Letters to the Bouncy Banker...

Letters to the Bouncy Banker...
...from a struggling artiste.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Letter to the Bank #59

Dear BM,

I’ve been reading so many op-eds, editorials, books, columns about the worldwide financial crisis that I’ve hardly had time to pen my own artsy and numerically illiterate response to the crisis. You could well argue, given the volume of words on the subject one does not need me to add to the pile but humans need to vent as is clear from the millions of bloggers and twitterers out there. I’m just one of them.

What gives my letters to you, my essays (as defined by Montaigne an essay is a melding of the intellectual and the personal) their particularity is the angle I offer of an artist obsessed by greed and its sad counterpoint poverty. In a world that could feed itself if only it could agree to do so it makes me mad to see individuals piling up obscene amounts of personal wealth given the desperation out there. I also cannot stop opining on why some choose the pursuit of creativity and others choose to create money. This fascinates me I suppose and the difference between the two is not always obvious. There are people in the world of finance who seek to create wealth and end up trying to eradicate malaria, and there are artists who decide to make things and discover a way to make objects that is tantamount to printing their own money—quantitative-easing-explainedquantitative easing if you like.

I met a real banker last night. I was not seeking a loan to fix my leaking roof. I was at a party making conversation! I was holding a glass of—well in my case water because I was still coping with a hangover from my spouse’s office party the night before—but it could as well have been fine wine because fine wine is a specialty at our good friends’ Jane and Debras’ Christmas Party. The gentleman I was speaking to said he worked for the Bank of Scotland and in my scattered readings I’d gathered this was one, big struggling institution so I deigned to ask about its’ troubles. He was forthright saying like many banks an act of hubris had lead to its’ current precarious state. I added my interest was that of a mere dabbler in the dark arts of finance and that I described myself with regularity as numerically dyslexic. He said that really a bank is just a big version of what everybody is dealing with when it comes to their own personal finances. Some handle those finances well and some don’t. This struck me as a nice conciliatory note with which to end my last letter of the year. He was a nice man and struck me as, at the very least as honest as I attempt to be. The only difference was that he handles a substance of nuclear proportions and my medium is, when it remains distinctive from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the United States Mint, much like sand—loved and much trodden upon.

I do want to add one more little story. Planet Money did a piece the other day about the little island of Yap, Micronesia, where money or currency took/takes the form of huge limestone disks called rai, disks described as stunningly beautiful when radiant and white in the sunshine. This is a great example of what I’ve been trying to say all along—Art is definitely worth more than money. Art is what people should be exchanging for the things they need. If instead of being passed on like regular currency it is kept and enjoyed all to the good! People just have to make more money—I mean Art—and it wouldn’t be considered illegal.
Yours sincerely,

Kristian Witherkay

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