Tuesday, September 27, 2011

a little perspective, si'l vous plaît

"Behind every great fortune is a crime" is a line most frequently attributed to the 19th century French writer, Honoré de Balzac. Whether he is the source or not makes little difference in the aptness of the observation, which a shrink friend of mine once echoed with his own observation, "No one who is rich ever got that way by being nice."

This is one of those observations that excites a momentary satisfaction on the mental taste buds of those who are less well-to-do and is probably dismissed by those in the monetary driver's seat as a petulant jealousy on the part of those who are less competent and driven. The successful have a way of forgiving themselves where others may not. They, after all, are well-dressed, sometimes well-spoken, give to charities and attend the required galas in the company of the similarly successful. They work hard and do good and their teeth seem to be invariably white.

And yet I wonder what they might see in the mirror when reading ....

-- In Los Angeles, the young wife of Mexico's Sinaloan drug cartel boss gave birth to twin girls on Aug. 15. Emma Coronel, 22, a former beauty queen, left the father's name off the birth certificate and returned to Mexico after the birth, according to the Los Angeles Times. The father, Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman, 54, is the head of Mexico's most powerful illegal drug gang, the Sinaloa cartel. U.S. authorities have put a $5 million bounty on the multi-billionaire's head. Someone clearly thinks he is a criminal. A criminal, perhaps, but, according to a BBC report ...

Guzman made Forbes magazine's list of the 67 World's Most Powerful People two years ago. At number 41, he was just below Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
No doubt Mr. Guzman gives to charity, is welcome in well-heeled gatherings and will be kind to his children. He is probably a nice guy when 'nice' is called for. And he has proven to be successful man ... what the hell, Forbes magazine anoints only the most wealthy and successful. But I wonder how Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, the Newhouse family and others view themselves when -- if they ever do -- they notice the company they keep. Perhaps, like Richard Nixon, they take comforting refuge in the thought that, "I am not a crook." They, or course, do not murder people in pursuit of their goals ... or if they do, the bodies are never found or noted.

-- On another perspective front, Australia has lifted the ban on women serving in military combat roles. Whether, as claimed by critics, the announcement is just a "political gimmick" or not, still the willingness to extend the inclusion of women in the "harm's way" aspect of military life begs the question of whether killing people (and in the process putting them in a position to be killed themselves)  is an adequate way of conducting human relations. I am not a lie-down-and-kick-my-feet pacifist. There are circumstances that require force. But killing our children, whether male or female, strikes me as a very poor way of asserting an imagined security and peace. Too often, those handling the patriotic narrative have no personal stake in anything other than waving a flag shot through with the fears of others who do the actual work, the actual dying.

-- And on the home front, a majority of Americans say they would not miss their local newspaper and the news it provides if those newspapers were to disappear.

"People may assume that because they go to the newspaper now for that information, it is available somewhere else," said Tom Rosenstiel, co-author of a report on the survey and director of Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism. "I'm not sure if that is correct."
Simultaneously, those polled said they rely on their local newspapers for a broad range of information. But, "Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed said their local newspaper's absence wouldn't have a major effect on their ability to keep up with information about their community." What sort of disconnect is this?

-- The news media, meanwhile, have their own questions to answer, as for example, why it is that the on-going protest on Wall Street receives little or no attention. To me, the Wall Street action is an indicator that the "Arab spring" of the Middle East, so implicitly (if carelessly) applauded, has traction in an economically-beleaguered United States. Greece has its marchers. England has had its. Italy's streets have been flooded. But in the United States ... if you don't mention it, it doesn't exist. Perhaps a repeat of "The Bonus Army" that camped out in Washington in 1932 is the only means of getting the attention of a media consumed with what is either far away or not too complex... or too threatening to the profits they enjoy.

PS. In an ironic twist, the morning newspaper I usually scan did not arrive this morning. There had been press trouble, an on-line story said. I was more irritated by its failure to arrive than I was pleased to find out why on-line.

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