Next week brings the sentencing for fraud of a man shrouded in mystery. Bernard Lawrence Madoff: heartless criminal, hapless businessman -- or role model?
Bankruptcy, public humiliation, prison -- why does the American public dwell obsessively on the downside of the Bernard Madoff story? Sure, if you only look at the end, of course it's bad. But is the lesson of Bernie Madoff that he got caught, or that he got away with it for 20 years?
Life isn't about the day you die; it's about making money every second till you're arrested. Now, in just 6 easy steps, you can live just such an enchanted life: the Bernie Madoff Way!
STEP 1: GO AMORAL
Right and Wrong are so over. Take Hitler... Evil. Schmuck. Killed six million people and what'd it get him? A bullet in the brain and a half-dozen TV-movies.
The problem with Adolph Hitler is he cared too much. When you worry about what people think, you spend precious conquering-and/or-scamming time explaining your political theories, your goals, your ideals. Keep your Kampf -- "Jews are vermin blah blah blah" -- just annex the damn Sudetenland already. The Bernie Madoff Way endorses Amorality, where your end (grotesque wealth) operates unencumbered by the means (betraying everyone within betraying range). Principles, ideals, feelings -- that is so Dow 14,000.
But you say "Isn't being amoral the same as being immoral? If you don't care about helping people, isn't that wrong?" Well first of all, who asked you? No one wants your opinion. Anyway, the answer is no.
Amorality isn't "not caring about people" -- that, sir and/or madam, is a damnable lie. I think we can all agree that amorality means caring only about yourself. But who is you? People. If you care about you, you care about people. Grab me a Nobel, wouldja?
The Amoral Advantage™ is that instead of getting bogged down in convoluted theories of Right and Wrong, you go straight to "What's in it for me?"
STEP 2: KNOW THE DIFFERENCE
Once you're operating in a Madoffian manner, you may be accused of immorality by friends, colleagues and the SEC. Thus, it's critical to know the difference between mo-, im- and am-.
The moral man hugs puppies.
The immoral man kills puppies.
The amoral man runs a puppy mill.
The moral woman has sex with her husband.
The immoral woman has sex with her best friend's husband.
The amoral woman has sex with herself on pay-per-view webcam.
The moral politician votes his conscience and gets defeated.
The immoral politician takes illegal money and gets elected.
The amoral politician gets appointed to the Senate.
This can also be expressed as a simple formula...
immoral = terrorist
moral = freedom fighter
amoral = arms dealer
Throughout our in-depth analysis of amorality, one principle keeps reappearing, like a poignant memory from youth or Angelina Jolie's tattoos; Amorality is beyond Good or Evil, Right or Wrong, Atkins or Zone. Sure, it can cause suffering but -- and this is the important thing -- not yours. If everyone was amoral, no one would be exploited. Or everyone would. One of those things.
STEP 3: JUSTIFICATION
"But," you cry, "didn't you say earlier that Madoffians don't waste valuable time explaining their behavior?" No. Are you nuts? I never said that. Stop interrupting.
Amorality has a long and distinguished history of eloquent excusery. The Marquis de Sade -- novelist, libertine, torturer of women -- argued for the subjectivity of morality. His personal credo of hedonism, materialism, the pleasure of evil and the virtues of pain gave the world his name as a behavorial description -- Marquisism (the desire to see one's name in on a marquee, achieved by being a novelist, libertine and torturer of women).
And let us not forget (because you were going to, be honest) Friedrich Nietzsche. This 19th-century German philosopher believed in asserting power, wealth and vitality over corrupt religious values. For this he was accused of being amoral. How wrong his accusers were is shown by the fact that his book Man and Superman has been optioned by Warner Brothers for Ben Stiller and Robert Downey, Jr.
Nietzsche is best known as the composer of Also Spoke Zarathustra and for being the only man to understand the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Turns out the monolith was a symbol. To find out for what, buy my forthcoming book It Was His Sled: A Guide To World Cinema.)
Nietzsche's most famous statement remains controversial; no one has ever proved God is dead. Although it's now fairly certain that Nietzsche is.
French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre believed that freedom makes you nauseous and therefore you should go nihilist (French for "amoral"). Sartre had a longstanding relationship with Simone de Beauvoir, who let him have sex with any woman he wanted. Sartre is greatly admired by many men for his achievement in having sex with any woman he wanted while living with a hot bisexual feminist philosopher.
STEP 4: STOP CARING
Ultimately, your ability to Madoffize your life depends on ignoring the suffering of others, which is more difficult than you might think. Bernie Madoff wasn't born amoral -- he had to work at it, willing his sympathetic receptors to wither and die. Which he did by using these simple daily exercises:
(1) Practice saying "I don't care" to yourself whenever anyone says anything, but don't say it to the person.
(2) Say it to the person.
(3) Study the great moral questions posed by Descartes, Hobbes, Bentham. Do this for one hour then say "Screw it." And mean it.
With practice, you'll soon be able to do whatever you want without worrying about other people's feelings. Doing this with another person is amoral; doing it alone is masturbation.
STEP 5: LOOK BIG
Madoff's operation was Ricky Gervais in a Schwarzenegger suit. What appeared to be a gigantic worldwide investment fund was a 3-man accounting firm, a handful of 80's computers and Bernie's gang yanking numbers out their butts ("toxic assets").
But it worked: Bernie was a winner. And, despite all the hysterical news reports, so were his investors. Bernie made everyone happy for 20 years; it's the busybody regulators who screwed things up by pointing out there was no money. It's like Wile E. Coyote hanging in mid-air -- it's not till he hears the "beep beep" and looks down that he's wiped out (along with his 401K).
Look at the Madoff client list: the rich (Henry Kaufman); the famous (Kevin Bacon -- but he probably just did it to connect to a thousand more people); the rich and famous (Zsa Zsa Gabor) (okay, I'm reaching); the hopelessly corrupt (Eliot Spitzer); the hopelessly moral (Elie Wiesel); famous lefties (Sandy Koufax); Joe the Plumbers (United Association Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 267); God (Diocese of St. Thomas); the Beatles (Liverpool City Council); men who wear skirts (Royal Bank of Scotland); people with ironic names (Marc Rich); and people who were, let's face it, just asking for it (New York Law School).
What made Bernie so attractive to so many smart, sophisticated investors? Easy: he looked the part. If you look the right way, the world will rush to suckle at your dividend-engorged teat, never knowing the truth (bedazzled as they are by your enormous teat).
It's like blowfish. Sure, they seem like the cutest of the Tetraodontidae, you wanta just take one and pinch it, but get it mad and it's the size of Christian Bale's ego.
So act big. Dress big. Work big, play big. Only don't work. If investors stop by the office, grab them and say "Have you seen my solid-gold salad fork? It's right here by the solid-gold salad."
STEP 6: DON'T WHINE
Bernie Madoff had a wonderful life and the grace to go out like a class act when he got caught. Other than begging the court not to sell his assets, prosecute his co-conspirators or send him to prison, he's maintained his dignity.
And why not? Bernie lived like a King, a Pharoah, a God, a steroid-riddled baseball player. Yachts, mansions, $50 manicures; a revered philanthropist, admired and envied by all who knew him. I ask you, is that not worth a couple years in the pokey at the end? I'll await your answer while you spray-paint your salad.
Still, when Bernie Madoff dies in prison, he will certainly have suffered in one way. (Two, if you count nonstop anal rape.) After 20 years of lying, cheating, betraying his family, friends, religion, social position and economic system to the tune of 65 billion dollars... after making "Madoff" the most reviled name in America... after all that... it's still called a Ponzi Scheme.
And that, my friends, is just wrong.
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