The man on stage for the past hour could be Santa Claus in a well worn bespok three-piece suit. Not the Dutch Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas, but rather another bastardization of the icon Coca-Cola shoved down our throats in the 1930s along with so much acrid brown sweet juice. Bushy white beard and flushed cheeks to boot, he stands center stage rocking steadily on his heels, signature pot belly jutting forward as counterbalance, and without making eye contact begins to illustrate to the pay-for-play crowd in the nearly empty auditorium – this table. An endless table stretching far out of sight. Infinite, is the word he uses. A table with you at the head. And placed in heaping piles across the tabletop is an endless bounty: meats and cheeses and wine and desserts culled from every corner of the globe. Locally sourced, he adds.
This gets a round of applause.
And again he says at the head of the table, you. He pauses. Then restates for a third time, you and you alone. At this point it’s clear he’s lost the crowd. He takes a shallow breath and adds, you could never have your fill. Even if you were able to invite your family, your friends, everyone you have ever known or could ever possibly know, still, the food would be limitless.
The audience might be paying attention.
He continues, but this particular feast is prepared and served solely for your consumption. Your personal enjoyment. He hooks a thumb in his vest and scratches his beard. Are you expected to lick your plates clean? He asks. No. Of course not. If you did pretty soon you would all be large as me.
Again the audience applauds.
Whether Santa feels the applause are for his unfortunate girth, or the lack of theirs, is unclear. He digests this feeling. If you intend to consume the food, he goes on, then you simply do not understand the fundamentals of high finance. The Wall Street mindset. For in sole financial markets, excess is the game. The only game in town. From this vantage point, one must consider this: can you eat a number?
Santa holds on this tidbit, finds his fulcrum and stops swaying to the beat of his own stealthy diatribe and finally takes a look at the silent and expecting faces. He inhales, filling his chest with all the room’s air, then exhales the co2 waste and adds that if anyone can not accept the underlying flaw in this logic, they should immediately head towards the nearest exit.
Rocking again, Santa – with a salad of both professional and academic accolades before his name: PhD, COO of so many think tanks, honorary degrees, publishing credits from the 60’s through the 90s – offers the spectators catharsis, if you do not believe you deserve all the food in the world, then you fundamentally do not believe you should be rich. I do not mean well-to-do, but the owner of obscene wealth. This is what is meant by billionaire. This is what constitutes the one-percent. A pregnant pause, and then he asks for a show of hands. Who believes that they are entitled to everything they need?
All hands up.
He modifies the question, everything they want?
One hand goes down.
He adds, and whose needs and wants are endless?
Several hands waver.
Santa looks over his shoulder for a chair, or maybe the sleigh to rest his weary frame. There is nothing on the sparse stage. His disappointment is clearly written across lips nestled behind that well combed beard. Whether this disappointment is for the lack of a resting perch, or the eerily greedy crowd, is unclear. Someone off stage catches Santa’s eyes, sends a signal. A last thought is half-heartedly delivered through a heavy footed exit, stage left, and in short breaths which remind everyone he is likely on his last legs. He invites the room of plaid shirts and hoodies to consider attending the follow-up lecture series held later this week at a crosstown public meeting house in Oakland. No fee. Gratis. As the rents are still cheaper, for the moment, across the Bay. The topic is sustainable economics and community. Not so sexy, he realizes, so he adds the focus will be on philanthropic investing. And with these parting words, like a well toured rock star, he aims to leave them wanting more. But he already knows this crowd, this generation, will never get everything they want.