Immorality or Isolation

Just a quick revisit to the “Blame Game” post… one that other site, another online conversation got started regarding financial regulations, Occupation Wall Street, morality and accountability.

One of the more interesting comments I got to that post (and I’m not sure if he’d want to be attributed here or not, and I stress that my paraphrasing could be inaccurate so mea culpa up front) had to do with objecting to the idea that the 1% are behaving immorally.

He made the legitimate point that wealth isolates people and sometimes creates a sense privilege that they deserve their wealth. He made it clear he knew this was nonsense, i.e., that the accumulation of wealth may or may be a result from just desserts, but that wealthy were not inherently immoral, that many are quite engaged with, and worry about the state of the world.

I really want to give this point of view its due. There really is an oversimplification with the sloganeering: we are the 99% and that the 1% is to blame and are immoral.

Clearly there are good, moral rich people as there bad, immoral poor and middle class people. And of those in the 1-ish percent that seem to have benefited directly and greatly from the recent run up to this worldwide financial crisis, some of what seems like immorality really can be attributed to isolation or isolation / arrogance.

A good example would be those who made a massive fortune by making bets on the failure of various investments (i.e. those who bought derivatives that were betting on all those foreclosures happening. These truly clever people didn’t create the system but they recognized its inherent flaws and made the proverbial killing exploiting those flaws. It wasn’t about wishing those people any ill will. It was statistical analysis of bad investments that they thought were likely to default. I really don’t see these people as evil in any sense.

Also, QUITE a few people within the 99% have enabled some of the worst behavior of a portion of the 1%.

However, I still hold true to my belief however that those within the 1-ish percent that actively lobbied to create or maintain this very rotten system do have a moral culpability, and should be held accountable. They wanted the Glass-Steagall act junked; they wanted the rules changed to be able to see investments to one party while betting against those investments with a different party; they wanted special treatment by federal government; they wanted their investment firms re-classified as banks to receive TARP funds, etc. They then funneled this money into their personal fortunes and have done everything possible to pay lower and lower taxes on these accumulated fortunes.

These people I will continue to classify as immoral and selfish. None of these actions are criminal, though a few them had been illegal prior to the lobbying to have certain laws changed, but yes I see these things as unethical. (Now of course, people have a way of compartmentalizing their behavior so they can be highly ethical and moral in one aspect of their lives and the reverse in another… so even here, there can be complicated patterns of black, white and a multitude of grays.)

Unfortunately in our mass media age, if a message isn’t simple – in black and white with no shades of gray – the mainstream media will ignore that message and the consumers of such media will not watch / read beyond the headline.

So it’s become an unfortunate necessity that OWS is so simplistic in its messaging, though I don’t know if that was planned or just a result of the non-hierarchal aspect of the movement. But the topic has quite fortunately been raised.

But thoughtful people everywhere have a duty to deepen the conversation, now that it has been begun.