January 2009 Archive
January 5, 2009
Reputation is NOT everything.
That is true for two reasons.
1. It can be lost
2. It can be false.
Two of the many painful lessons of the Madoff scandal are that a good reputation can be lost and or false.
It is hard for me to imagine that Mr. Madoff started out with the firm intention to defraud his friends and clients. The investigations and trial will reveal whether I am correct. I can imagine that at one moment, when some investments incurred a loss, he covered those losses by illegally depleting accounts of other investors, most probably expecting the market condition to improve and to be able "correct" the fraudulent transactions. Instead he must have found himself having to continue covering larger and larger losses until his operations became a Ponzi scheme.
Anyone's reputation that may have taken years or even a lifetime to build can be lost in one instant, by one single action. We are human and subject to errors in judgment and temptations to stray for the right path.
The fundament question for each one of us is who can we trust? Mr. Madoff had the best reputation one could imagine, yet it was not based on truth or reality. How do we know if someone's reputation is true? The cynic will say that you can trust no one but this is not a way to live and totally unrealistic. If we did not have some trust, we would never take an elevator, follow our doctor's advice or buy a product.
We should trust and verify. We should demand transparency even when we trust. I have a friend and attorney who told me that he was representing the managers of a multi-million dollar fund. They considered investing with Mr. Madoff and went to see him with specific questions as to how and where investments were made. They were not given the answers they were looking for and decided to walk away. I am sure many of Madoff's victims wished they had done the same.
George Henrik von Wright, the Finish philosopher was right when he said:
"Society is becoming less and less transparent. People no longer know where decisions that substantially affect their lives are taken, nor by whom, nor how."
January 12, 2009
Last week Central Florida News reported that a boy had been missing for 10 years. He was 11 years old at the time. His adoptive parents never reported him missing. The police are investigating.
The question is why did others such as neighbors, friends or anyone not report his missing either? Surely someone must have known or been suspicious.
It is a fact that most of us are reluctant to report abuse. There may be a number of reasons why.
We may be afraid to "get involved" because of the consequences such as making enemies, having to testify or even being sued.
These are selfish reasons. Furthermore, many do not know that all 50 States have passed some mandatory reporting law. Medical practitioners, social workers, law enforcement officers, school administrators, school counselors, psychologists, audiologists, teachers and clergy have a specific legal obligation, in most States, to report suspected abuse. Many states have broad statutes requiring "any person" to report. As to the fear of being sued, Federal law, (Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act-CAPTA) gives absolute immunity, against both criminal and civil liability for anyone reporting abuse in good faith. However, failure to report may result in civil liability.
We may be afraid of reporting false allegations.
We should not worry about it. It is not for us to determine the veracity of the allegations but for the authorities. In 2006 approximately 6 million children were reported for abuse and of those 6 million reports, only 0.1 % was intentionally false.
We may also be afraid of being the cause of a monumental disruption in someone else's life.
However such a "life" absolutely needs such a disruption.
Once a suspected crime is reported to whatever authority, whether it is social services, clergy or even the police, we are no longer individually responsible.
Basyle Tchividjian, a former assistant State Attorney and chief Prosecutor of the Sexual Crimes Division is now the executive director of GRACE, (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment.) He says: "We all have an innate duty to make known evil which thrives in secrecy and whose young victims are longing for us to step forward."
It will take courage but we all have a moral obligation to report such a suspicion. We should remember that we are "our brother's (and sister's) keeper" and that by reporting a suspected crime we may actually stop an on-going crime or even prevent a worse crime.
As Maya Angelou once said:
"History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but faced with courage, need not to be lived again."
January 26, 2009
This week's inauguration of the 44th president of the United States may very well bring many changes in the way we live and conduct our selves as a Nation. President Obama's campaign promised us just that.
One of his very first steps was to impose a new ethics code for White House staff.
The topic of one of our discussions at "Cafe Philo" (a group discussion I have organized that meets monthly to discuss life issues) was: Is change always good? Each participant was asked the following question? "If someone came to you and said that he had some news that will change your life (assuming that you believe him or her), would your reaction be one of fear or one of joy? Most of the participants had a positive attitude and were optimistic about the hypothetical change.
Change, however, can provoke anxiety. We are never truly comfortable with uncertainty. Yet there are very few things in life that are absolutely certain except of course for death and taxes.
How should we then face unfavorable change?
Here are some ideas:
1. We should recognize that change is inevitable. There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says: "You can never enter the same river twice, because it is no longer the same river and because you are no longer the same person." T.S. Eliot said: "What is actual is actual only for one time, and only for one place.
2. We should be prepared for it, both psychologically and practically by making some contingency plans.
3. We should be alert and not miss opportunities that may rise from the change.
4. We should be willing and ready to learn some lessons from the events that provoked the "negative" change.
5. We should also be aware that we are not totally helpless in change. We also can be agents of change both in our lives and in the lives of others.
As then candidate Obama said:
"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."