Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Ghetto of Fear

Banksy BangAmidst our poverty of riches we tremble with fear and loathing. We resent the blessings The Almighty has so richly conferred upon us. A maddening clamor of a million incessant voices ceaselessly whisper “be afraid, be very afraid” dispatching us on an endless war with the infinite armies of darkness that we perceive to encircle us. This provokes an intense inner struggle with a seditious soul, a self saboteur, that endlessly works to undermine our emancipation from the ghetto of fear.

Our state of the nation mirrors our psychic state. Barraged with a fusillade of negativity from a multichannel digital discourse of real time bad news our physical state of being and virtual emotional resources are more depleted then the Treasury Department’s account balance after a TARP payment. War, terrorism, recession, home foreclosures, wealth dissipation, culture wars, job losses, the calamities go on ad infinitum. This is our daily bread. During the height of the Civil War in Northern Ireland I recall the picture of a child passing a graffiti strewn wall scripted with the question, “what will the monster bring today?” Indeed, what will our monsters bring today? Most likely more of the same. And it is the ongoing sameness of ever increasing distress that makes the crisis du jour just another routine day. Crisis has become the new normal.

We think ourselves to be unique in our victimization. Victimhood is a bad damn hood to be from if there ever was a bad hood to be from. Our national posture during the past 8 years under Bush has exclusively been about our victimization at the hands of the terrorists. We believed our victimization to be peculiarly ours because the evil doers hate us for who we are. Bush nursed it into a xenophobic obsession that led us to surrender our civil liberties, invade a sovereign nation to depose its head of state and use interrogation methods and tools refined by Spanish Iquisitioners 4 centuries ago. We rationalize it by promoting the fear that the consequences of another strike will be to terrible to suffer. It as if the entire history of civilization had never known the slaughter of innocents, the sacking of cities, the devastation of blight, plague and famine and the excessive collateral damage from the clash of civilizations. Indeed if history teaches us anything it is that egregious conflict is just another day at the office.

Fear has taken up full residency within many houses of worship. Too many sermons emanating from the pulpit preach of a vengeful God, heard by the trembling souls of congregants filling the pews responding with an affirmative amen. Fundamentalist preachers, imams and priests of all religious stripes and secular ideologies carefully construct a theology of fear to avoid eternal or temporal damnation. They warn against having your soul cast into eternal lakes of fire. Said Thomas Paine, “Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.” The admission price to the eternal paradise promised demands a vengeful soul fired by the vulcanism of fear.

Guarding your eternal well being or next life manifestation is available only by strict adherence to the fundamental precepts of a narrow belief. Non-believers are damned. Backsliders are shunned. Heretics are tortured and beheaded. Given the choice between a beheading and fearful submission to a jealous deity most will eat the bread of fear a jealous deity abundantly offers. Thomas Paine wrote that “Of all the tyrannies that afflict mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst. Every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in, but this attempts a stride beyond the grave and seeks to pursue us into eternity.”

These victims of conviction don’t get better they just continue to be victimized. The Pharisees warned Jesus that it was unlawful to heal on the Sabbath. Right wing conservatives need to consult this passage to understand why they should support universal health care. True conservatives are fearful this program is the sure road to socialism. Jesus asks what is more important, to cure the sick or worry if it meets the criteria of some stale dogma? I agree with Jesus and ask conservatives not to be fearful to heal on the Sabbath.

There is a comfort with the certitude the ideology of fear offers. One need no longer wrestle with the great cosmological questions of a universe that is older then 6,000 years or Darwin’s theories of natural selection and the theory of evolution to understand how species evolve. The tenants of secularism, liberalism and humanism as flowering ideals of the Age of Reason can be dispensed with as well. As we disallow the satanic verses concealed within the learned tomes of humanist literature; America, the grandest political expression of the Age of Enlightenment democratic foundations will crumble due to a poverty stricken citizenry ignorant of the cradle that suckled our legacy of liberty.

Fearful that these ideas threaten a fundamental understanding of God as the source and creator of all things they demand that their deity hide away from the prism of science, anthropology and history. Such a God is a small God indeed. It demonstrates how fear robs the human experience of a rich spiritualism and deeper relationship with a God of their understanding; condemning the true believer to a bankrupt religion of stale dogmas and inert ritualism. The Infinite One’s knowableness surpasses all understanding. All of humanity’s trite scientific inventions and worldly philosophies occupy but a minuscule portion of a single cell within God’s cranium. The All Knowing One would not have allowed the sciences, arts, philosophy and other branches of knowledge to flourish if it was not useful to serving the development of humanity and enriched our understanding of the Beneficent Ones love for all creation.

