Wednesday, March 12, 2008

There's money to be made recycling the organs of your neighbor's dead toddler! Learn how today!

Last Thursday, while I was en route to Las Vegas, news outlets that track the housing market reported a sad milestone: Home foreclosures soared to a record high late last year, with over 1 million private homes in various stages of foreclosure.

A day or two later, as I was driving down Sahara Boulevard on my way to the library mentioned in yesterday's post, I saw a billboard that read as follows:

FORECLOSURES AT AN ALL-TIME HIGH!
LEARN HOW THIS CAN BE YOUR TICKET TO FINANCIAL SECURITY!*
The billboard advertised a financial seminar to be held this coming weekend.

Financial seminars keyed in whole or in part to the turning/churning of so-called "distressed properties" are nothing new. (Here, e.g., is The Donald's foray into that market.) I guess if this was going to bother me, it should've bothered me a long time before I saw that billboard on Sahara Boulevard. But given what's been going on for the past year, with that whole subprime-lending mess, it becomes increasingly hard to overlook the fact that distressed properties weren't just put here for the rest of us to make a quick killing in real estate.

These "financial opportunities" exist because people are losing their homes.**

It bears repeating: These opportunities exist because people are losing their homes.

And naturally, the self-help movement—wealth-building division—sees this as a potential gold mine. Understand, though, that when I say "gold mine," I mean for the gurus. There is scant documented proof that such programs are effective at generating meaningful added income for everyday consumers, anyway.

To me, this development underscores with a rare level of clarity how certain regions of SHAMland so efficiently detach conscience from happiness and success. We saw slightly different spins on the same phenomenon in the handful of horror stories I ran last year: All that matters is how things work out for you. Any damage you leave in your wake is immaterial; somebody else's problem. (And if you beg to differ on such points, the gurus of self-actualization dismiss you as "codependent" or "hampered by negative blocking thoughts.")

I know that we live in a free-market environment, and also that most transactions that take place in any such milieu are zero-sum: For every seller there must be a buyer. For every winner there is usually a loser. I guess what I recoil from is the jubilation—the exclamation points. I recoil from the idea that your financial security is built, unflinchingly and unabashedly, on someone else's family tragedy. I recoil from a formalized mindset that plainly encourages narcissism and even, at times, edges provocatively close to outright sociopathy.

I blame certain people, too. I blame Joe Vitale, who can talk without shame about a fire sparing like-minded business associates, but show zero compassion for those poor souls who hadn't yet found enlightenment and who, therefore, were penalized via the incineration of their homes. This, of course, is an expression of the "value system" promulgated by Rhonda Byrne, which has no sympathy for life's losers, and even attacks them for "attracting" their fates. (That belief—that we have cosmically/karmically "earned" whatever status we have in life, good or bad—is the core rationalization that supposedly entitles us to profit off our neighbor's misfortunes.) Most of all, I blame people like Robert Allen, business partner of our friend Mark Victor Hansen, whose wealth-building programs extol the very types of parasitic real-estate practices glorified on that Vegas billboard (and in countless other places coast to coast). On the site linked immediately above, Allen talks about "gobbling up properties at huge discounts all across the nation." Gobbling up. Just like a second helping of dessert at that Vegas buffet, perhaps.

My wife said to me recently that people of substantial means, who've managed to weather the current non-recession without ill effect, should indeed buy foreclosed homes...then just sign them back over to the people who were forced out of them, mortgage-free. Some would say she's a Pollyanna. Some would even say that such attitudes explain why she and I never made the money we probably should've made in life.

Believe me, folks, it's not that I don't have the head for the kind of success some of these gurus advocate. It's that I just don't have the stomach for it.

* Not the billboard shown in this post.
** Say what you will about their own stupidity or recklessness in signing up for mortgages that they couldn't pay. The bottom line is, they're losing their homes. That's a lousy deal, no matter how you slice it.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

It comes downt to this:

Do you believe there is a difference between clean money and dirty money (the latter generated from the misery and tears of others)

Some know there is a difference.

Others are convinced there is no such thing as dirty money.

Two utterly different moral universes. All we can do is if we care about the difference between clean and dirty money is try to identify and avoid entanglements with persons who dont care.

Its a damn good question to ask if pondering whether someone is marriage material or a worthy candidate for a business partnership.

Elizabeth said...

Steve, a client of mine, contemplating a foray into the foreclosure business, stated, with a guilty grin, "You know, the best time to make money is when blood is running on the streets..."

Elizabeth said...

