Sara Whitman

Men and Greed

Filed By Sara Whitman | December 12, 2008 8:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: bankruptcy, blagojevich, governor, greed

Last night Bernard Madoff was arrested for running what was basically, the mother of all scams in the investment industry.

The other day, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich was caught trying to line his pockets by offering his pick to replace Senator Obama up for sale.

Men and greed.

Oh, sure, women are greedy, too. No question. We rarely rise to the same levels of power, though. I do not think we are above it, we simply haven't had the same opportunities.

With Madoff, I can personally say, it was clear it was a scam to me. For a long time. I've worked in the investment industry and served on investment committees for a long time. I knew, many people I knew also knew, that there was no way anyone could ever have those kind of returns.

It simply was too good to be true.

Why did people invest? Because they didn't want to see the man behind the curtain. They wanted the money.

I cannot even begin to explain the good Governor. He had it made. He had power and political clout. I guess it wasn't enough.

The fascinating thing to me, is that they don't realize they will get caught. Madoff had been doing this for YEARS. Decades. How he could have lived with taking money from people knowing they would never get it back is beyond me.

But did both men really honestly believe they would get away with it? I think Madoff knew the gig would be up eventually. Blagojevich was just an idiot.

I look at the three, privileged white boys I am raising and wonder how to keep their feet on the ground. How to install a sense of dignity and moral compass that is strong enough to weather any kind of temptation- and especially money and power.

I don't know how. But I know I have to.

Because men and greed... it's a bad combination.


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w88rxhWould you get the fcuk off priviledged white men. It's up to you to raise your sons anyway you like. As you know it was CEO Stan O'Neil who brought down Merrill/Lynch with the sub prime mortgage derivatives which helped bring on the Federal Reserve bailout of 700B. Stan O'Neil is black, educated at Harvard business school like President Elect Obama, and his grandfather was a slave that worked in the cotton fields of Alamaba. He rose above all that and became CEO of Merrill/Lynch. He had no loyalty to the company my cousin founded.
I can't suggest any advice to give to your sons but please don't instill self hatred in them for being white. Our founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence, a document inspired by reason and the idea that all men are created equal. Nothing to be ashamed about.

Oh please.

Leona Helmsley.

Martha Stewart.

Sarah Palin.

Oh, and Mrs. Blagojevich.

Countless bookkeepers, accountants and white-bloused embezzlers.

Nice try attempting to make a human weakness a male characteristic.

I won't get involved in the male vs. female corruption issue. I'd rather speak about your sons, and the challenge you face. Your job, as a parent, is to give your children the ability to read, think and reason for themselves. Encourage them to read as many texts on values, ethics, and philosophy as possible, then discuss with them how they may apply these lessons. Express the need to them for the development of a strong personal code of ethics, a set of rules they should live by that they have decided upon for themselves, and then to live by them. You have influence as a parent, you can tell them what you find right and wrong, but they must determine their own codes of ethics, in order to live in the world of their futures. They must learn to think for themselves.

Religion can enter in as well, but do not make the mistake of marrying ethics to faith. I know athiests who have developed stronger codes of ethics than many fundie Christians.

Years ago, ethics was taught in schools; now, only liberal arts and theology majors ever see ethics classes at university level. That is a shame, and in the behavior of Blagojevich, Ted Stevens, and others, we see the peril of not teaching young people how to determine a code of ethics for themselves, how to determine for themselves what is right or wrong.

wow, a bunch of defensive white men who mistake a critique of a power structure as an attack against white men. how fitting.

Yes, reading your post, I immediately wanted to mention Leona Helmsley and Martha Stewart, but I see Allan Brauer beat me to it. He missed mentioning, though, Anna Nicole Smith and all the other fem fatale gold diggers of the world ... who technically do nothing illegal or "wrong" when they marry for money ... but do you want to teach your daughter that that is the way to get through life?

