A Tale of Two People

January 14, 2010 at 9:14 pm 1 comment

Yvonne Martin died yesterday. She had just landed in Haiti when a deadly earthquake struck killing many thousands in Port-au-Prince including her. Ms. Martin was a nurse from small town Ontario who was volunteering her time to help poor Haitians receive much needed primary healthcare. This wasn’t the first time she had gone to Haiti to give of herself to those less fortunate than herself.

Lloyd Blankfein is the head of the investment bank Goldman Sachs. On the day Ms. Martin died in Haiti, Mr. Blankfein, along with three other heads of major US financial institutions, was being grilled by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission on his firm’s role in the recent financial meltdown. While admitting mistakes were made and saying he was sorry for Goldman Sachs’ role in the financial meltdown, Mr. Blankfein at one point used the analogy of the financial meltdown being a “rare hurricane”. One of his fellow CEOs who was being questioned by the Commission, James Dimon of JPMorgan Chase & Co., referred to the financial ruin caused by Wall Street practices as a market correction. Both Mr. Blankfein and Mr. Dimon appeared to be proponents of that old adage ‘shit happens’ and so what are you gonna do?

Ms. Martin was killed by an earthquake. Earthquakes and hurricanes are, for the religious minded and insurance companies, acts of God and for the less evangelical among us they are destructive forces of nature beyond human control. Ms. Martin’s deadly earthquake was an uncontrollable force of nature. Mr. Blankfein’s rare hurricane and Mr. Dimon’s market correction didn’t just happen by some mysterious force of nature. On the contrary, they were the logical results of destructive human choices and actions.

Ms. Martin’s choices and actions were dedicated to the betterment of the lives of poor Haitians. She was using her own being as vehicle for human understanding and her healing actions as a means to assist others to have hope for a better life. Her selfless actions created trust in those she encountered in the goodness of humanity. By all accounts, Mr. Blankfein is a great guy. A leader with a great sense of humour, he is the Financial Times’ 2009 man of the year. In contrast to Ms. Martin’s actions and her selfless reasons for being in Haiti, however, Mr. Blankfein’s actions created massive distrust and outright despair for massive numbers of people. His actions as the CEO of one of the key firms on Wall Street were a root cause of the financial meltdown of 2008/2009. Those actions were driven, as has been recorded countless times in the last year by many different analysts, writers, commentators, even politicians, by greed, by ultimately catastrophic financial practices aimed at quick profits for a tiny number of insiders with little concern for the disastrous consequences of those practices on the larger whole and by a true lack of taking responsibility for the mess he and others like him created until they were forced by Congress to say ‘sorry’.

Maybe on Wall Street Mr. Blankfein is the man of the year but when looked through the lens of human decency, my vote goes for Yvonne Martin.

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Promise Keeping The “War” on Banks

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Patt  |  January 15, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Sometimes the world is a sad, sad place. Thanks for reminding us that there are people who care enough about helping others without an agenda of personal gain.


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