Thursday, March 19, 2009

Deja Voodoo

Well sure, it's a terrible thing. Hard economic times, and working folk confronted with Insurance executives living lavishly on dollars collected from their pockets. Yep, that 1905 sure was a bad deal allright.

Equitable Insurance was founded in 1859 by a twenty-five year old man with just a few dollars. When he died forty years later, Equitable was the largest Insurance company in the world. I wish I could've met Henry Hyde, it'd be inspiring.

Wish I could meet his son James too, because it'd be entertaining. Whatever Henry had going, apparently it wasn't something James inherited, so he shouldn't have inherited that kind of power. But he did. Those times or these, that'd be enough to doom any young man's career, but there was more to it with James. See, James had this obsession that the coolest thing in the world was to dress and act like an 18th century French aristocrat. You got to look at 1905. Here's Teddy Roosevelt in the White House, and here's young James going around New York in a frock coat and frills.
And the Press was fairly sensationalist back then (not the paragons of virtue they are now) so something was gonna give eventually.

James threw a big costume party based on 18th century French themes of course. By all accounts, probably Marie Antoinette would've thought it a trifle ostentatious. The Press got ahold of it, some financiers who'd been wanting to take over Equitable fed rumors the party had been done with Company money, and two months later James was forced out. Took his Daddy forty years to build it, and six years for him to lose it.

Interesting, that whether 1905 or 2009, popular opinion often swings on symbols that aren't even relevant to what's going on. Passions are excited, some sort of action follows. Interesting to consider that not always, but sometimes, passions are excited by calm heads, and manipulated to a specific purpose. The Press, the pitchfork weilding mobs, the perform predictably in what is essentially a puppet show.

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