Sunday, 15 March 2009

A Coded Admission

Over coffee this Sunday afternoon (somehow this line reminded me of Aznavour’s “café-crème” line in La boheme) I read the reminisces of 5 former Bear Stearns executives in the New York Times. The paper had decided to visit them a year after the firm’s demise.

It was a wasted 10 minutes. Like a prime-time Hallmark sponsored TV special, it only confirmed my prejudices. Not one of the 5 – and except for one saleswoman they were all senior people – had any clue as to what had taken place. All focused on themselves and their hardship. Not one of them had a word about the larger issues that the Bear Stearns collapse signified. That included the firm’s ex vice-chairman who begged the readers to remember Bear Stearns for its – of all things – charitable givings.
I only hope that when future generations think about Bear Stearns, if they do at all, they will remember its philanthropy.
This “if they do at all” is incriminating. It speaks of a self-doubt that no one reaching vice-chairmanship of a place like Bear Stearns could possibly afford to possess; the swagger of these guys was something to behold. The expression, rather, is from T. S. Eliot:
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us – if at all – not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.
Maybe I am over-interpreting, but I think in reaching to T.S. Eliot whom he must have remembered from college years, the ex vice-chairman of Bear was admitting to himself and to those who could decode him that he had been a hollow man all along.