BTW, this is another great post, Steve. I like it when you get morally outraged (seriously:).

Steve Salerno said...

I just feel compelled to state, for the record: There is a difference between "getting morally outraged" and "claiming the high moral ground."

After all, our friend Eliot Spitzer got morally outraged on many occasions during his career in high-level law enforcement; however, as we've now learned, he is hardly entitled to claim the high moral ground. I think it is possible to espouse a moral position while at the same time acknowledging that one does not (personally) live up to the position one espouses. That is not hypocrisy, per se. Hypocrisy is when you espouse a position AND imply (or at least make no effort to discourage the popular belief) that you also live up to the position.

Even followers of Jesus Christ will allow that he acknowledged that we mortals frequently fall short of what we strive for, ethically.

Anonymous said...

Do you know what scares me about this mortgage crisis? Enron was not ten years ago and no one on Wall Street learned from it. It just shows the short attention span of our society. It also shows we reward greed.

Now Wall Street is going to the government for a hand out and why is that acceptable? Why is no one outraged that the pursuers of capitalism want us to pay for their mistakes? We talk of other countries being socialist, but the U.S. is not far behind when this type of behavior is not addressed. I bet Alexander Hamilton is turning in his grave.

Business 101 will tell you real-estate runs in cycles. It is always an iffy bet. What goes up must come down and real-estate responds that way. I remember turning on Fox about this time last year and hearing how it looked like the real-estate boom would never end. I thought to myself, "what universe do these people live in and where did they get their business degrees?" I saw this melt down in real-estate five years ago! The mortgages people were getting did not making any sense to me, when I first heard them. If you don't have the money for a down payment, you can't afford the house! To tie into the SHAMscape it is the living in the NOW. Interest rates are down and I got to get a house and screw the rest of the equation was the mind set not too long ago.

I have heard some of the stories about people losing their homes and I do not feel to bad for some. One woman on, your favorite financial advisor, Suze Oreman’s show, spoke of how she was 34 years old and made $35,000 a year and bought a house that cost $300,000 with no money down. The 34 year old is now facing foreclosure, because her balloon payments are due. Easy solution for her, sell it at a loss and the bank will bite it. No, the 34 year old wants to keep a house she never could afford in the first place! I am not pulling out a hanky for this 34 year old.

Now I do sympathize for the older couple who has lived in their home for over ten years and took out an equity line of credit to pay for repairs, but cannot afford their payments now due unconscionable lenders. That is predatory lending and that should be addressed.

Not all foreclosures are equal in my view.

Elizabeth said...

OK... But now I'm confused, Steve: Are you morally outraged or claiming the high moral ground (or both? neither?)?

My impression was that it's the former, but I may have been wrong. These damn e-mails strip so much of our communication. (Either that, or the [not so] inner idiot roars her ugly head again.)

Steve Salerno said...

Anon (the most recent one, above), look, you make a solid case for the fact that I suppose there are "grades of misfortune," if you will. Still, when you talk about the 34-year-old who bought a house at almost 10x income...well, it comes down to this: How much do we want to scream at people for their own stupidity? After all, the current climate (or at least the one that existed until the subprime bubble burst) encouraged just about everyone to think he/she qualified to own a home. Maybe you or I might want to sit such people down today and say, "What the hell were you thinking?" But that's hindsight. At the time, I think most Americans truly believed that "all things were possible." And for that, we probably should blame the snake-oil salesmen/financiers more than the unsophisticated homebuying rubes, themselves. Yes? No?

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: I'm more morally outraged. If I were to claim the high moral ground--to stay with the current theme--it might well be repossessed out from under me.

Anonymous said...

Steve asked
"Yes? No?"

The 34 year old has an out and is living in "la la land." She will be foreclosed so why try to keep something she cannot afford? Why should she be helped in her stupidity? Why should we compound her first mistake? You raise the question of how people come to their financial decisions and not living in reality though. This ties a lot in the self-help movement’s mentality

ourfriendben said...

Hooray for you, Anon! Our friend Ben is beaming with pleasure at the thought that another SHAMblogger has invoked a Founding Father (in this case, one of the brightest, Alexander Hamilton--a somewhat ironic choice in the face of the Spitzer scandal, since Hamilton's was the first sex scandal in American politics). Hamilton may indeed be turning in his grave, but up in Heaven, Ben Franklin is smiling.

Steven Sashen said...

It's an unfortunate fact that markets sometimes crash and it's not so simple to reduce the causes to sound-bites like: stupid buyers, predatory lenders, weakening economy, whether Brittany is in/out of rehab.

