malfeasance was the result of collusion at the highest levels, meticulously planned and choreographed, rather than the result of a few bad apples in a basically sound system – both men had a conspicuously similar reaction- finding the notion simply inconceivable, and the suggestion on my part tasteless and off-putting.
The position shared by both, delivered most eloquently, in exquisite prose, and Oxbridge accents, was that this was all the result of gross ineptitude at the highest levels. I, incredulous, argued that it would seem beyond the boundaries of plausibility to imagine that people educated in the finest academic institutions, with decades of experience behind them, could have, let all what has come to pass take place out of sheer oversight.
Looking back, in my naiveté, what I was failing to see was the positioning of those I was speaking with in relation to the big Game – the dean being a gatekeeper to, the consultant, a gray eminence for the very Players who perpetrated the 2008 Crash.
At the risk of coming off as a tad ‘negative’, I would suggest that this ‘see no evil’ attitude is far from benign. This brings to mind a memory from my time as a builder, when I had occasion to ask an architect (British, as it turns out) to explain the principles behind chimney constructions – specifically, how one ensured that the smoke from the fire went up the chimney instead of into the room. The architect’s response was the following: “Entire books have been written on the topic of chimneys”. He delivered this sentence with such profound solemnity, and with such self assurance, that I immediately aborted any further investigation, convinced that the knowledge I was seeking was the sacred domain of an elite sect of geniuses who guarded their secrets closely (lest this knowledge should fall into the wrong hands, and the world would be consumed by chaos).
The motivation behind this high minded stance, in fact the mandate of these esteemed experts, is to obfuscate the problem, rather than fix it. Experts at blinding us with science, generously spicing their rhetoric with the jargon of high finance, they wax poetic on the complexity of today’s financial world, and the difficulty of sorting all of this out.
All this posturing on the part of esteemed experts is meant to distract us from the ugly reality- that being that the system spawned by these poseurs is rotten to the core, and beyond redemption. No new set of regulations, no new investigative committee, no change of government, will ever set it right.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.