Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Tale of Two Countries

Earlier this year the major Japanese investment house Nomura Securities announced disastrous quarterly results. As a result, the company said, none of its employees would receive a bonus, and further, those responsible for the massive losses would face significant salary cuts. Contrast the sense of corporate and personal responsibility shown by the Japanese with the shameless, criminal behavior of their American counterparts. Months ago Wall Street's so-called "Masters of the Universe" were awarding themselves and their cronies tens of millions in "performance" bonuses and spending lavishly on office redecoration even as their firms were hurtling towards insolvency and collectively receiving trillions of dollars in taxpayer money (in what should be called The Great American Swindle). At a time when U.S. unemployment is officially near the 10% mark and real joblessness is considerably higher, when lines at food kitchens and other charities have grown dramatically, when poor residents of cash-strapped states are seeing their medical and other benefits slashed, when children are going hungry, one of the biggest recipients of taxpayer money, AIG, a firm at the heart of the global financial meltdown, has the chutzpah to announce it is planning a round of bonus payments for its employees. What? Japan has much to teach those besotted with rugged individualism and drunk on social Darwinism about group responsibility, of the true meaning of society and community. Ironic, isn't it, that Japan, a nation of Buddhists and Shintoists, should have created a society much closer to that envisioned by Christ than the U.S., with its millions of Christians.

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