Tooterisms Feed

The Man without a Nose (Moral Fables for Trusted Advisors to Wealth)

"Phil," Tutor said to me last night, "when you meet a man without a nose, it is not always because he has the pox. Sometimes it is because he cut it off to spite his face." My hand went immediately to my nose. It was still tender and inflamed from alcohol, but otherwise intact. I think I must be anxious about my recent post on Matt Wesley, and the possibility that he, as a trusted advisor to wealth, and a Divine by training, might respond amicably, rather than distancing himself from me as a pariah in a dumpster, passed by in silence, as I should be. His nose looks good on him;  mine on me. It would be terrible if we used logic to address ideology.  That never ends well, particularly if you do it in public.  For example:

  1. Wealth disparity does not exist.
  2. If it did exist it is a good thing, not an injustice, but a result of the hidden hand of God working through the market
  3. If it is a bad thing, it is a necessary evil
  4. While it may exist and be bad, wealth disparity does not matter because heirs within two generations, will dissipate the money through their well documented vice and folly
  5. We as Trusted Advisors can fix this by helping parents choose their values from a list, or from a set of cards, and pass them on to their kids
  6. We, the Wise and Virtuous, can also help the rich by serving as moral exemplars to them and as moral mentors to their heirs. Sighted ourselves we can cure their blindness. Healthy ourselves we can cure their sickness. They just have to incentivize us. Our time is limited and we can only save just so many families from themselves. We must start with the richest because they can do the most good or harm, and because they can afford to pay us a good retainer.
  7. For the fortunate few centa-millionaires and up who can afford us, we can make sure they enter Paradise on Earth, and remain citizens of it forever, far from the stinking mess they have left behind, the fallen world of poor struggling mortals enmeshed in sin and death. 

I was taught, by Tutor, long ago, that to those to whom much is given, much is expected. This was not presented by Tutor as optional. He simply took me OTK and thrashed me, until I learned the lesson. Maybe for that reason I now take it as Gospel.

But, in all fairness to the ideologues, the mystified, the false prophets, and the gullible in dynastic wealth planning,  I can see the other side too. There are rewards and punishments that shape our thoughts and feelings, and make or break our careers. The nursery rhyme about Simple Simon may be about that.  Those with a penny get to eat the pie. Those without the penny do not get pie, or plum. You can look for a whale in your pail, but unless the client fills it, you have not got squat.

If we alienate our patrons by drawing attention to their responsibilities, they may not accept us as their Secular Priest, Morals Tutor, Trusted Advisor, Most Trusted Advisor, Privy Counselor, Concierge, Consigliere, Person of All Work, Swami, or Family Dynamics Coach. We may be thrown out on our ass, and have to cage charity from a Dumpster, a sorry life for a moral paragon like me. 

Speak well of the devil: I sometimes feel God put me on earth as an object lesson to others, an example of what goes wrong in Paradise if you mistake the Gospels for truth.

The Happy Tutor is a special man. He is also a fictional figure, not a figment of my imagination as some might assume, but of Erasmus's, in The Praise of Folly. At least he was drawn by Holbein as an illustration. We would be a world class fool if we followed his example, Matt.

What A Flourishing Dynastic Family is For beyond Supporting us as Loyal Retainers

The Happy Tutor, my friend and mentor, Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage, actually does serve as the moral mentor, and pander, to a dynastic family, who built their wealth disrupting among other things the trade in blood. While blood donations are still made charitably, the company founded by this family makes the market, and takes a percentage. They are helping promote the sharing economy. They are doing the most good. They have a spreadsheet to prove it.

I caught up with Tutor in the servant's quarters of the family's compound on an island off the coast of Canada. I asked him how he felt about devoting his life to promoting the well being of those who already have most. How did that square with his own lowly origins, and commitment to democracy, and the life of the street? His answer may be of interest to others who have gone down this route; I don't find it plausible, but it is consoling.

What Tutor said, with an inscrutable face, is that only great wealth in a few hands is conducive, through education, and leisure, and patronage, and careful breeding with other very smart and capable people, to the creation of High Culture, as in the days of the Medicis, or the Bourbon Kings. With Good Taste. And meals at High Table. And real Art, not just the crap you see in the mall. He said he would rather live as a Servant to Wealth, or as a Pimp, or Pander, or Butler, or Morals Tutor, Trusted Advisor, Concierge, Man of all Work, Dancing Master, Svengali, or Spiritual Guide to a Flourishing wealthy family, raising their level of culture, from whatever starting point, however low and crass and commercial to begin with, than to live in a world where everyone is like the riffraff (the actually existing 'demos,' as he called it) you see on Twitter, Facebook and Linked-In. "Phil," he said to me, "be honest; would you rather work with one crass, market demented family, the very epitome of Wealth Bondage, whose children or grandchildren might some day acquire culture and taste, or would you rather spend your life educating the empty, ordinary heads of those whose children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, will be left behind, a permanent middling class of morons, with a positive mental attitude? Do you really want to spend your best years sharing their selfies, links and motivational quotations? Earning their 'likes,' when you could be making bank tutoring the scions of wealth who own the platform on which the morons entertain each other? What is the highest hope of humanity if it is not the creation and preservation of a leisured cultivated ruling elite, in a paradise of their own? It is through such efforts that ours becomes a noble trade."

I think he is bullshitting me, but I am not sure. It is pretty much the same kind of bullshit I hear from the platform in many high end wealth planning conferences, but not so well expressed. It takes hundreds of years to create an Ancient, a man of Taste, like Tutor. We Moderns still have a long way to go.

A Pious Fraud and Role Model

"Just because we are damned for all eternity does not make us bad people," Tutor explained to me, last night, over a can of half-eaten tuna we had found in a Dumpster. "God has his value system, we have ours. Who is to say what is right or wrong?" You can see why Tutor, my mentor, and Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage, has always done better than I as a Spiritual Director to Worldly Wealth. 

Author and Reader On Speaking Terms, at best

"We read," said William Nicholson, "to know we are not alone." But in a time of Facebook, Twitter, and surveillance, my mentor, The Happy Tutor, teaches, "We must write to remain alone." I am not sure what he means. But maybe that is what he means. I don't know.  Maybe my not knowing is the point. But that would be so sad. He is my only friend, though, apparently, imaginary.

Abraham and Isaac

He would slay his own son, but awaits the sign on the tele-prompter. (From Phil's upcoming Life and Sayings of the Happy Tutor.) I may not be Boswell, but I owe my friend and mentor at least this much, to preserve the best of his Table Talk for future generations. Tutor may be immortal, but like the classics generally, he is a bit the worse for wear. Unless we capture and codify his aphorisms, there is a chance that they will be tossed out, with the sacks of garbage, when the big truck comes to empty our abode.  What the aphorisms may mean, it is not for me to say. They are a chain of signifiers; we do know that much.

The Happy Tutor at Council on Foundations

I was attending Council on Foundations, as as honored guest, when to my horror, I saw that the Happy Tutor was on the agenda for the Evening Plenary Session: "Making the Most of Wealth Bondage:  Mastering Social Change Before It Masters You." I see him walk, or really, swagger, in the front door of the Biltmore. I had been afraid he would come naked, his normal business attire, but no, he has on that god-awful white bell bottom leisure suit, with the rayon shirt open to his waist, and those gold chains, or gold-plated chains, over his hairy chest. He has shades on that looked like they had belonged to Sony Bono.  He flashes me a sign with both hands raised high, index fingers and pinky extended - Hook 'em Horns

I follow him into the packed ballroom, acting like we are strangers.  Down the aisle he goes, doing that Chuck Berry air guitar act of his, with the splits, every third chord. By the time, he gets to to the podium, he is wiping his brow with a scarf, like Elvis, "Thank you, that you very much...."  When he starts his lecture, or really it was more like karaoke, the red-jackets were serving the baked Alaska. Within 10 minutes, he had them all on the dance floor. The dowager in the low cut dress was waving her waffled arms, and doing the hokey-pokey. The waiters were doing the monkey with trustees in pin stripes.  Admiral Harlan Proctor, head of the finance committee,  was doing the samba with his daughter, Missy.  Senator Dick Minim (D. MA) was slow dancing with Smoky Joe, Senior Public Relations Counsel for Wealth Bondage. Joe McPatriot, drunk as a skunk, was running around saluting all the flag lapel pins, and there were hundreds. Even Sister Lucy was smiling. She may have taken a vow of silence, but it didn't stop her from tapping her foot. The little kids in their Sunday Best were tearing around the tables throwing water as their parents chased them.  I didn't have the heart to stick around and see what kind of party this all degenerated into. I went back to my room and watched one of those cable movies.

Next morning checking out, there was Tutor, buck naked, dragging a garbage bag he had borrowed from the maid to use as luggage. I asked him how it had turned out. "Phil, he said, it was going good until someone lit the table cloth on the dais on fire. That set off the sprinklers, the police showed up, Missy was arrested for public indecency,  and the Convener got tazed and dragged off in cuffs. They pulled her by her hair all the way down that hall. I think they are trying to bail the two of them out now."  I asked if he had accomplished his objectives. "Yes, he said, "we turned the world upside down pretty good. Do you know that our esteemed Founder, Diogenes, asked to be buried faced down so that that when the world was turned upside down, he would be right side up? Well, the world keeps turning over. This morning the guests were eating their omelets and reading the Wall Street Journal, same as ever. The wait staff was as invisible as ever, and I am out of here.   We don't any of us really want social change, not until the check clears anyway."

The Cynics, the real ones, were actually a serio-comic school of moral philosophers. Serio ludere, "play seriously" was their motto, or so I am told, by Dr. Amrit Chadwallah, Senior Adjunct in Charge of Hidden Meaning, but I wish that foolish tradition had died out for good. The last thing we need is a real Morals Tutor in a field like this. For those of you saw me with the Happy Tutor, forgive me. I do not know the man. Philanthropy is a serious businesses.  I cannot stress enough the importance of being earnest

Curing The Midas Curse

Great book and an interesting article about it from the Christian Science Monitor.  Wealth can corrupt and wealth planners can make it worse. Surely, this is not news, but it is important to be reminded and to take the message to heart. What fascinated me, re-reading the Midas legend, is that it was Dionysus, not Apollo, who cured Midas by having him wash his hands in a flowing stream. Interpret that as you will.  Apollo with the bow and arrow is the clear-eyed image of the visionary planner. Why then Dionysus, he of the floating wild hair, of drunkenness, revelry, madness and war? Could be a screw-up, I suppose. The Greeks got it wrong? I think so. But for the heck of it I asked the Happy Tutor who said,

Wealth seeking is cold-eyed madness, shared from the top down and the bottom up. It is wealth bond*age on a world historical scale. We will not purge this moral disease until Dionysus returns to lead the dance of the goat.

Sounds like a severe over-statement to me.  Wealth seeking is essential to the GNP and all we have to do is balance it with a few bromides and all will be well.  Given how touchy people are, particularly the rich, the last thing we need is the goat dance of satire. It would be bad for business.