And, while I agree that it's, oh, a bit insensitive to ADVERTISE "Here's how to take advantage of other's misfortune", I can't quite bring myself to slight the people who happen to be in a position to buy when others are forced to sell.

It's not the presence of the buyers that are causing the sellers' upset. In fact, the repercussions of buyers NOT showing up would be far worse that the fact that they THINK they're getting a good deal (more about that in a second).

Were it not for those buyers, the market would simply continue to spiral into an abyss until nobody had a house, a job or food.

In my mind, the REAL attack should go to the people selling "now is a great time to buy" as an investment model. Not because they're insensitive to the suffering of who they're buying from, but because they're WRONG! Just because things are cheap doesn't make them good deals!

The idea that "bad times make for good profits" is only told AFTER things have turned around. And a lot of people get caught in the wave, and drown, on the way down.

The fact that you're getting a property (or anything else for that matter) at $0.50 on the dollar does NOT mean you can make money on the deal.

Because after you buy, you become an owner... and what if the only other buyers won't pay more than $0.40, or $0.30, or LESS... what if you can't even find someone to RENT your place for more than your costs?

The sad thing is that in bad times, there are still people selling lies, and still people buying them.

FWIW, my prediction is that all the people who've been told "buying foreclosures is a great way to make money" will buy a bunch of foreclosures... find they can't sell or rent them... lose money carrying them... and then sell at a loss which further tanks the housing market.

At some point, which nobody can predict, some buyers will happen to come in when things turn around for unforeseen and unpredictable reasons, they *will* make money and, guess who will be the next generation of "Make Money in Real Estate" Gurus!

Then, no doubt, they'll spew out the same hypocrisy and contradictions openly conveyed by the current batch (and all previous batches) of financial gurus, but rarely noticed by their students:

Statement #1: Real Estate is a great investment at ANY time!

Statement #2: The best time to make money is when there's a crash in real estate (the crash in the 80's, by the way, is the one and only time I made money in real estate).

Umm... if it can crash, then it's clearly not great at ANY time!

Or...

Statement #1: To make money you need to stop being and employee and, instead be a business owner.

Statement #2 (implied but unspoken): As a business owner, you need to hire a lot of employees who don't know about Statement #1!

Okay, rant complete (for now).

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for clarifying, Steve.

When I say I'm slow on the uptake, I mean it. I'm still mulling over your shock over the lack of shock of women who loved that dress (dear god, I'm still within the English language here, I hope...). There I was, ready to write an ode to its provocative beauty, while you were (I assume) morally outraged by it.

(scratching head in surprise)

Steve Salerno said...

Steven S, thanks for weighing in on this one. As always, in your offbeat and discursive style, you manage to make a number of cogent points. Probably by accident, but nevertheless....

Eliz: No, I am not morally outraged by the dress. Not at all. My shock is at the overwhelmingly favorable distaff response to the dress. I guess I thought a fair number of women would deem the dress--how shall I say this?--objectifying? You gotta remember, I went to college during the heyday of women's lib, when the message was, pretty much, "We're not going to do one damn thing to ourselves in order to 'be attractive' to a man. And that includes shaving legs and armpits." So that's my frame of reference. I guess I never cease to be amazed at how many women have totally abandoned that mindset (if they ever truly embraced it at all) in order to surrender themselves unto Victoria's Secret.

My real point in using that dress was simply this: You don't wear a dress like that in public and then complain that people are gawking at you, just like you don't get boob implants and then complain that men talk to your cleavage. I just don't understand that whole phenomenon.

Steven Sashen said...

a) "Probably by accident"? DEFINITELY by accident

b) Sally Jesse Raphael did an entire show about women who hated men staring at their boobs... and every one of the women was either a stripper or porn star with watermelon-sized implants (possibly ACTUAL watermelons, in fact).

What was even funnier than the silly premise was how Sally couldn't stop staring and lustfully saying, "Mmmmmmm, don't these women look WONDERFUL?!"

Elizabeth said...

Phew... Now I'm relieved: I got your real point the first time around then. (Sigh, the mental adventures of accidental bloggirls.)

And yes, I agree: The dress screams "NOTICE ME! DESIRE ME!" And as such, it has its (restricted) place and time (though it's not to be worn by a majority of women, anywhere -- I hope and pray, for aesthetic reasons).

I guess one can be a feminist and still appreciate the dress and all it stands for (I'm speaking of myself here). The way it envelops her body, accentuating the curves, the almost outrageous manner in which it reveals so much within an inch (or less) of being indecent and yet never crossing the line... Mmm... Yes, us feminists are not so oblivious to beauty after all :).