A truth I heard spoken in the rooms is that as children we are afraid of the dark. As we grow into adulthood we become terrified of the light. This profound truth speaks plainly about our mental, emotional and spiritual condition.  Children fear darkness because they think that they are alone. They tremble under their covers unaware of the protection and security of their home and a guardians presence in an adjoining room who sits ever mindful of a duty to protect the child. Darkness confronts children with a wall of uncertainty conjured from an untamed imagination. The capability to comprehend and understand the condition of darkness is merely an absence of light and is not a lair of monsters and bogymen. In workplaces all over the world workers tremble with fear in the cubicles and workshops fearing the delivery of the dreaded pink slip that condemns the worker to an awful redundancy and a certain downsizing in their standard of living. It may come or it may not. Fear and conjecture will not make it go away.

Fear is abolished when the child becomes safe in the knowledge that their guardian is near and remain fully secure in a comfortable bed. Darkness then becomes a place that doesn’t threaten but is an ideal condition where rest and the restorative power of sleep can be realized. We should engage the darkness that surrounds our nation not hide under the blankets or blindly flail away at it in an exhausting exercise of shadow boxing. It presents numerous opportunities for our nation to engage our demons and gain a better understanding of our country’s enemies and how we can disarm conflict by discovering the common ground of our shared humanity.

Paradoxically as adults we become fearful of the light. We ignore Socrates advise about the undesirability of an unexamined life. We prefer pathways of avoidance to stay secure in our ignorance. Agonizingly fearful about confronting the personal demons that continually haunt us we prefer to sit in darkness content to engage our guilt and shame in an ongoing conversation with ourselves; chaining us to the paralysis of a broken past.

We are only as sick as our secrets. Think about the sick soul of Bernard Madoff. Had he only brought to light many years ago that some of his investments did not perform well. His clients would have understood and forgiven him. He would have been off the hook and not beholden to the damnable demands of a larcenous ego and the financial ruin it brought to the people who trusted him. Or think about the obsessive mania of Dick Cheney to withhold information about events and discussions he held with parties that determined the fate and well being of all Americans. Transparency shines the light of disclosure and assessment on things vitally in need of clarity. Mature adults shine a light on themselves to conduct sober assessments and initiate corrective actions to grow and become more perfect.

The Apostle Paul reminds us not to be anxious in anything. It is an unfortunate circumstance that we don’t embrace this teaching. We have allowed fear to move into our neighborhoods and it has fully expropriated the fine residents of our communities. Fear has commandeered our country and bent it to its ugly will. Fear forces us to react to challenges with anger to engage in an endless vendetta that imprisons and tortures our spirit. It has separated us from one another with suspicion and denigrates our sacred relationship with the natural world.

We have allowed fear to become the omnipresent existential condition of our soul. It has fully eradicated the holy spirit from its rightful place as the unifying force that brings us all together in the human family. Fear is a pernicious millstone that grinds away our earthly home. Fear can be eradicated with courage reason, tolerance and faith. Certainly worthy vehicles to consider for an exodus from the ghetto of fear.

You Tube Video: War, The World Is A Ghetto

You Tube Video: Elvis Presley, In The Ghetto

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Bible, culture, democracy, faith, jazz, life, religion, terrorism, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For Where Your Treasure Is

The Death of Marat
Atheism is aristocratic; the idea of a great Being that watches over
oppressed innocence and punishes triumphant crime is altogether popular.

History has is own way of keeping score. The celestial ledgers record every human transaction and movement. The scales swing ever slowly as it constantly seeks a perfect balance of Yin and Yang. Eventually history will find a way to assure that payments are made on any outstanding balances. All overdue accounts will be assiduously credited or debited in exact amounts for proportion due in good time. Poetically the new cosmological balance is restored with a settlement that is more often ironic then just.