You also shortchange the many men in the world, whether they be white, black, or purple, who are worthy of being a suitable role model for your sons. Whether they be Martin Luther King Jr. or John F. Kennedy or Nelson Mandela, or Leonard Bernstein or Michael Tilson Thomas or Elton John, or even Bill Gates or Steven Jobs or Warren Buffett or Bill Hewlett or David Packard, there are lots of men in the world who make it a better place to live, and some even make honest fortunes for themselves while doing so.

Cameron Young | December 13, 2008 3:09 AM

Let me first state the following: absolute power corrupts absolutely and power attracts envy. Now let me follow this statement with a thought: you don't understand how people in such predicaments can get caught? I thought it was simple. If people are envious they look for the opportune moment to take the power another has, and if absolute power corrupts absolutely, then it is only a matter of time until something occurs to draw people that are envious to action.

Furthermore let me say that if anyone responds to the aforementioned idea, let me straight up tell you now: you are a fool. Everyone with power, EVERYONE, will have a moment or more of scandalous attention resulting from their power. If you say that is not true then you have not either researched properly of their history or it hasn't occurred yet and will.

Now I turn to the statement about men mostly being in positions of power to cause scandalous affairs. Really? Seems your statement is pretty scandalous when it implies not many women can assume roles that men hold or usually hold. Seems to me that it is people like you that are the inspiration for women to prove you wrong. Also, don't attempt at using my statement here to self-promote yourself as an archetype of women; my statement is anything but.

Lastly, the comment about your white sons...was it necessary to include the adjective of a human being to label them a certain way? And you furthermore ask rhetorically in a sense how you expect to raise them to be good adults? Sir, if you are thinking these things I beseech you; never procreate again. You are the role model for their lives. The way you live your life will determine one of two things; either they will want to be just like you, or they will want to be nothing like you. You yourself know what kind of person you are, so if you are a good person there is really nothing to worry about. ....However, from what you said, it seems you are worrying and now that makes me wonder as to what it is you are worried of..

good lord, did anyone actually read what I wrote?

hello? I said of course women would do the same thing we simply haven't had the same access to power. sure, those women were corrupt.

no question.

and no, I will not get off the white male privilege bandwagon, charles. as someone who has had to deal with it, it sucks. I'm sick of it. I'm tired of white men wandering the country with enormous privilege simply because of their gender and color.

it's annoying.

Stan was one of the few exceptions to the rule- as were the other listed women. sure. there were some. but go through history, bub, and tell me how many African American men were in such a position.

or women.

and compare it to white men.

thank you. my point made.

ezky wrote:

wow, a bunch of defensive white men who mistake a critique of a power structure as an attack against white men.

Correction: A couple of white men, myself included, read a BADLY WRITTEN and LAZY ATTEMPT at a critique of a power structure and started laughing at Sara Whitman's waste of column space.

BTW, I am a big fan and follower of the writings of Tim Rice and recommend his book White Like Me to people who really want to learn something about white male privilege. They just won't learn anything from this column.

All very good points, Sara. And you did say that women could be corrupted just as easily. I think some folks jumped defensive...

And as for Blago? I think his problem is mental. It has to be at this point. The dude's gone off the deep end!

good lord, did anyone actually read what I wrote?

hello? I said of course women would do the same thing we simply haven't had the same access to power. sure, those women were corrupt.

no question.

and no, I will not get off the white male privilege bandwagon, charles. as someone who has had to deal with it, it sucks. I'm sick of it. I'm tired of white men wandering the country with enormous privilege simply because of their gender and color.

it's annoying.

Stan was one of the few exceptions to the rule- as were the other listed women. sure. there were some. but go through history, bub, and tell me how many African American men were in such a position.

or women.

and compare it to white men.

thank you. my point made.


