I’d introduce myself to you, Mr. Nameless, Faceless Trader, but you already know me. I’m that guy in your graduating class who didn’t major in econ partly because he didn’t want to, mostly because he knew he didn’t need to.
And after we graduated and you got a cubicle job in the windowless innards of some bank everyone hates, I was the one who started a business doing exactly what he loved, and working exactly the hours you worked, but—you’ll appreciate this—making twice the money.
And now, when we go to the same snobby parties and glitzy nightclubs or wherever, I’m the guy everyone actually wants to meet. I’m the guy with his arm around the girl whose ass you admire on your way to the bathroom. I’m the guy who does interesting things with his life, who tells interesting stories, who developed an interesting personality while you were developing an extensive knowledge of keyboard shortcuts in Excel.
Don’t remember me yet? Okay, here’s another one:
I’m the guy your son will want to be when he grows and up sees that your life has been only a string of stultifying, indistinguishable days spent shuffling paper and not getting up to pee when you have a position (sounds wonderful, btw). And hey, when your boy tells you that he wants to be like me, just send him my way. I’ll explain to him what it takes, because I know you sure as hell can’t.
Yeah, that’s me. I think you remember me now.
As for me, I definitely remember you.
You were the sniveling kid who never said a word in freshman literature because you only knew how to punch numbers into one of your beloved spreadsheets and then wait for whatever answer it spit out.
You were the guy standing in the corner of the party, wearing overpriced clothes and drinking overpriced beer, and pining away for the day when your parents’ connections would get you a prestigious job and an apartment in a doorman building—because then, finally, girls would have some reason to like you.
And you’re the asshole who watched Wall Street, or American Psycho, or that Alec Baldwin monologue from Glengarry Glen Ross, and got confused and came away thinking it was cool to be a Faceless Suit in some vast company with a name people vaguely recognize.
And evidently now you’re the jackoff who looks at his stock portfolio and three-bedroom Manhattan apartment and his Patek Philippe, and mistakes all that bullshit for talent. For smarts. For merit.
It’s not, though. Not at all. Merit is something very different from wristwatches and stock bonuses, and the meritocracy is something you’ve never experienced.
See, you went straight from your Ivy League dorm room to some bank’s associate program, and then to B-school, and then hurried back to the bank. And all that time, you only had to be as good as the thousands and thousands of kids who get into Ivy League schools, only as good as the thousands of freshly-minted Ivy alums who go into finance, only as good as the thousands of preening idiots who while away two years at B-school cocktail mixers.
You only had to be good enough. And I guess you were, but so were so many others. And all of you got rich together mainlining cushy salaries from banks that never asked you to be truly creative, take a real risk, or actually stand out. Like a second-string outfielder on .500 tee ball team collecting his participation trophy at season’s end, you bumbled through each passing year as a perfectly good enough employee, and always counted on a fat bonus check just in time for holiday shopping.
Somehow that gave you the idea that you’re smarter, more flexible and adaptable, a survivor, even a predator. Allow me to correct that mistaken impression: Gordon Gecko could survive and adapt. David Rubenstein could. Maybe Stephen Schwarzman. But you are not them. You’re a mewling subordinate, and the second someone rips you from the tit that fattened you up, you will be entirely lost in the wilderness.
And me? I scare you because I know how to build something from nothing. I succeeded without a corporate training program to hold me upright and a doting government to wipe my chin anytime I burped.
I gambled every cent I had to start my own business. When I got rich almost immediately, it wasn’t because I was only good enough. It was because I was the very best at what I did. I was original, insightful, almost delusional in my ambitions, and willing to work to the ragged edge of my being to bring my vision to fruition. I sought a form of excellence you can’t even conceive of: I wanted to be better than everybody else, and didn’t give a shit whether I made money or not. The money just happened to follow.
Now we’re both wealthy, but that’s about all we have in common.
You’re in charge of some anonymous sub-department in a taxpayer subsidized banking conglomerate. I, and lots of others just like me, are organizing OWS protests throughout the country. I know you like to tell yourself that we’re not as intelligent, disciplined, capable, or successful as you. I know it’s reassuring to imagine yourself as the smart, vicious one, the pinnacle predator, and all of us as naive, dependent betas.
Though I certainly don’t want to say anything that would compromise that comforting image, I think it’s only right that I let you in on something: Behind the bongo circles and the alliterative chants, there are people planning the next steps for OWS. People who, had they a bit less vision and slightly less developed consciences, could be doing the very same work as you. People like me who have never known anything other than success and don’t intend to become familiar with failure now.
Mr. Nameless, Faceless Trader, we don’t care for your stunted, cynical view of America and how it “ought” to work. We think directing your every waking moment and conscious thought toward getting more money is not only boring, but also evidence of a basic misunderstanding of what makes life rich and meaningful. We pity you for the life you’ve chosen, for the time and effort you’ve wasted. And you’re right, we want to crush you and your cash-worshipping mentality and your grossly corrupt system of moneychanging, because doing so is a step toward a more just, humane America, one that does not yet exist but certainly can.
All very true.
But even more than that, I’m doing this because I want to remind you that I’ve never needed you and I never will. I don’t want you to forget that however high you climb on your company’s masthead, I’ll always be above you, looking down and cackling, and salivating.
I want to destroy you for sport. I’m going to crush because you’re there and because I can.