Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Richard Rich Army

I was opening the mail a few days ago when a piece of mail caught my eye. It was from NewYork and had no return address. A thick plain white envelope, it appeared to contain newspaper clippings. Upon opening it I found it was an entire page of newsprint advertising a government grant seminar. Affixed to it was a Post-It note with a simple scrawled note: "Ya gotta see this!" The signature was illegible. Most folks would have felt compelled to read the article; I went and Googled the web address provided and saw it featured prominently on RipoffReport and other scam notification sites. I resented having spent my time on it, but I also wondered about the folks who sent this out. I imagined a room full of poor souls scribbling notes and stuffing envelopes for minimum wage (or even worse, for less than minimum wage and a negligible commission based on the number of successful contacts). In what kind of armor, I wondered, does one have to encase one's soul to be able to perform that kind of work (or order others to perform that kind of work and reap most of the profits) day in and day out? Talk radio and late night TV are filled ads for these kinds of schemes. Like pornography, it is one of the uglier sides of an open society.

It made me think of John Hurt's portrayal of Richard Rich in A Man for All Seasons. When shame is banished, man is capable of truly horrible things.

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