This was a response I believe to mine? Let me quote you "there were some. but go through history, bub, and tell me how many African American men were in such a position". This is self refuting in itself. Did you live in Africa from 0 B.C. to 1800? No. Can you say for certain there was no one that rose to any significant stardom? Was there not a major warlord kind to his people and rich? Was there no African hero among the people who gave to the poor as white people's fables do? You can not say for certain if such a thing existed or not. Now let me refute you once more in somewhat modern history of African men AND women that rose to stardom:
Frederick Douglass- An amazingly well spoken individual who learned to read and write from his slavemasters as well as young white children. Became an abolitionist and a personal friend to Abraham Lincoln. His narrative documents his life, his witnesses, and the arguments that people used for slavery and in effect reduces them to absurdity. It was he that rose two divisions of black slaves to fight for the cause of freedom.
Lydia Marie Child- Uncole Tom's Cabin was based off of this person. It was hailed as the book that instilled the most hatred for slavery pre-Civil War. The woman's accounts given in the book were true and the author was able to prove such with historic documents and readings of Lydia's own narratives.
Sojourner Truth- Famous black abolitionist who was an amazing speaker to instill others so persuasively. She was visited by Abraham Lincoln as president and was hailed as an amazing orator.
Olaudah Equiano- First narrative of an account of a poor uneducated slave becoming an economic mastermind and eventually bought his own freedom. Later became the single most heard voice of the atrocities of slave shipping to the carribean when he witnessed a slave holder throwing slaves over the ship, chained together, in order to get insurance money.
Harriet Tubman- Need I say more?
Phyllis Wheatley- Admired by our first president George Washington who had the privellege of reading a poem specifically dedicated to the general. Also wrote a poem in which she backhanded white supremacy in a subtle manner and reinforced the idea that blacks were equal to whites
W.E.B. Dubois- Co founder of NAACP and prominent civil rights supporter.
Mum Bett and Dred Scott- Both attempted to sue for their freedom and were unsuccessful. Their reasoning was based off of the Declaration of Independence and state laws respectively. Both were unsuccessful but both attempted to show the hypocrisy of the Constitution.
Denmark Vesey- Denmark managed to educate himself as well as learned to read. In the 1800s, seventeen years after his arrival in Charleston, Denmark won $1,500.00 in a street lottery and used $600.00 of his winnings to buy his freedom. Now free, he stayed on in Charleston and worked as a carpenter. He began to plan a slave revolt after reading about the succesful slave revolt in Haiti. He was the exact model for John Brown, a famous white slave revolter that died for his beliefs.

So, shall I go on? Perhaps you should read into American Literature and American History as I have? If these aren't prime examples I certainly do not know what is. And if you are going to have the gall to say that "But there were plenty of white people that retained more power" it would have to be determined what you considered power. I consider power whenever a single person has great influence on many people. I can't remember anything grand about many white people from the 1800s-1860s besides famous white presidents. I can't recall any white senator that was famous. But I can certainly remember all of the above mentioned black people who had power in their time.

I think what Sara has only been trying to say it women have not gotten often to the large table to bilk others at such a large amount. The women mentioned Leona Helmsley, who was mean was mean to her employees and a pretty despicable person. Sara Palin yes did the people of Alaska who seem to like her in the lower rank and file no favors by using her office. Martha Stewart got insider trading tips but still has yet to rip folks off like the men of ENRON for example, TYCO, BIG time rip offs which leave folks with no job, pensions etc. Women have not gotten into those positions and unfortunately white men have. The man who was mentioned was being African American Stan O'Neil is one out of a few African Americans who have risen to a height to be able to scam folks on a large level like that.

So I see her questions as valid how to raise her children to know what is right and wrong. Still Sara you will do the best you can but you will not be able to say anything except I did my best when all is said and done and hope like most mothers do that their children will do good in the world and not bring more evil into it by being or rising to a position where they can exercise power and defraud folks because of being powerful.

I do not think Sara will raise her sons to hate themselves for being white as that is not really something someone can change so easily as hair color. She can introduce them to people who will inspire courage on many ethnic fronts as examples and show them Tim Rice information so that they get a good understanding that just because of their skin color the world sets them visibly ahead and gives breaks that are assumed. That is not to negate the poor white folks in this world because they exist too but those who have affluence or have access to it should know that they don't have to succumb to what the world or at least this country has done to white men or asserted is right as unspoken priviledge.