Off to start dinner (and then I'll go back to those shoes, just wait! ;)

mikecane2008 said...

>>>All that matters is how things work out for you. Any damage you leave in your wake is immaterial; somebody else's problem.

Steve, that's where the "You can control your own reaction" comes in. Sure you were lied to and ripped off, but do you CHOOSE to feel bad about it? You do? Well, that just your CHOICE.

Yeah, I see the people too: More Housing Doom

We no longer live in Bedford Falls, America. Welcome to Pottersville, USA!

And, gorge alert, there are eejits who welcome that: All hail Pottersville!

roger o'keeffe from nyc said...

This is one area where we clearly part company, Steve. We're either going to support a free-market economy or we aren't. You said it best: There are winners and losers, buyers and sellers. It is simple fact that in any such environment there will be dislocations of the type you describe. Those dislocations and instances of "unfairness", if you want to call them that, are not a reason to question the system as a whole, which works as designed and is in fact the best of all possible systems, as Churchill told us. It's totally illogical to support a free-market economy and yet find reasons to attack the people who have the smarts or whatever to come out on the winning side.

I know you're not going to like my saying this, but a foreclosed house is just another commodity, of the same type that we buy and sell in every other setting without the emotion you summon up here. People make mistakes in all areas of life and finance. They not only buy houses they can't afford, they have kids they can't afford, or can't raise properly. They do stupid things with money (like buying dope or gambling, since you just got back from Vegas). Are we supposed to get involved in micromanaging every area of stupid or self-defeating behavior? Society would be totally unmanageable!

Though of course I have personal sympathy for people, it's not my job or my problem to worry about how successfully everyone else lives their lives, or not. That's just fact. And you're certainly not saying you want the gov't involving itself in all these situations, are you!?

Anonymous said...

Roger O'Keefe said
"Though of course I have personal sympathy for people, it's not my job or my problem to worry about how successfully everyone else lives their lives, or not. That's just fact. And you're certainly not saying you want the gov't involving itself in all these situations, are you!?"

That’s why we have a government. We create laws to protect our society. Your statement reveals where a lot of the problems lie, “so sorry, but it’s not my problem.” Actually, it’s everyone’s problem. I agree with free markets, but they can only work with full disclosure. Have you ever tried to read a balance sheet for an investment bank or mortgage lender? Good luck on that score, because even the ones in the know can’t get through them so how can one expect a layperson to do it? Also, most of Wall Street does not want the SEC in their business and the SEC is understaffed. For some reason, we can no longer trust businesses to be honest about their earnings and revenue. Why is that? The only way to make better decisions is to be informed and we are not getting the information to make them. I think each foreclosure has to be looked at individually to find out what happened, because we don’t want to be here again ten years from now or should I say five? I don’t begrudge people making money and don’t think people should buy houses they cannot afford, but I can’t in good conscience say, “screw you” to everyone either. I would like to know where the U.S. lost its conscience and where can we get it back?

mikecane2008 said...

Roger: You are ignoring the fact there was widespread fraud in the granting of these mortgages. I've read stories of homeless people who were told they could pay a mortgage with their Social Security checks!

The ones who are being punished are mostly the innocent, who thought they could improve their lives.

As usual, the hordes of guilty go scott free.

This is the kind of country you want to live in?

Anonymous said...

Steve:

I don't buy your premise: most of the sub-prime mess is the fault of the sub-prime people who falsified documents to buy houses they intended to flip for a profit. They are now not paying the rent, so that makes them squatters. And the speculators who were using short-term financing for long-term assets are losing bets, not their own homes. These dwellings have always been vacant.

Now it is time for the noble vultures to come in and clean up the mess they did not create. Just as flying vultures turn dead, rotting flesh into a source of protein (for them), sparing the spread of disease to the local environment; real estate vultures now come in and turn these roadkill investments into a financial gain. If the vultures don't act, the festering will spread.

The truth is simple: we need the real estate vultures.

Anonymous said...

also, don't forget, that basically all of the people who attend these programs of NO-MONEY-DOWN profit from the blood in the streets...are just getting scammed and sold expensive programs that don't work, that can't work.

and for those who went out and tried to do it, these are some of the people who's houses of cards have collapsed.

But that's America!
Every few years there is some new financial disaster...from S&L to today...

It does seem to be a large part of the American Way...pedal to the metal...damn the torpedoes...

