Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chase-A-Palooza, 2011

Our rulers are not just greedy and evil, but exceedingly sophomoric as well:
On a day when his company’s stock dropped by more than 9 percent in the stock market’s latest drubbing, you wouldn’t expect Jamie Dimon, chairman, president and CEO of JPMorgan Chase Bank, to be cheerleading at a downtown Vancouver employee barbecue that had the trappings of a rock music road tour.

But there the Wall Street wizard was, mugging in photographs with employees from Oregon and Washington and signing autographs before delivering a pep rally speech that earned him a standing ovation. While many Americans closed the day anxious about the economy and their retirement savings, Dimon steered to an upbeat message about the future of America and, of course, its second-largest bank.

“Eventually this great economic machine will start to turn, and when it does it will blow your socks off,” said Dimon, 55, casually dressed in Levi’s and New Balance running shoes at the parking lot barbecue.

Dimon’s Monday afternoon visit to Chase’s downtown Vancouver branch was part of a West Coast tour that will take Dimon and his entourage from Seattle to Southern California. Members of his road crew handed out Chase hand signs, pompoms, bandanas, and T-shirts with the message “Chase 2011 West Coast Road Trip August 7-12.” A huge black touring bus sat waited at the curb. A massive spread of hamburgers, pizza, snacks and drinks filled tables even after the mostly blue-shirted employees had eaten their fill.

Picture your dullest, most unimaginative neighbor. Give him one single skill — a talent for making money, nothing more, nothing less, just a knack for making money grow, either by fair means or foul — and there you have the American aristocracy in a nutshell. We’ve placed a bunch of Babbitts in the cat bird seat. A bus tour, really? That’s the best that this master of Wall Street can come up with? Gosh, John McCain had one; Michele Bachmann has one; Sarah Palin has one. Why not me, Jamie Dimon? I want a bus!

It’s the hot new thing in tactless self-promotion. All the cool kids are doin’ it. Why not the bankers who make it all happen?

“You do not know, my son,” wrote Swedish Count Axel Oxenstierna in the seventeenth century, “with how little wisdom the world is governed.” Or with what little maturity, one might add. We very well may be nosediving into an unprecedented economic calamity, and one of the people principally responsible holds a high school pep rally “with the trappings of a rock music road tour.” He hands out Chase pom-poms and t-shirts, and tells his audience the economy will turn around and blow your socks off. Why? Well, because we’re so awesome, that’s why (no mention of why the economy is where it’s at in the first place, or who put it there).

I would look upon these people far less venomously if any of them ever managed to say or do anything original, anything that indicated the presence of an independent or thoughtful mind. None of them do. The old European aristocracies occasionally produced scholars, scientists, writers and political philosophers of great renown. Our elites read a few pages of Ayn Rand and play golf. A French aristocrat, Montesquieu, wrote The Spirit of the Laws, which heavily influenced the US Constitution; the American aristocracy produced Donald Trump, who made Celebrity Apprentice. Draw your own conclusions.

We can’t even manage to squeeze out a Lord Byron. The cheap, tawdry rogues that come out of our financial nobility don’t compose anything but text messages to hookers, or, in a moment of unique inspiration, an inter-office email that cheerfully describes the country as a “plutonomy.”

The MBAs who are destroying the United States of America are turning it into a cultural desert first. Outside of their narrow field of expertise, which in this case happens to be fraud, they are the most unremarkable group of ‘leaders’ in history. They are, in essence, just barbarous, money-grubbing non-entities, Visigoths in two-thousand dollar suits. They know how to drink fine wine but not how to make it. If it wasn’t for their money and power, posterity would forget all about them as if they were no more important than medieval peasants or Roman slaves. Their legacy to the human race will be as barren as the ruins of ancient Sparta.

I was wondering what kind of person would go to the Chase 2011 West Coast Road Trip. What level of mental, moral, or spiritual deprivation would you have to exist at to want to attend such a cartoonishly obscene spectacle? The answer is that they were Chase employees. They probably had to go. They were forced to go suck up to the boss, and becuase there is no place else to go, they did.