Move to Detroit, 84% black. You can enroll the kids in school there and they will never have to see a priviledged white man, ever. They can even belong to a black mega church where they pray to their god at the altar of SUV's and Hummer V's for a government bailout.

Cameron Young | December 13, 2008 2:54 PM

I think what Sara has only been trying to say it women have not gotten often to the large table to bilk others at such a large amount

Really? Did anyone else read Sarah's statement meaning that? I mean the quip before that was pretty obvious "Men and Greed". Did no one else take that as a condescending attitude implying that greed goes hand in hand with men?

The comment after that saying "Oh sure, women can be greedy too" and the following comment seems to me to mean "sure, women can be greedy, but not as much as men can be". It was like brushing aside a notion that many, with half a brain, can understand.

Let me reveal something to you: There are 6.5 billion people in the world. I saw a few examples of men, of women, of African, etc. Is Sarah actually attempting to explain that women have not had many opportunities to be greedy when there are 6.8 billion people in the world and she just so happens to live in a privelleged country which, unfortunately, shields you from numerous examples of the "real world"? This is the entire basis for my extreme retaliation to her assertions. It is conjecture based little off of reasoning and example. To bring about such a broad and outlandish example with such insignificant examples is horrifying. If you have ever read a Supreme Court case in any country, you will see a ton of cases set up as precedents for ruling (save for Bush v. Gore which was a travesty in and of itself). The purpose (at least I once believed) of an opp ed writer was to analyze something and express either its drawbacks or advantages, not to reflect on an enormously broad topic and attempt to narrow it down using two examples. My advice? Trash this idea and get off of the neo-feminisim of male hate mantras and return, if you are inclined to feminism at all, to the 1970s feminism in which equality was sought in every aspect of life which a lot of men, including myself, support full-force.

I think what Sara has only been trying to say it women have not gotten often to the large table to bilk others at such a large amount

Really? Did anyone else read Sarah's statement meaning that?

I did. It was here:

Oh, sure, women are greedy, too. No question. We rarely rise to the same levels of power, though. I do not think we are above it, we simply haven't had the same opportunities.

I thought it was pretty clear...

Really? Did anyone else read Sarah's statement meaning that?

Well, I did. I thought it was pretty obvious.

so, what SARA meant, as I am Sara and thank you, there is no "h" at the end, is that women don't often get to the same table.

yes, bil, that is what I meant.

and while there have been horrible african american men, men of all colors, repeatedly through history, it's been white men.

because that's who sits in power.

the two men I mentioned, are white men. stupid, arrogant white men who did not think they would get caught- I think that's stupid as mentioned, anytime you are in power, there are others who want your seat.

to say I will raise my kids to hate themselves because they are white men, and in fact, privileged, misses the point of my concern.

you can disagree with me, and trash my writing- I had about fifteen minutes before my previously mentioned boys were walking in the door. I will not disagree I could have written more, said it with more specific references. fair enough.

but alas, I had to go shortchange my son's lives by getting them ready to go spend the night with their two dads- both white men AWARE of their privilege and willing to discuss it without pouting like babies that they are so misunderstood. Men who I sought out to be role models, guides, one of whom is my best friend in the world.

Obviously, as Cameron points out, because I hate men.

All this heat over a simple concern about raising children who haven't had to face serious status-based challenges to their expectations, kids who don't get the daily message from the world in general that "It's not all about you".

Yes, the world would be better if more well-off parents were like Sara et al, and tried to teach their children empathy, manners, moderation, kindness, and resistance to extreme materialism.

I agree. I worked at a summer camp in Maine once for the children of the elite. It was all boys. (I later worked at other new england summer camps, and while everyone who works at any of these thinks that the kids are overprivileged, I would always say that, at the later camps, the kids were doctor and lawyer rich. Not master of the universe rich, like at that one in Maine.)