Elizabeth said...

Interesting POVs in this comment thread. Perhaps Anon (at 6:04 pm) said it best: "I don’t begrudge people making money and don’t think people should buy houses they cannot afford, but I can’t in good conscience say, “screw you” to everyone either. I would like to know where the U.S. lost its conscience and where can we get it back?"

It comes down, as always, to our choice (yes) of values and goals. Any crisis, whether individual or collective, like the foreclosure fiasco now, offers an opportunity for us to clarify what values we hold dear and want to realize in our lives. And we do it through the choice of goals we decide to pursue.

As Steve passionately points out, it becomes a confrontation between a psychopathic-like self-interest overriding any altruistic concerns for others' well-being, and our nobler nature that expresses the highest human values we* champion and want to live by (e.g. compassion).

I think Steve's closing sentences aptly illuminate that confrontation and the decision (choice?) we make when faced with it: "I don't have the head for the kind of success (...) It's that I just don't have the stomach for it."

Because we are indeed talking here about two kinds of incompatible behaviors and value systems. One employs intelligence in the service of primitive drives -- power, self-interest above all, etc. (which translates into psychopathic-like behaviors); and the other tempers our egoism and intellect in its service with altruistic feelings and concerns (i.e. the dictates of Steve's -- or anyone's -- stomach, or more accurately(?), the heart).

We can quibble about free will and determinism till the cows come home, but in truth we* are capable of making that particular choice, i.e. deciding, consciously, what values and goals we want our lives to express. This current crisis is no exception.


*Most of us non-psychopathic individuals.

Elizabeth said...

P.S. I forgot to add that the very first Anon speaks to it (the choice of values and goals) as well. Yes, those are two utterly different moral universes we are talking about. (And yet, are there really no contact points between them?)

P.S.2. So many Anons, so little attention and memory capacity. Sigh. Is it possible to use other identifiers than Anon -- even single letters perhaps, rather than the generic and confusing anon? (Thank you in advance!)

Elizabeth said...

(Steve, this is a corrected version of my post sent to you earlier. In the earlier one, by accident I cut your quote short, which changed its meaning. Sorry! So if you were to post, use this one. Thanks.)

Interesting POVs in this comment thread. Perhaps Anon (at 6:04 pm) said it best: "I don’t begrudge people making money and don’t think people should buy houses they cannot afford, but I can’t in good conscience say, “screw you” to everyone either. I would like to know where the U.S. lost its conscience and where can we get it back?"

It comes down, as always, to our choice (yes) of values and goals. Any crisis, whether individual or collective, like the foreclosure fiasco now, offers an opportunity for us to clarify what values we hold dear and want to realize in our lives. And we do it through the choice of goals we decide to pursue.

As Steve passionately points out, it becomes a confrontation between a psychopathic-like self-interest overriding any altruistic concerns for others' well-being, and our nobler nature that expresses the highest human values we* champion and want to live by (e.g. compassion).

I think Steve's closing sentences aptly illuminate that confrontation and the decision (choice?) we make when faced with it: "It's not that I don't have the head for the kind of success (...) It's that I just don't have the stomach for it."

Because we are indeed talking here about two kinds of incompatible behaviors and value systems. One employs intelligence in the service of primitive drives -- power, self-interest above all, etc. (which translates into psychopathic-like behaviors); and the other tempers our egoism and intellect in its service with altruistic feelings and concerns (i.e. the dictates of Steve's -- or anyone's -- stomach, or more accurately(?), the heart).

We can quibble about free will and determinism till the cows come home, but in truth we* are capable of making that particular choice, i.e. deciding, consciously, what values and goals we want our lives to express. This current crisis is no exception.


*Most of us non-psychopathic individuals.

Anonymous said...

It is more insidious than merely making moral choices. There is something rotting us at our core.

My theory is American society is promoting unconscienable behavior. We are living in a psychopath/sociopath’s dream. We see it easily in corporations, but I see it everywhere. I see it in academia when a professor flunks a student, because the student does not conform to his or her political ideas. I see it when people get labeled, because they point out holes in arguments. I see it when people want to “be nice” and not hurt another’s “feelings.” I see it as a cancer on our society. Since I know business, I shall use that as my example.

