POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 16 December 2010, Thursday
From Dupe to Soup
Fame, fortune, and glory – or food? What’s truly essential?
On the Internet over the past couple of days were several news articles that point to the need to conform to societal standards of success and the materialistic urge to amass wealth and influence for power and recognition.
Pilot William Hamman had a job flying planes for United Airlines, but sometime ago decided to create a second persona for himself – as a medical doctor and educator. Though he attended medical school twenty years ago, he did not graduate. Lacking the requisite credentials, he conned grants-giving bodies into awarding him funding for his practical and common-sense seminars on effective medical communication and team performance.
While he never cared for patients in a clinical setting – apparently he limited his activities to education and research – he claimed in public and in legal documents that he was a cardiologist. He duped the American Medical Association, the William Beaumont hospital where he worked, and other institutions, agencies, and individuals in the course of his carefully-constructed – and deceitful – career.
What would drive such an otherwise talented and educated person, already the holder of a science degree, to falsify his credentials? For convenience, by sidestepping more years spent at school as well as the expense? To get a better job the easy way? Why did he seek to be other than he was – a man who could have been a successful airman?
On a sadder note, currently incarcerated large-scale-swindler Bernie Madoff’s son Mark was found hanging from a pipe in his Manhattan apartment a few days ago, a dog leash strained tight around his neck.
Painted by his lawyers to be an innocent victim of his father’s greed, Mark, only 46, may have exited this world when the weight of a tainted name became too unbearable. He and his brother were the ones who exposed their father’s theft. Madoff père is estimated to have cheated investors of $65 billion, resulting in the bankruptcy of thousands of people who entrusted their life savings to the erstwhile star financier.
There are other victims of this tragedy – the ones Mark left behind. His wife, two children, mother, and brother will have a bleak Christmas, mourning for a man they loved who had the misfortune to have been born the son of a villain.
Bernie Madoff should be asking himself now, was it all worth it? The cars, the boats, and the mansions, when the price he had to pay was the life of his son?
An even more appalling tidbit turned up when the news broke that the Vatican’s Institute of Religious Works – actually a bank – is under investigation by Italian police for alleged money-laundering activities, leading to seizure of $30 million of its assets.
With typical aplomb, the Vatican is dismissing this as a mere “misunderstanding”. Yet this is no ordinary matter. Investigators are concerned with the bank’s links with the Mafia and corrupt businessmen which may have led to a deliberate flouting of anti-money laundering laws.
With the Vatican still under harsh public scrutiny for the activities of its pedophile priests, this disclosure of financial dishonesty comes at a bad time and may eventually lead to a widespread disillusionment with the church.
Did they actually think they could get away with these things forever? Are they totally lacking all sense of accountability and humility?
This holiday season, let us rethink the socially-constructed quest for material gain and individual honor and glory for no other more fulfilling reason than to aggrandize and enrich one’s self.
I’m talking to you, corrupt and incompetent politicians and merchants and prelates and other harbingers of doom. Look in the mirror and ask yourself – “Am I helping or harming others with my actions?” Because it shouldn’t be all about you.
To put it all in perspective, Chinese archaeologists recently dug up a sealed bronze bowl of 2,400-year-old bone soup. The find was made in Xian, the country’s capital city in ancient times and famed for being the location of the entombed terracotta army of Emperor Qin Shihuang.
The liquid and bones in the bowl had turned green from the oxidation of the bronze. The ingredients are still unknown pending analysis, but many people interested in ancient culture and cuisine are looking forward to finding out this antique recipe.
With the wealth of treasure and artwork in the tomb, those Chinese from the dawn of recorded time still found a place for a cauldron of broth.
It just goes to prove that in the end, it’s not money and power that last the ages or that most people consider significant. It’s the simple, homey things that are truly timeless – like soup. ***