Thursday, April 29, 2010

Once in Every Generation

I've been fascinated by the e-mails written by the Goldman Sachs executives, especially VP Fabrice Tourre. Anyone who invents a moniker for himself (and it's almost always a guy) is suspect in my book. Fabulous Fab? Give me a break!

A brief mental detour while I wonder what moniker I would create for myself. Alas, as I learned long ago in getting to know you exercises at camp, there aren't many adjectives that start with K. Kind Kris? Not exactly on the same level as Fabulous Fab.

And this morning, in E.J. Dionne's column in The Washington Post, I read about this man's e-mails: "The ever-more-complex financial instruments are defended on the grounds that they make life better for everybody. Tourre offered this justification in another of his revealing e-mails: 'Anyway, not feeling too guilty about this, the real purpose of my job is to make capital markets more efficient and ultimately provide the U.S. consumer with more efficient ways to leverage and finance himself, so there is a humble, noble and ethical reason for my job ;)' Then he added: 'amazing how good I am in convincing myself !!!'"

Ah, hubris. Do these men never think about how all this will sound when their private writing becomes public? And it always becomes public.

I'm reminded of Senator Packwood, the indiscriminate writer who served as a lesson a generation ago. He was forced out of the Senate in the 90's, once his journals revealed that his behavior was indeed suspect, and likely criminal. At least a private journal might remain private, although elected officials should not assume that.

But I've become convinced that we don't have much private life anymore. E-mails are never private. Cell phone calls are easily intercepted. In major cities, one is always being filmed. When I commuted to Miami in 2001, I was shocked to realize how many cameras were on my route. Granted, they were primarily used to keep an eye on traffic. But I felt weird.

Now it just feels normal. I lead a boring life, so I'm not too worried. Maybe Fabulous Fab thought he didn't need to worry either.

Of course, I'm not making major deals that can blow apart the economic life of our nation. No government agency will subpoena my private journal because of my provactive poetry. Even if we did move towards a McCarthy-esque time when artists weren't safe, I'm not sure my poetry threatens the nation; of course, most of those blacklisted artists would have said the same thing.

Interesting, though, to think about how one's words might come back to haunt one. It took me a long time to start blogging, because it felt so public. I still don't know whether or not this blogging would come back to haunt me if I had to find another job. So far, it doesn't seem to have much impact on my current job, so I suspect that it wouldn't have much impact on future job searches. I'll suffer far more impact from the fact that each year, more people earn Ph.D.s and each year, more jobs vanish.

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