Archive for the damned lies Category

The promise of America is that nobody is born to lose, but who has never wondered, “Am I wasting my life?” We imagine escaping the mad scramble yet kick ourselves for lacking drive. Low ambition offends Americans even more than low achievement…. Failure conjures such vivid pictures of lost souls that it is hard to imagine a time, before the Civil War, when the word meant “breaking in business” — going broke. How did it become a name for a deficient self, an identity in the red? Why do we manage identity the way we run our businesses - by investment, risk, profit, and loss?
Scott A. Sandage, Born Losers: A History of Failure in America (2006)

In American culture, the market is worshiped increasingly as an ideology rather than being seen for what it is—a natural product of human social evolution and a set of valuable tools through which we may shape a healthful and equitable society. It is under the spell of this ideology—this new religion—the we have fallen into complacency. Personal profit is no longer the means to an end but has become the end in itself. America’s traditional immigrant values of resourcefulness, thrift, prudence, and an abiding concern for family and community have been hijacked by a commercially driven, all-consuming self-interest that is rapidly making us sick.
– Peter C. Whybrow, M.D., American Mania: When More Is Not Enough (2005)

(Regarding what fed the Internet bubble that burst in the early 2000s): “You had a lot of novice investors who got into the market looking for easy money, without any regard to the fundamentals. These stocks were running on fumes.”
– Bernie Madoff, Washington Post, Jan 2, 2001.

Here’s an interesting little story from the BBC‚ about a side-result of the recent overheated international art market. Apparently, for about two decades in Britain—until they were recently caught—a son and his elderly parents made fake artworks and artefacts worth millions of dollars.

Shaun Greenhalgh made sculptural objects and paintings that were often flatfooted copies of originals he had found in catalogues. The artists and family also created fake letters to provide provenance for the objects that fooled multiple museums and collectors.

The police became suspicious when the letters contained misspellings and incorrect samples of cuneiform script. After raiding the family’s home, the police found that the artist’s forgeries went back at least seventeen years and had netted the family at least half a million pounds—the amount found in the family’s bank account. But police said the family’s crimes did not appear to have been motivated by money.

“They didn’t own a computer or live in luxury,” said the police. “They were living in abject poverty, a very poor lifestyle, very basic.”

So why did they do it, according to police? “They had a resentment of the art market and wanted to prove they could deceive it,” said one police official. “Greenhalgh felt he was a better artist than he would ever get recognition for and he developed a general hatred of the art market and the art establishment.”

Hm, possibly true. But just about every artist thinks the same—that he’s a better artists than just about everyone else—and most don’t end up going criminal.

Or do they?