I am still shocked US Congress voted against the proposed bailout plan, not because I am necessarily in favour of it but because it has become entrenched in my way of thinking that the little guy pays for the big guy’s mistakes. Already the fallout is huge with trillions being wiped off the stockmarket and the sense of panic in financial centres almost palpable. Is the rejection of the bailout a triumph of principles over practicalities, a very loud We’ve had enough and we ain’t going to take it any more directed at Corporate America? Or did those who voted NO do so because they feared not doing so would affect their chances of winning the upcoming election?
It is a traumatic time for many people right now but one story has really upset me today. This man committed suicide as a result of pressure over the credit crunch. I am upset by this because I do hate to think of someone taking their own life under any circumstance, but particularly with regard to stress over money. The worst part is that Kirk Stephenson was not apparently in any trouble himself, he just couldn’t cope with what was coming. He leaves behind a young son. How will that boy ever fathom what drove his father to throw himself under a train? It is a truly depressing thought.
I feel so badly for his family because I have seen evidence of the aftermath of suicide first hand. In 1987 I was in my first year of teaching and when the stockmarket crashed the father of one of my students committed suicide. Overnight he lost half a million dollars. He jumped from the top floor of a thirty storey building. I will never forget the haunted look on his son’s face when he came back to school after a brief period of mourning. One day he broke down in class and I held this fourteen year old 6 foot two boy for over an hour as he wept. ‘We could have moved to a smaller house,’ he said. ‘I would have given up all my extra-curricular stuff. I would have got a job after school to help pay the bills. It would have been alright. You don’t have to have a house on the water to be happy.’
I will never forget my student’s grief. Sad thing is, I know men like this. I have two close friends who are currently worried about their banker husbands, one of whom has said he would rather be dead than poor. I can honestly say that from the poor end of the spectrum it ain’t all that bad to live within your means, but when you are part of an ethos where money is the be-all and end-all, I do think it challenges your belief system and changes who you are.
Is the measure of a man gauged solely by what other’s see as his financial worth? It is a sad indictment of modern society if that’s the truth. I will watch events unfold over the next few days and hope there will be no more lives lost amid this greedy, filthy, inhuman disaster.