Alex Gibney, the filmmaker summarizes the underlying lesson well in his commentary in the extras of the DVD: “I think the story of Enron exposes the major flaw in capitalism, which is the crude belief that raw self-interest left untethered will always result in the best possible social good. It’s not so.” Instead it results in the enrichment of the few and the raping of the rest of us. Why are we letting this happen? Are we so determined to become the few that we overlook reality? Are we so blinded by the money we’ll never make but think we could that we can’t see that there has to be a better way? A way that allows everybody a decent way of living rather than the obscene splendor of the few? The documentary contains a clip of Ken Lay talking to reporters bemoaning the fact that his net worth shrank from $100 million to a mere $20 million after the Enron collapse (this is at least in the bonus material of the DVD). And that’s after setting aside funds for anticipated legal defense cost and settlement. $20 million is far more than most people make in a lifetime. Nobody called Lay on that. How can he get away with feeling sorry for himself?
Somehow this all reminds me of a Yiddish joke that I listened to often as a teenager. A man comes to a rabbi complaining that his friend doesn’t talk to him anymore ever since he’s made a bit more money. The rabbi asks the man to look out the window. “What do you see?” he inquires. The man describes the scene he sees: People hurrying along on their business; kids playing; a couple of friends playing cards; an old woman watching over a baby. The rabbi asks the man to turn to look into the mirror. “What do you see?” he asks. The man laughs and says “I see myself.” “You see,” explains the rabbi, “when you put a little bit of silver underneath, all you can see is yourself.”
Have we gotten so caught up in the earn-and-spend cycle that we don’t see the masses of homeless? Or feel the moral outrage of even having homeless people in a country as rich as the US? Then there are the people – including children – without health insurance and on and on. And yet, the top keeps on enriching themselves and we, the masses, wonder when the next sale is. How have we become so numb to moral dilemmas? How did we become too complacent to be outraged long enough to actually change something?