The sense of entitlement those kids had would astound anyone outside of their bubble and make Paris Hilton look like Mother Teresa. It's a real problem. They think they owned women's bodies and anything else they wanted to put their hands on. And many of them weren't used to adults they interacted with actually having negative emotional reactions to them.

But there parents were like that, and so their kids would be like that. So when the financial crisis hit and these folks were in papers and on teevee demanding money with no accountability and completely not understanding why some folks were against it, it's simply an extension of their overwhelming entitlement.

A long way of saying, kudos to Sara for working against that. I don't know about her particular financial situation, but Kids of any privilege do need to be taught the values of listening to others, sharing, and respecting others.

Cameron Young | December 14, 2008 1:51 AM

Well, on a last note I would like to apologize for not knowing that your name, sara, is without an 'h'. I was too busy shredding the "argument" to look for it.

Secondly, when you comment that mostly white men are those in power, you think that because you have been raised in a "white environment". If you were raised/lived in Africa, for instance, you would be learning a VERY different history and feel that African men were always in power.

Lastly, to make the statement that white men are usually in power is, once again, incredibly misleading. You are generalizing from too specific examples. In other words, basing your support off of a sample size too small. Since your claim is "Men and greed are a bad combination" I still don't see how your small sample size is relevant to a planet filled with 6.8 billion people. Nor do I see how you can generalize an entire sex when considering you have been raised in one country learning one history.

Also, if you had to stop and get your kids ready for their fathers, why not just put your opp ed on hold and, once you gain the time again, post something worth thinking of rather than putting up a shoddy idea.

Lastly, about the "Obviously, as Cameron points out, because I hate men"...I don't know the absolute details of the reasoning as to WHY you do (or even if you actually do since the comment smacks of sarcasm), but is this manifestation of hatred really healthy for...anyone?

Those with privilege are the last ones to see it, or admit it.

But nobody likes being called a jerk simply because they share some physical characteristics with a few villains. I don't think that's what Sara was writing about though. It's too bad that people take this stuff so personally.

If you are a member of the privileged class, you almost have to step outside yourself to understand what that means. It isn't that life is all roses and every member of that club gets things handed to them on a platter. You still have to compete with other people in your group, and the elite of the elite are the ones who skim the cream as everyone knows. But you are allowed to compete on an elevated plane with relation to someone that doesn't have a membership card. It doesn't matter what characteristics you have, it's what you lack that damns you.

What makes this an issue of privilege isn't the competition for power, per se. It is the unchangeable nature of these arbitrary characteristics used to decide who is a member of the favored group. You can't work your way up out of having the wrong skin color. That's why these things get set up that way in the first place. And that's why tearing them down is the right thing to do, no matter who's feelings get hurt.

OK
This argument is about this country and the men who have been greedy who sit in power mostly in the USA have been white men.

The Pilgrims were white folks. They came over her and asserted themselves against the people who were already here Native Americans and began the establishment of White Men in power in this country.

You may say the Spanish came over here too and they did but in the end the White men came out on top and made the glass ceilings and laws to keep others from rising to the top. There were unspoken rules attitudes which have given white men privilege in this country and we are all influence by advertising, TV etc which pretty much keeps advertising white folks as preeminently the folks who get nice houses, etc the people of color are put in every once and a while so as not to look prejudiced but the audience who watch this are of all colors and see this still being pushed toward Americans in general. Hollywood still pushes that actors actresses who have talent are those of Caucasian looks and there are some of color who have "made it" but not that many.

The separation of internet sites , churches , etc for other ethnic groups come about because of the inequality in the playing field.

Thus leading people to reinforce the issue of white privilege.

Sara thanks for being honest about your predicament and sensitive to your children.

The Spanish were "white" weren't they? I guess it's time to call white people after their continent, just like the geographical label is applied to all "non-whites" from their respective locales. The day of the European-American is coming, I tells ya.