By, James Hamilton
I’ve often been struck by lengths of which some of us will go to appear well informed. The thought of having to answer a question with “I don’t know” or “I hadn’t really thought about it” must simply strike terror in the hearts of some. In fact the pursuit of all knowledge begins with one simple statement, “I don’t know”.
Instead we’ve developed mechanisms that we employ in order to divert attention from the fact that we may not be familiar with a particular subject. It may not be a huge surprise that when asked “who is your favorite architect?” The majority of the population would answer Frank Lloyd Wright. Is it because they are truly impressed with the man’s volume of work? Perhaps, but I would hazard guess that if asked, they would be hard pressed to name one of Franks achievements other than Falling Water. If asked to name one additional famous architect most would be unable to come up with a name other than T.V’s Mike Brady of Brady Bunch fame.
Martin Luther King was in my opinion a great man. A view shared by many. He tops the charts in answer to the favorite historical figure question these days. Of course his most impressive achievement is hailed as the “I Have a Dream” speech, which many Dr. King devotees would claim to have been greatly moved by. If asked to quote an additional few words from that speech. Blank stares tend to abound. To diminish a man’s life’s work to a 4 word tagline really does a disservice not only to his legacy to the person who may have had the opportunity to be truly moved by Dr. Kings words.
Gordon Gekko of Wall Street movie fame is most remembered & some ways celebrated for his epic “Greed is good” speech. Again challenge someone to give you 3 more words from that one. This example however is particularly illustrative of where we see ourselves today. As a young conservative in the 80’s there were few of us who didn’t entertain the vision of being in Bud Fox’s shoes in that movie. We however, would have known to stop before it got out of hand (You know, kinda like how drug abuse works).
Then there’s Bud. Remember Bud? This was one of the first glimpses we got of Charlie Sheen winning. Well you may or may not remember Bud because we’ve collectively reduced an entire story-line and a plethora of lessons to be learned there from to a 3 word sound bite. We’ve once again employed our uncanny ability to focus on the most superficial yet memorable part the picture rather than to challenge & enrich ourselves by finding further meaning in the story.
There was a quote in that film that I found far more memorable. The line came just prior to Bud’s arrest for securities fraud, “A man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment a man finds his character and that is what keeps him out of the abyss.” You see Wall Street despite everything was not a story that glorified greed and excess. To the contrary Bud Fox the son of a blue collar working man whose hard work and efforts provided that son the opportunity for an education and a life better than his father before him. In the end Facing the abyss, Bud’s call for salvation went out to those working men and women whose labor and investments are the basis of the economy those like Gekko feast upon.
Today it seems some have found their real life personification of Gordon Gekko in the form of Donald Trump now Donald is to Billionaires & Business tycoons as Mike Brady is to Architects. He’s the one you’ve heard of (you know on T.V.). He’s not the richest or most successful by any means but he is instantly recallable. His catch phrase is even shorter than Gekko’s “You’re fired” and for those who sort of missed the point of the Bud Fox story Trump offers a chance for us to envision ourselves taken under the wing of the master.
We won’t say that greed is good part (out loud) and of course we’ll know when to stop before it gets out of hand (like that whole drug abuse thing) but we can be a whole army of Bud Fox’s enjoying prosperity Just like Donald because we totally forgot that in the movie Gordon not only set out to destroy the people Bud held dear but left him holding the bag as well. You see greed isn’t good it never was. We are a nation made strong by the values of character hard work and determination and that’s the story of Wall Street of course it is just a movie isn’t it? I don’t know.