Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Global Financial Yom Kippur

As we stood in synagogue this past week, begging forgiveness from the Almighty for our transgressions, seeking a cleansed conscience and soul, the financial markets were undergoing a global cleansing of their own. I couldn't help thinking about what was happening in apocalyptic terms as I turned on the boobtube Thursday night (after a 26 hour media fast) to catch the latest reports of unabating stock market declines. It's not, as Warren Buffet called it, a "Pearl Harbour." Because that suggests a surprise attack and momentary defeat. At least it ought not be seen as a market Pearl Harbour. I prefer to think of it as a financial Yom Kippur. A day of reckoning. A time to take stock (pun intended) of the corporate greed, systemic mismanagement, and questionable approaches and practices that have underpinned the US-driven global financial system for over two decades. On Kol Nidre evening I spoke about 'Forgiveness in Unforgivable Times'. Beginning with the Holocaust, I said, terms such as 'forgiveness' and 'harm' and 'responsibility' have had to be completely redefined. The scope of attrocity and wrongdoing perpetrated in our time is without precedent. We are becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent and the pace of change is so fast that our misdeeds now outstrip our capacity to adequately consider and comprehend the consequences of our actions. The injustices are piling up, the harm is more and more vast, and our willingness and ability to respond is evermore diminished. The question now is, whether the global financial Yom Kippur of this week will represent a genuine cleansing, a true reckoning, an opportunity to shift the paradigm to something that makes sense in the long-run and benefits the majority, and not just the Wall Street elite and their political backers? Or will we return, in short order to the same old same old? A probable answer lurks in my bones, and I shudder to think of it.

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