My late mother and her sisters had a saying: “Smarty had a party”. What they meant, was that every fool can be a “genius” under the best of conditions.
Here is an example: A stupid ingrate with a big foul mouth wins a million dollar lottery, and starts to spend money as if it will never end. He buys fancy cars, eats at the best restaurants, wears the most expensive designer items, picks up the tab for friends and strangers at bars, and gets the high-roller suite at his favorite Las Vegas casino.
And wherever he goes, people are attentive, listen to his every word, laugh at his obscene jokes and treat him with tremendous respect.
That is, until the money runs out. And then he is just another stupid ingrate with a foul mouth who people choose to avoid like the plague. But; while the ingrate was on top of the world with his million dollars, he was big man on campus; so’s to speak.
The very same can be said for far too many of our government and corporate leaders. I always find it interesting when a person of relatively low potential wins a political seat. All of a sudden, this same person who might have been a relative dummy before taking office, seems to be miraculously morphed into an individual who has to be listened to.
Does becoming a member of government make a dummy, any less of a dummy?
But while in office, this dummy gets to have a party. He travels, sits on committees, makes speeches and gets invited to all kinds of receptions by people who under normal circumstances wouldn’t have him at their dining table, unless he was a waiter.
But; while in office and still “connected”; Smarty has a party.
We’ve seen the exact same phenomena from our corporate leaders. Robert Milton of Air Canada and John Roth of Nortel were Canadian icons. CEO’s of the year no less. Men of vision. Leaders of the economic free world. That is, until things started to go sour, and their houses built on cards started to tumble.
Now these guys don’t look to be quite the geniuses they were purported to be. As a matter of fact, the only thing that makes them special is the enormous wages they command for destroying their trusts. Nonetheless; both of these Smarties still had a party.
From the mid to late 90’s, money flowed as if it came out of an open tap. There was more than enough for all the right people. Governments raked it in, balanced their budgets and even paid off some of their debt. But still spent enormous sums on all kinds of boondoggles.
Corporations worth nothing in real terms, all of a sudden became stock market “gazillionaires”. And all the people associated at the top, were people who had to be listened to.
Even highschool students with an idea, seemed to have no problem finding fools with too much money who made them instant stock market millionaires. And the media elevated these kids to a status never before defined.
So, as paper wealth flooded the in-crowd, driving anything less than a luxury car, or living at an address that didn’t register on the who’s who list, was an affirmation of failure. This is how we developed our value system.
As a result, the world’s “new” heroes found themselves on the front covers of magazines, on radio and television talk shows and on television documentaries. But; like any puff of smoke. This too vanished. Leaving all these “wunderkind” high, dry and in the shits.
Because so many ordinary people, sometimes with slightly more than ordinary talents, saw themselves as being almost omnipotent, with a seemingly never ending flow of cash, made so many bad decisions in management, growth, acquisitions and spending; we are now paying the price.
Today, in the latter part of year 2001, we are paying for Smarty’s party. Airlines that tried to gobble up other airlines are falling out of the skies like flies hit by an insecticide.
Dot com companies are less than a dime a dozen. High tech leaders are now leading the way to massive layoffs, closures and bankruptcies.
And the governments which couldn’t do anything wrong, are now predicting a return to deficit financing and severe cuts to the social programs.
Why? Because Smarty had a party. And even though we weren’t really invited; we’re the ones left picking up the tab.
Maybe we’ll be the ones who will be smarter the next time.