So it is with Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet’s suicide. To date one of the more dramatic consequences of Bernard Madoff’s massive swindle. Mr. Villehuchet apparently lost $1 bn in the fraud perpetrated by the wealth manager from hell. It is understood that a good portion of that tidy sum was comprised of clients assets entrusted to Mr. Villehuchet due to his astute investment acumen and discernment abilities. It is also believed that the massive loss also comprised the bulk of his family’s personal assets as well. Apparently the aristocratic estate of Mr. Villehuchet’s family now stands in ruin. It would seem that the goal of the French Revolution’s street rabble to fully disenfranchise the aristocracy and separate them from their power and privilege with the razor edge of a guillotine was finally realized 230 years later by a New York based hedge fund manager. Let it be noted that Robespierre was a friend of the bourgeoisie so perhaps he finds some tacit comfort from his long occupied grave that Madoff one of his fellow sans-culottes finished the work that the Jacobin’s failed to do.

The French Revolution was one of the signature events of history. It announced the unfettering of the political power of the bourgeoisie made possible by the rise of capitalism. A scant two centuries ago the radical capitalists used the guillotine to enforce a Reign of Terror to supplant the rule of the Aristocracy and establish their reign of liberty to make money.

Capitalism’s history during the past 200 plus years has firmly established the virtuous solemnity of money making. It has created a pantheon of incipient transactional values based on situational ethics and moral relativism. Money and its power has alone become the object of veneration. Much like the Golden Calf that Moses’s people erected, western societies are consumed with the passion of worshiping monetary wealth and all the power and position it confers on the one to whom it belongs. More accurately we should say to whom the objects of wealth own.

It is in this light that we find Mr. Villehuchet’s suicide yet another signature event of our time. Mr. Villehuchet’s life had no purpose outside of his wealth and objects. Very sad. If Mr. Villehuchet killed himself because he lost face with his client’s due to his poor choice of entrusting Mr. Madoff with his client’s assets that’s even sadder. If Mr. Villehuchet killed himself because he was complicit in the fraud scheme that’s the saddest reason of all. But whatever motivated the Viscount of Discount to end his life all point to his warped value system so common and rampant within the banal culture of the old aristocracy and the nouveau riche. How poverty stricken are those whose primary concern is the love of money. Pity them because they are poor in spirit.

Yes Mr. Villehuchet’s self induced passing may signal an urgency to reexamine the values of capitalism. We must begin to invest in values that will produce consistent sustainable returns.

Rest in peace Mr. Villehuchet. If there is an afterlife I’m sure that you and Robespierre will have much to discuss.

You Tube Video: Skeeter Davis: The End of the World

Risk; values, investments

December 27, 2008 Posted by | culture, hedge funds, Madoff | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Sexy Vampires

There have been a rash of movies and TV specials about vampires. True Blood and Twilight provide some interesting clues about the state of our culture and the values that we deeply revere but may be a bit reluctant to fully express due to fear and social ostracism. Ann Rice successfully exploited its as totem and taboo that allows deep desires to take flight in the fictive realm of art while for a chosen few the distinction between the fantasy and reality of vampirism is indistinguishable.

The seeming popularity of vampirism curiously arises as our culture and society enters a period of pain and duress. I believe it captures some salient emerging truths about our collective inner desires that become manifest as the true ethos of our time. What is it about vampires that so richly resonate in our culture? The promise of eternity, forbidden love, the need for a supernatural power that nurtures, unites and protects? This supernatural power of love or the popular term the law of attraction will provide everything to satiate our id in unity with an ego that projects sensuality, power, affluence, magnetism and eternal youthfulness. The need to project, connect and dominate is sexy and forever young. It is a vanity plain and simple that many believe can be purchased like some cheap elixir bought at the local mall. Unfortunately youth and times of plenty must come to an end. Like the current recession we thought the party would never end but like the maxed out credit cards that fill our empty wallets the bill eventually comes due and when the music stops we are left to pay the piper.

It is during these hard economic times that vampires become legion and roam the earth in droves. Witness Bernie Madoff; an example of vampirism in the extreme. He appears as a beneficent friend that seduces his mark with the power of money and status. Only to reveal that he is a blood sucking fiend with an insatiable thirst for his victims assets. Bernie thought he was entitled to drain his victims life savings to fund his lifestyle and feed his ego. It was how Bernie maintained his eternal youthfulness.

