Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Era of Hell in a Hand Basket

I feel like a dinosaur. Actually I am a dinosaur, a relic from the era of accountability. Accountability was a period in the history of the United States when all dinosaurs shared the same principles, number one of which was accountability. Accountability in its era was the life blood of personal and commercial transactions. For several milllennia prior to its emergence, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) was the fundamental morality of transactions and, as such, put the burden on the buyer in any given transaction to sort out deception, deceit, trickery, fakery and other tricks of the trade favored by sellers ( psst, hey buddy, want to buy a bridge?).

The era of Accountability was a short era. It extended from the late 1950s to approximately the end of the 20th century. All the conditions were right and this era flourished for awhile under the notion that people and corporations (treated as citizens by our system of laws) would be held responsible for the consequences of their actions. Then the Ruse virus appeared. Somewhere, it has not been determined yet, deep in the board room of a yet unknown corporation someone coughed and out came the exclamation "We do not like being held accountable." Others became similarly afflicted. "It is acceptable for us if others are held accountable but, we too do not like being held accountable for our wrongdoings." And so it began. Little by little, this virus spread. Then, a variant of the Ruse virus evolved. "Someone else, not us, must be blamed." The cries of the infected became "Since we do not want to be held accountable for our actions, we must place the blame on those who seek to hold us responsible." Those infected looked around and saw the lawyers. One of those infected had a smattering of knowledge about Shakespeare and thought he remembered something the Bard had written. "First, let's blame all the lawyers." A chant began. "Let's blame all the lawyers, let's blame all the lawyers." The Ruse virus had infected the mainstream of public thought and perception.

The earth's crust has shifted, the temperatures at the surface have changed, the Ruse infection has taken hold and, other than a small group or two of people who have an apparent resistance to this virus, the dinosaurs, the evolutionary process is complete. No one wants to be held accountable. No one is being held accountable. The end of the era is nearing completion. A Bear Stearns executive chokes out a gasp "It is not our fault. It is probably the lawyers who did this to us." Wall Street chimes in, "It is not our fault. It is not our fault."

We are entering the era of "Hell in a Handbasket."

No comments: