"Give me a penny and I will sing you a song, but give me the penny first." - The Hack persona in Swift's Tale of the Tub
On the main stage, a well known attorney is demonstrating how with a Dynasty Trust a family can grow $4.5 million to $450 million over five generations. In the hallway I am talking to a first time attendee who grew to reasonable wealth from extreme poverty. His comment to me sotto voce, "Surreal! I have never been to a conference like this. How can they be so out of touch?" At dinner several of us having to get to a tv to see the convention addresses, as our leaders dance around wealth inequality, and the bitterness of the former middle class, and young people, driven downward by globalism. The next day at the wealth conference our sympathies are enlisted for billionaires whose fortunes, without our help, may decline to only millions, "from shirt sleeves to shirtsleeves."
The influential talk in the highest reaches of wealth planning is about wisdom and virtue. (Dunce addressing a hall of Dunces, listening with the admiring face of awe.) Surely our talk, our little congregation, must stink in the nostrils of a just and avenging God?
Paging through the handouts, as less likely to trigger me publicly than sitting through the sessions, I came upon a field leader, glossing the famous scriptural passage, "From those to whom much is given, much is expected." His take, with raised eyebrows, was that this "may seem to be an ought." Yes, God is like that. He created us and has certain standards. Our "five capitals" (as if virtues were our personal property!) have both assets and liabilities. Our assets are a gift. Our talents are a gift. The earth itself is a gift. We owe back; and to deny that is pride, blindness and sin. Yet, he who did the handouts calls himself a Secular Priest. Lauded, praised, imitated. The time is ticking down to zero. We will owe an accounting.
The murmur even in the halls at our own conferences is growing. In serving the wealthiest, and twisting every wisdom tradition to their greater glory and perpetuation, have we not failed those traditions, ourselves, our clients, our country and our world? It is long since time that the sotto voce conversation in the hallways made the main platform. There are those I would nominate for the role, sooner than me, as more knowledgeable, better read, more connected, more ethical, but to praise them by name here in the Dumpster would be to draw them into disrepute, and jinx their career prospects. The logic of wealth planning is such that to be known for being morally sane, and 'out' about it, is a disqualifier. We are not paid to take care of humanity. We are paid to take care of billionaires, or the richest we can find. They do not take kindly to servants who forget their place. So, here in the Dumpster, I lay claim to the obvious. Quote him as we will: Dante did not put wealth advisors, Machiavels, and secular priests in his Paradiso. They boil in his hell. Hell is where God is absent, or his name taken in vain. Hell is ourselves, when we lose touch with love that animates all creation. We are not wise or virtuous. We are opportunists. Quote Chaucer as you will: His journey is not a sanctimonious defense of entrenched power, where the Wife of Bath wears a wimple and curtsies to the King; it is a version of Carnival, where ordinary people have their say, often obscene.
Of course, I could be wrong. Give me a penny and I will sing another tune. The truth is that I am only bitter. After 12 years of offering to tutor the rich on their morals, I have yet to bag a single client. It pisses me off that some people I could name get $5,000 to $10,000 a day for doing it, and they know Jack Squat about Dante, Beckett, Frost, Shakespeare, Chaucer. As with coinage, the counterfeits have driven out the pure gold. Like this post. Pure gold, and what do I get for it? Passers hurrying bye with eyes averted as if I were the one who is insane. How do you think I got so crazy? Conference after conference. It would make you crazy too. If my being naked, Buddy, offends you, buy me some clothes. I would take a shower if I could afford the shelter. You think you are better than me?