Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lost Money Recently? Then, You’ve Been “Bernie-d”

Bernie Madoff jokes are less than a dime a dozen, no pun intended, and not really funny. Most of them start with “Bernie Madoff walked into a bar with a priest, a rabbi and a minister….and then walked out with all their money…” While I haven’t been able to uncover a truly laughable, G-rated one, I have become enthralled with the entire Madoff saga.

Today, Madoff’s lawyers will be back in court to appeal a federal judge’s ruling to have him await his June sentencing in jail. The attorneys will argue that Madoff be allowed stay under house arrest in relative comfort, quietly overlooking Central Park in his tony Park Avenue apartment. I didn’t realize that Chanel made ankle bracelets, did you?

I have become fascinated with the video footage and photos of Madoff that seem to run on the internet and on cable news channels in a continuous 24 hour loop (even more so than the stories about the damn wacko chimp that turned all Hannibal Lecter a few weeks back). He is somewhat of an enigma - part villain, part mastermind, part-raging egomanic - in his natty suits and silk ties or quilted country car coat, always topped off with a well-coiffed silvery mane of hair. Hair that has been groomed with the best hot oil treatments and jojoba shampoos that money, not his money, but money could buy. Hair, that makes all of Vice President Biden’s hair plugs envious enough to stand on end and salute. His expression is almost always the same, grim, but not rueful. If you look at the images long enough, you detect a faint, smirking, half-smile. If you look at the images and happen to be drunk, you may think you are looking at one of our Founding Fathers, oddly enough....

Sorrow, regret and remorse are not adjectives I would use to describe Mr. Madoff. Relief, pure and simple, is what I read; relief that the hoax that he knowingly started is finally over. And when you think about it, what does he really have to be remorseful for? His victims were duped for two simple reasons: he did not provide the proper amount of information regarding his investing methodologies and his victims didn’t ask. While the story seems Machiavellian under the current economic conditions, I am reminded of Robert Frost’s iconic poem, “The Road Not Taken.”

The life lesson that we need to take away from this sad story and pass on to our children, is to always travel on “the road not taken.” Teach your children to be their own person, to ask questions and demand answers. Teach them that it is okay to not follow the crowd and to trust their inner voice. Fill them up with enough encouragement and resolve to make their own choices. Empower them to choose their own fate and not have fate choose them, as the latter was the case with so many of Madoff’s victims. Kids today, more than ever, need to be better equipped to withstand peer pressure that will flow over from adolescent choices to adult choices and then ultimately, to family choices.

My heart goes out to victims like Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel, who lost not only his own fortune, but $15 million from his foundation’s fortune. Many blindly trusted Bernie due to a shared religious heritage, but a crook is a crook regardless of religion. It makes you wonder if more people had stopped to kick the tires, would they have acted differently before freely handing over their bank accounts? We are all familiar with the first and last lines of Frost’s prose, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…I took the road less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Bernie did not take the road less traveled and neither did his victims.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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