Like all great vampires Bernie tricked his victims by using their deepest desires to entrap them. The lure of power, prestige and fantastic riches made his marks willing victims. They freely offered their necks to Bernie, begging him to drink freely from their veins, making them complicit accomplices in their own victimization. Yes their deepest desires became their jailers and executioners. Their desires imprisoned them behind bars of their wildest fantasies. It was a self created hell that squandered their abundance and reduced them to a condition of existential deprivation and emotional bankruptcy.

Vampires are alive and well in America. They are becoming more pronounced as economic duress grows and peoples emotional and mental state increases in vulnerability. They say that garlic is a sure defense against the predation of a vampire. The most powerful garlic known to man is gratitude and a practice of richly sharing your abundance and gifts with those less fortunate then you. If you do this no vampire can ever harm you.

You Tube Video: Twilight Soundtrack, Bella’s Lullaby

Risk: Totem and Taboo, culture

December 22, 2008 Posted by | culture, economics, Madoff, psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Robbin in the Hood

Gangsta in Chief

Bernard Madoff will go down in the annals of gangsta capitalism as one of the big time hitters. The allegation that Bernie made off with over $50 bn worth of his clients assets is stunning. It exemplifies the pervasiveness of corruption in America Inc. Its hard to fathom how a well respected man of supposed integrity and character could carry on such a massive criminal enterprise. Even more distressing is that many of the victims considered Bernie to be a trusted and beloved friend. Bernie apparently also victimized and plundered a number of non-profit endowments that entrusted the stewardship of their economic sustenance to this man. Bernie’s clients at the Palm Beach Country Club where he was a member, have been devastated by their financial losses. Loss of face, the loss of a friend , faith and trust will be much more difficult to replace. Many of Bernie’s client’s are noted philanthropists whose donations are critical support lifelines for a number of Jewish charities and the State of Israel. They will be hurt. Bernie did some major damage. Bernie wantonly victimized anyone and everyone. I can’t see how this guy can live with himself. He must be on some kind of suicide watch.

How can you explain this? Bernie’s behavior is borne from a sense of radical entitlement. This radical entitlement is the unbridled id. It affirms that self actualization and greed has taken full possession of the American soul. This capitalist ethos is learned from our participation within corporate institutions. This ethos is taught at all levels of our schools. It is preached by our churches and TV Evangelists (both secular and religious). It is shouted by athletic coaches and modeled by parents showing their children how to excel in a competitive world to attain all the riches that America Inc has to offer.

I fear that we have adopted the behavioral, ethical, spiritual and moral characteristics of our corporate institutions. This corporatism has taken full possession of our psyches. It started long ago as the barriers of personal life and work were removed. The distinction between work time and personal time eroded as the demands of our vocations grew and the rationalization of capitalism crept on to claim a greater stake in our culture. We have long witnessed how jobs and careers assumed greater importance for individuals and the negative impact absentee fathers and mothers had on the family. Careerists reluctance to take vacations were compensated by extensive business travel schedules. The focus and zeal for their corporate contributions dissipated the time, attention and energy they could give to family. This created a personal balance sheet that was asset rich; flush with monetary enrichment and ego satisfaction built from corporate reward. These assets had to balance out potentiality massive family liabilities which were addressed with material hush money or the installation of a strict family corporate regime.

The time honored admonition of don’t mix work with pleasure and don’t bring work home is forever gone. Company work from home programs, telecommuting and running home based businesses has installed corporations as a permanent lodger at the center of hearth and home. American’s growing addiction to the incessant beeps of Blackberries and the finger and thumb Pavlovian response feed a cultural disease that celebrates a collective attention deficit disorder providing a convenient escape from the shock and awe of our daily lives.

Human beings are not corporate entities and corporations are not human beings. If we assume the pursuit of our radical entitlement is ethically sound until it is checked by a market regulator or law enforcement official or other institutional safe guard we are left to our own conscience that is driven solely by the profit motive that feeds and an aggressive self preservation. American’s have fully internalized a capitalist ethos. In this era of lax oversight and regulation we are all at risk for the next scam by a nation of corporate sharpies intent on getting what they believe is theirs to be had.

Bernie is a poster child for this behavior. We just a well should be building a statue to the man. He exemplifies and reifies all of the contorted and grotesque ideals of our shared capitalist ethos.

You Tube Music Video: Perry Mason

You Tube music Video: The Untouchables

Risk: culture, psychology, family, economics

December 18, 2008 Posted by | culture, economics, hedge funds, Madoff, psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment