I am going to admit to you that I feel a certain, quiet sense of schadenfreude about the current financial crisis. A very certain, quiet sense. For every new layoff at a big Wall Street firm, there’s a little blip in side of me, a satisfaction that isn’t moral, but is very, very honest.
Because for every graduate of my college that went on to labor in the trenches, working on a meager salary, living out one dream or another, there are four graduates who went on to Wall Street. Replicate that at every major college and university, perhaps nowhere more so than at the elite northeastern schools, and you have yourself a generation of young people whose only goal was to go, at 23 or 24, to Wall Street and make a gazillion dollars. Who are overpaid to perform jobs they have only the slightest idea how to do.
I’m not implying that my peers who went to work in America’s financial capitol are bad people. In fact, I think the problem isn’t with my peers at all. It’s symptomatic of a society that (until a few months ago, at least) was hard wired to value wealth and grandeur, big houses and fancy European vacations. A society that encouraged people to put salary ahead of their hobbies, ahead of their families, and ahead of their happiness.
There’s not much that I can add to the conversation that hasn’t already been said in this article by Michael Lewis. He’s knows a lot more about the Wall Street game, then and now, than I could ever claim.
Let’s all hope that the silver lining to this financial crisis, combined with Obama’s promise to make public service a given in America, will lead us to a new day. Greed and a hunger for power won’t ever go away, but we can marginalize that part of our culture. We can value hard work and the struggle — and encourage kids to work for their country and for themselves, which in the end will provide a much greater and powerful dividend than if they labored without love in a Wall Street cubicle.