Am I alone if finding the Madoff affair a bit, well…humorous? C’mon, lots of rich people who still don’t have enough and are seduced by something too good to be true. A modern retelling of the Goose & the Golden Egg fairy tale? There’s a reason they’re called fairy tales!
What a character! So low-key. As one friend said, he’d rather spend time on the Riviera than going to society parties. Well, so would I! Just a nice Jewish boy who did well by doing good. Did really well. The New York Times has so many references to the “clubby world of Jewish philanthrophy” it might make even a Jew-hater feel sorry for those rich Hebrews who were taken!
Let’s revisit some old stereotypes: the smart Jew – he’s smart. What about those rich Jews he fleeced – weren’t they smart too? And is everyone else so dumb? Those French investigators from a major bank spent three days with Bernie’s crew and concluded that something was rotten in Madoff land – they didn’t bite! The greedy Jew – guess he was greedy too, but who isn’t on Wall Street? Isn’t that the biggest lie of all, that Wall Street “wizards” are smart, not just plain avaricious? The smart, virtuous Jewish immigrant who works his way up the American ladder to fame and fortune? Well, he was raised on Long Island, but still…
And reverberating through all the stories in the press is the unspoken refrain, “Hey Bernie, we hardly knew ya!” How long was he doing this? He must have started off legit or he’d never have gotten his foot in the door of those country clubs. I guess part of the appeal of this is the story of a regular guy who made good, but was an impostor! Don’t we all dream of faking our way to riches and fame, at least once in a while? He did it! A bizarre and dark twist on the old assimilation-outsider-immigrant American dream too.
And the humor? Well, to me, a Ponzi scheme has its own intrinisic comedy. Shovel out the money as the new money comes in, but the pile grows bigger. It’s like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, can’t you see it? Marx Brothers finance! And then it tumbles down and everyone asks, “How could it happen?” It’s classic.
Well, maybe it’s just schadenfreude, but I can’t suppress a chuckle. That Bernie! What a character, oy!