Life in a barrel and the bankers

The belief that to attain wisdom and virtue one must give up all the pleasures of life originated from the Cynics, an ancient sect. The Greek philosopher, Diogenes (c412-323BC), adopted the philosophy, discarded all his possessions except a cloak, purse and wooden bowl, and made his home in a barrel, living in it on the outskirts of Corinth, Greece. When he saw a boy drinking from his hands, he threw out the bowl as well.

DiogenesIt is told that Alexander the Great once met Diogenes, then a very old man. The powerful young conqueror, having heard much about the old philosopher, asked if there was anything he could do for him. Diogenes replied, “Stand out of my sunshine.” Alexander replied, “If I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes.”

Ironically, Diogenes’s father Hicesias was a banker, the profession which now is considered socially useless. Diogenes would have agreed; he “despised pretensions to knowledge that served no purpose.”

For the record, over the year (2009) American charities received about $5 billion, banker bonuses totaled some $100 billion – about twice as much as the US government spend on education – while bank bailouts cost more than $20 trillion.

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For the latest bailout amounts, see the ProPublica Bailout Scorecard.

11/18/2009. Category: money. Tags: , , , .

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