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2009, to some people, seem like long ago. I remember it vividly. It was the nadir of the financial crisis (the great recession) and the central banks were in panic mode. Their attempts to calm the waters with lies, omissions and cover-ups had failed. Jim Cramer had had a meltdown on live TV and Jon Stewart later took him through hell, in what was a rare glimpse of honest journalism on mainstream TV. Incidentally, the show was taped down the street from where I used to live.
Today the market are at an all time high, and to most of the bankers, the year 2009 probably seems like a distant, vague memory. Not something to consider anymore. We’ve moved on etc. Other people have other reasons to distance themselves from that anno horribilis.
I don’t remember the exact date, but I was a little hung over and I had stumbled into some sort of marketing-integration-pep talk-show. At first I thought I was at a church, as I saw a man with a squeaky voice perform a very strange sermon. As the fog of yesterdays gin/tonics lifted, and I could see more clearly, I discovered that the man on stage was just getting started. What followed next, made me question my sanity.
As the man rambled on about how “we can squeeze out cost and squeeze out Verint”, he seemed to drive himself into a state of trance; as the man heard his own voice, it triggered a sort of feedback loop, that in turn caused the mouth to make even more outrageous statements. Tourrettes causes involuntary expressions of vulgarity and noises, but this was not Tourrettes. The steady flow of depravity and vulgarities was entirely voluntary and the man seemed anxious to drive himself into ever higher states of madness.
In my recollection (admittedly rather faint due to over-consumption of stimulants), I stumbled back to my hotel room, Thinking that I had just witnessed a male version of “heavy splash” in Japanese. I showered for 45 minutes. I submerged myself in scalding hot water, but I still felt dirty. I assumed that the man had received the king’s ransom in order to put on that kind of show.
While the memories from that fateful day had started to fade, they were always present in the back of my mind. I had to remind myself that we had just gone through a financial crisis that had driven people to desperation. Many years of over consumption, and debt fueled spending had come back to roost. As the tide went out, some people, it turned out, were naked.
When I recently sat outside my local watering hole, sipping a cup of detoxicating green tea, and nibbling on some gluten-free, fully organic biscuits from a farm just a few miles from Copenhagen, I ran into the same man.
It was a shocking sight. The man had gathered a following that were carrying him around town. He was wearing thick makeup, heavy rouge and pink lipstick. His disciples placed a wooden crate on the ground, and placed the man atop. He locked eyes with me, and there was a long awkward pause.
He prodded one of his lackeys with a stick, and whispered something inaudible in his ears. The lackey then cleared his throat, and proceeded to address me.
“We are not happy with how you portray things” he said. He then pulled out a scroll, and handed it to me. It was hardly legible, it had either been written by a 5 year old child, or a very old man. It stated that they were going to tell their herd about me and my evil deeds.
I was confused. In front of me stood, what would appear to be an adult male, wearing clown makeup, surrounded by a group of escapees from an asylum, announcing that he would “tell on me”.
This was the same man I had seen perform unspeakable acts of depravity just a few years ago.
I asked if his flock knew about his past, thinking that the desire bow down to their high priest would be somewhat diminished. But I also suspected that most people in the flock had never heard of the internet or google, so I genuinely wasn’t sure.
To my surprise, the clown decided to speak. He cleared his throat. His eyes rolled to the skies, and when I once again heard that squeaky voice again it all came back to me. It’s still surprising so vividly you remember things, under the right circumstances. Like hearing a long forgotten pop-song from the 80’s and remembering every detail from that summer in Spain.
But this was no summer in Spain, and the man announced that he was fed up with me bringing up his performance many years ago. He straightened and lifted his arms, palms facing the sky and proclaimed “I received no payment, I did it all for free”. There was a pause. Everyone waiting, breath baited, and then, with a deep voice (well, not that deep) he ceremonially announced: “I am clean”.
As he said those words, my biscuit fell to the ground and broke into 1 large and 4 smaller pieces and some crumbs. My jaw dropped. He had done it all for free!?! It was hard to fathom. My mind started racing. This was unexpected. Why on earth would you do what I had witnessed a few years ago, for free?!!! This was not a man who did anything for free, unless there was something to be gained later.
I later realized that the guy published some sort of periodical that people had to pay to read. It mostly contained self praise, and descriptions of what happens when completely inept people attempt to use high tech equipment. I suppose it could be thought of as a mildly entertaining break from the daily humdrum at the office and you can always call it “working”, because it is kinda, sorta, related to what you do.
I suspect that direct payment, would probably be considered prostitution and therefore illegal. Instead, as payment for his performance on that fateful day, the host of the show would instead purchase a lot of “licenses” to read the “news”.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, how you stay “clean”.