Once a upon a time, business was about selling a product or service the customer wanted. The free market states everyone will have a chance to compete for that customer. If that customer wanted a cow, he or she got a chance to look the cow over and a choice of cows and prices from various cow sellers, a pretty straightforward exchange. In today’s climate, cow sellers are able to take a moose and make it look like a cow. Heck, they’re both mammals and they both have four legs. What’s the problem? The cow seller does not care about the customer, because the cow seller has sold a lot of moose as cows and done quite nicely. No one has complained, because it takes time, they don’t want to look stupid, or they don’t want appear as troublemakers. The all have their “good” reasons for keeping quiet about the dishonest cow seller. One of the swindled cow buyers takes the dishonest cow seller to court and sues him whereby costing the taxpayers’ money for the court costs. Now if the cow seller had just sold the cow buyer a cow instead of a moose, none of this would be happening, but the moose were cheaper than the cows. Guess what? The dishonest cow seller is bringing in a lot of money for his cow selling company so they don’t mind the moose business. They will pay the lawyers and settle out of court and protect their dishonest cow seller. This happens daily in corporations, but it happens in a lot of places.

What do you have to show for a good conscience? Will you get a promotion for that? What do we teach our children? We educate them to do what? Get good paying jobs! We teach our children to value money over people, which is ironic because we are more dependent on each other than ever! Money was never meant to mean more than people. It was mean to show value for services and products. Money and possessions were never meant to define us yet that is what I see everywhere.

I will go back to my fellow autodidact, Alexander Hamilton, to illuminate what I am stating. Alexander Hamilton was an illegitimate boy born in the West Indies. He did not have much, but he found his way to colonial America. He went on to become one of the Founders, creators of our nation, and built our national bank. He believed we should honor our debts, because our debts were our promises. He did not believe we should aspire to live in debt, but to do our best to stay out of it to be self-reliant. I sincerely doubt he meant the national bank to be used as a wet nurse to save rotten business deals yet that is where it is today. If he were alive now, he would never be able to get a job! His fiscal ideas and philosophies would be laughed out of every bank and investment bank in the nation. He would not be good for business that’s for sure.

We seem to keep making mistakes and not learning from them. Is that not the definition of insanity? We keep repeating the same behavior and hoping for a different outcome.

Steve Salerno said...

I have small quibbles with this, Anon (most recent), but I have to admit that, taken on its face, it's a pretty self-consistent, all-embracing indictment of contemporary American society. Thanks for weighing in.

ourfriendben said...

For good or ill, Alexander Hamilton, that brilliant, Quixotic illegitimate island boy, gave us (with George Washington's backing) the strong central government, central banking system, and standing army that have made America a great nation. Without him, America might well have remained a cluster of loosely connected states and never become a world power. Whether Hamilton's vision was great or flawed I won't venture to say, but it certainly made us what we are. Anon, I honor your tribute to Hamilton, but I can't believe that so brilliant a man wouldn't have found a place in today's business world, and perhaps transformed it through his presence. As Mozart was to music, Hamilton was to government, both lost to us far too soon.

Elizabeth said...

You're right, Anon (about living in the psychopath's dream). Yes, this is the heart (or lack of it, more exactly) of the problem. We can lament the rampant narcissism and psychopathy around us (and in us, if we are self-aware enough), but we live in a society that rewards and promotes both. It is no wonder that these two pathologies are so prevalent, as they express appropriate* adjustment modes to societal pressures.

*Saying it with teeth clenched.

mikecane2008 said...

Elizabeth's last summation causes me to create this epigram:

When the society is insane, the sane are considered the lunatics.

Steve Salerno said...

Mike, that was Rollo May, wasn't it?
"Insanity is a sane response to an insane society..."

Elizabeth said...

Mike ("When the society is insane, the sane are considered the lunatics") and Steve (via May, "Insanity is a sane response to an insane society...") -- well, yes, that's exactly right.

And perhaps the standards for in/sanity are insane themselves. Again, in the society where every facet of life is for-profit, the cunning, ruthless pursuit of self-interest exemplified by psychopaths becomes the standard of normalcy. By definition then, those who do not fit this "norm" are considered deviant and maladjusted, if not downright sick.

And that includes all the wonderful creative outsiders, non-belongers and neurotics grappling with inner conflicts, doubts, excessive self-criticism, and empathy and compassion that if not already deemed "pathological," are at least considered naive and/or immature, etc. In other words, the best and most creative folks out there.

(You can see perhaps why comments about those "unfit" who "can't cut it in a competitive environment" irk me so. Or even more than so. This has been my particular soapbox, personally and professionally, for over 25 years now.)

Elizabeth said...

See Greg Palast's interesting take on the sub-prime mortgage mess and Spitzer's fall from grace:
http://www.gregpalast.com/elliot-spitzer-gets-nailed/