Social Criminals

“Ever heard of Crazy Eddy?” Campbell, or Camp for short, asked me after we both looked out at the gloomy grey world of Gibsons Harbour where the only colour was the bright yellow glasses of beer in front of us.

‘”Can’t say it rings a bell,” I said, ready for a homily that I knew was coming.

“Crazy Eddie is the former hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert and CEO of Sears since 2013; the iconic retail flagship formerly known as Sears-Roebuck which brought Catalogue shopping to small towns, a century before on-line shopping was even a concept. Crazy Eddie is also a fervent admirer of Ayn Rand’s bat-shit philosophy that humans perform best when acting selfishly and only winners survive. He pitted company managers against each other fighting over resources and market shares. Eddie believed that this would make them boost overall performance. Crazy Eddie’s downfall was hubris and his unfailing belief in himself, regardless of the outcomes. Damn the torpedoes. Even as far back as 2015 he was viewed as the worst CEO in America and should have fired himself long ago.”

“Wow Camp, you obviously did your homework. Why so obsessed with this guy? He sounds just like any other egoistical, maniacal, self-serving captain of industry.”

“Not quiet, the guy takes the price for worst manager, worst CEO and self-proclaimed Lord of Chaos. Just this past July he paid out $ 9.2 million dollars to executives in ‘retention bonuses’, completely in the face of the employees who are now fearing for their pension fund which is $ 200 million short and never mind any severance pay when they’re all laid off on short notice. It’s a total disgrace and a social crime. “

“A social crime,” I said. “Never heard of that one. What are the punishments?

Un-friending by social media or maybe public shaming.”

“Well, I personally think that social crimes of the sort Crazy Eddie has committed are every bit as destructive as corruption in politics or stealing from the old and vulnerable or watering down wine. Social criminals usually manage to squirrel away plenty of cash for themselves while pulling the rug out from under people that depended on them.”

“It seems to me that most of these ‘social criminals’ were once considered geniuses and wunderkinder before their fall from grace; guys like David Walsh from Bre-X mining or Ken Lay from Enron or the celebrated Bernie Madoff, a bigger thug then even Charles Ponzi himself.”

“Yes, these guys were all fuelled by one of mankind’s worst deadly sins: Greed. It’s what drives the casinos, investor schemes and even parts of the stock market.”

“Wow Camp, you’re about as gloomy as the weather outside. What happened? Did Muriel ask you to marry her or what?”

Camp looked at me as if he was going to say something rude and nasty but then instead took a long swallow from his brew. “Believe me my friend, if Muriel would ask me to marry her the sun would shine in the darkest corner of my soul. No, it’s the sad news of Gord Downie’s passing on Tuesday. He was only 53 and added more to Canadian music and public awareness of indigenous maltreatment, than any other man. His Secret Path project highlighted the death of Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old Ojibway boy who died from hunger and exposure after attempting to make the 1000km journey home, on foot from an Indian Residential school. Gord Downie was the ultimate Canadian voice; with his music, poetry and engagement with everybody he came in touch with. As our prime minister put it: We are less of a country without Gord in it.”

I felt stupid to have said what I did and apologized. “I’m sorry Camp, I guess the next round is on me. One for the Tragically Hip.”

We both took a beat, not saying anything. When Vicky brought us a couple of refills I couldn’t help myself and just blurted out: “It just seems there isn’t any good news out there these days. The tragedy in Myanmar, which is nothing less than genocide, with over half a million Rhohingyan refugees crossing into Bangladesh since August. It’s the largest humanitarian catastrophe since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and it has been brewing for years.”

“Yes, and the only person who could make a difference is treating the atrocities committed as ‘fake news’ and infighting amongst extremist groups. Aung San Suu Kyi is no Nelson Mandela or Ghandi, she is only a self serving political opportunist, kowtowing to the generals.”

No lament is complete without mentioning Trumpelstilzchen. “He seems hellbent on undoing anything Obama built, like the Iran nuclear deal, the affordable care act, relations with Cuba and surely one of the worst betrayals is the annulation of the DACA program, kicking people out of the country who have no other home then the one they grew up in.”

“Yes, he’s mean and crazy in a world full of good and decent people,” Camp said, shaking his head. “But we have our own mini crisis here on the sunshine coast. We are once again forced to adopt stage 4 water restrictions and this in a place where the annual rainfall is close to six feet. It’s not a lack of water but a lack of infrastructure and political will. If we have to restrict water use here on the rainforest coast then we are really in trouble.”

“I’ve read that. Yes, it pisses me off too. First they spend millions to install water meters in order to monitor use and detect leaks but now apparently also to police water use. Imagine: The Water Police. It sounds like a Monty Python stick. Here come the water detective, stalking through the rain, brandishing a water pistol. Maybe I’ll just become a water terrorist and hose him down.”

Even Camp grimaced in a kind of lopsided grin at the picture. “Here is to the Water Police then, may they drown in their own folly. Cheers.”






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