Friday, April 3, 2009

Musings on Madoff

A fellow blogger has condemned me for posting too many "warm fuzzy" posts lately (not his exact words, but you get the idea).
So this ones for you!

Actually, I brought up this topic to my family last weekend, but was quickly shot down.  [You may have noticed that we have strong opinions around these here parts :) ....] But now I've heard the same sentiment echoed by another.

Rabbi Avi Shafran, Director of Public Affairs for Agudath Israel of America, released a very controversial statement regarding the Madoff affair, which I will not publish in it's entirety because he raised more than one provocative issue, and for the purposes of this post, I'd like to limit the discussion to this one thought.

Please note - the emphasis of the red is mine. That is the issue that I myself have been struggling with and I am interested in your opinions.

"Something tells me I won’t make any new friends (and might even lose some old ones)..........[portions removed]
Let me try to explain. Please.
Mr. Madoff committed a serious economic crime on an unprecedented scale for such wrongdoing, and in the process ruined the financial futures of numerous people and institutions, including charitable ones, worldwide. There can be no denying that.

Yet I can’t quite bring myself to join the large, loud chorus of those who have condemned him to – to take Ralph Blumenthal’s judgment in The New York Times Magazine – the Pit, the deepest circle of Dante’s Inferno. Others have devised and publicly proclaimed creative and exquisite tortures of their own for the disgraced businessman – Woody Allen fantasized Madoff being attacked by clients reincarnated as lobsters, and Elie Wiesel wished the investor confined to a solitary cell and forced to watch his victims on a screen bewail their changed fortunes. The fury of the bilked has yielded opprobrium and loathing that isn’t visited on mass murderers.

I think the revulsion may say more about the revolted – and our money-obsessed and vengeance-obsessed society – than it does about Madoff. His crime, after all, was really remarkable only for its longevity and its scope. Judaism teaches that stealing is a sin, but it doesn’t differentiate between misappropriating a million dollars and pilfering a dime. And as to the sheer number of people defrauded by the thief of the moment, well, anyone who cheats on his federal income tax is defrauding 300 million of his fellow citizens. Few though, in such cases, invoke Dante."  [and he continues on.....]

Now please don't get me wrong.... 
I realize that people have been hurt.... BADLY.
I realize that lives have been ruined and funds for tzedokos decimated.
I can't help but wonder though, about the massive response, the likes of which I have never seen for any other criminal - AND THERE HAVE BEEN HEINOUS CRIMINALS BEFORE.
I question if our money obsessed society doesn't react more strongly towards crimes that strip them of their belongings than of crimes that rob people of their lives and/or their innocence, and I wonder what that says about us.

I'm keeping comment moderation off but I'd like to say up front that:


harry-er than them all said...

our reactions are defined by the timing of it. when people are losing their jobs, and those who have them aren't sure they will keep them, and everyone is feeling the crunch, people are upset at his greed.

its all in the timing. what kenneth lay did was also pretty bad, but he went to trial in the good times when it was just a blip on the radar. madoff just got caught at a bad time (for him), and people needed a person to point at.

Anonymous said...

Woody Allen should'nt talk. He was in violation of one of the Shelosha Chamuros.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

I agree 100% with you. I once tried to explain my view on money, but I don't think I did a good job at it. But I had noticed how many people would talk about money as if that was the one thing that mattered. When there was an interview of the Israeli lady with 19 children, people were against her because it had to do with money. With the octomom people were against it because it involved money. Money seems to be the deciding factor, and I don't think that's fair.

Anonymous said...

Hanoch Teller has 20 children. Bless his heart.
Bless her heart.

Anonymous said...

Hanoch Teller has 20 children. Bless his heart.
Bless her heart.