Posts Tagged ‘integrity’

The Height of Civilization

April 29, 2013

Sometimes I think human history is the outcome of a great war between civilization and barbarism.

When terrorists  set bombs in a public place to kill and maim innocent people, that is barbarism. When neighbors and citizens arise to comfort and compensate the victims of such atrocity, that is one of the many functions of what we call civilization.

History has  always been us civilized folks against the barbarians who assault the the gates of law and decency.

In the last decade of our nation’s collective experience, many of us have borne the burden of tragedies in which innocents suffered terrible pain, suffering, and death. In the wake of these terrible events, there never fails to be a multitude of Americans who answer the immediate and subsequent challenges  presented in sorting out and cleaning up bloody messes, and then ministering care and comfort to victims and their families. The most obvious heroes are the first responders, the  firemen, EMTs, physicians, nurses, policemen, neighbors, compassionate passersby, good samaritans. But there are many others all along the way in the aftermath.

For instance, long after the fact, after the dust settles, someone has to sort out the financial damages and compensations; there has to be a person or persons whose job is to  make the hard decisions in allocating limited money for compensation to victims and others who have suffered undeserved losses and injuries.

Fortunately for us here in the USA, there is a man whose God-given gift is to administrate those decisions, and their accompanying financial compensations, in a very public and transparent way. He is a man who is known for fairness, impartiality, and sound judgement.

Ken Feinberg is his name.  He has been appointed, in days recently past, to help others sort out and distribute the sticky, inadequate financial damages that collect in the wake of such events as: 9/11, the Virginia Tech shootings, the Colorado movie shootings, BP oilspill, and many others.

And now the Boston Marathon bombing damage compensation fund.

In an interview today with Robin Young of Boston’s WBUR Here and Now, Mr. Fineberg explainedthat there is “never enough money” in a situation such as this  to justly compensate all those people who have suffered death, maiming, loss of limbs, paralysis, pain, suffering and loss of just about every asset that humans are heir to, including suffering to which no monetary value can be assigned.

But somebody has to do it. Somebody has to make the difficult calls, and then have the results of the distribution acknowledged generally as fair and sufficient. In the USA today, that somebody is Ken Feinberg and his crew.

I admire him. It is a very difficult job, and he has handled it well, with honesty and integrity that is widely, consistently acknowledged, case after case, disaster after disaster.

What a hell of a job.

I recommend you listen to his answers in response to Robin Young’s questions:  http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/04/29/one-fund-feinberg

At the end of the interview, Ken intimated that the job is stressful. He said he has to take little breaks after meeting with victims and their families, in order to deal with the pain and suffering that he sees in their faces and hears in their complaints.

Then Robin mentioned Mozart; she had heard that he enjoys listening to music at the end of such a stressful day. Mr. Feinberg confirmed it. After all the stress that his day’s enquiries uncover, at the end of the day he finds release from the fierce collateral damages of barbarism, by fleeing to what he calls the  “height of civilization”: listening to Mozart, Wagner, Verdi, Beethoven.

I can relate, especially as he mentioned Beethoven.

It is true: a Beethoven symphony  performed by a professional orchestra is indeed the height of civilization.

In terms of music, that is.

But the deeper and loftier height of civilization is this:

what good people do to comfort, heal and care for their fellowmen/women, in the tragic aftermath whenever evil  has been inflicted by barbarians at the gate.

Glass half-Full

Toxic shock syndrome

March 26, 2010

I had heard that the Federal Reserve has been buying mortgage-backed securities, many of them the so-called “toxic assets” that poisoned our financial system during the great recession. Now I hear that next week the Fed will quit buying these sketchy securities, and many of us are wondering what effect that will have on the money supply and economic conditions.
I had spent most of my adult life working as a free-lance, uninsured carpenter–although a relatively educated one, since I had earlier been a wandering English major. I had watched the housing industry inflate fairly steadily over twenty-five years or so.  Like many other folks in America, I and my family were direct beneficiaries of that housing bubble, and the “securitized” financial bubble of false prosperity that exponentially inflated it until the whole damned thing burst in 2008. The construction industry was my source of wages during all those years, as well as being the source of economic fodder that fueled our steadily-growing home equity.
When the crash happened in fall of 2008, I was hearing from the free-market gripers that the socialist dems were responsible for the whole mess with their force-fed federal attempts to get unqualified buyers into houses. And I was hearing from the controlled-economy crowd that the unregulated greed of wallstreeters was the main cause of our downfall.
However, it’s obvious to me that the culpability for our financial woes is widely dispersed. In a perfect storm of economic destruction, everybody did their part one way or another–including me, who earned, as a hapless carpenter, steadily-increasing wages during the 25-year filling of that hot-air balloon. When the shit hit the fan, the air was thick with theoretical accusations flying from both directions. The free-market crowd blamed the bleeding heart dems for having laid a sandy foundation of unqualified consumer mortgage debt with their overactive pie-in-the-sky housing policies. The liberals blamed the gaming wallstreeters for having built their derivitized, credit-default-swapped house of cards on that shakily-mortgaged foundation until the weight of it brought the entire structure down.
Everybody’s right and everybody’s wrong. Last time I checked, we were all still members of the human race, and that explains a lot about this whole damn situation. Deal with it.
And realize we still have the same problem that our grandparents had back in the ’30s: their ain’t no free lunch.
Anyway, now I’m hearing again about these infamous mortgage-backed securities–the ones that nobody knows how to assign value to. They didn’t just, you know, go away. The tooth fairy didn’t just remove them from beneath our dreamy, media-puffed pillows while we slept. Turns out, ole gentle Ben was quietly buying them, to remove them and their destructive effects from the system, although their toxicity seems  now to have hopelessly polluted our political civility and even, perhaps, the integrity of our republic itself.
It’s nice to know, Ben, that you were out there attempting to clean up our mess. But now what happens?  I suppose we’ll find out after next week.
Fasten your seat belts, folks; we could be in for a rough ride, and our national vehicle is in need of some pretty serious repair. It reminds me–not that I’ve ever seen one, mind ye–of a runaway train.
Or the situation described by C.J. McCall in his old country song hit from back in the day: “…Wolf Creek pass, way up on the great divide, trucking on down…the other side,”
with worn-out brakes.