Sit On It, Ponzi

Pon·zi scheme

Charles Ponzi, namesake of the infamous scheme.

NOUN:

An investment swindle in which high profits are promised from fictitious sources and early investors are paid off with funds raised from later ones.

ETYMOLOGY:

After Charles Ponzi (1882?-1949), an Italian-born speculator who organized such a scheme (1919-1920)

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“Ponzi scheme” is a term we’ve heard a lot lately, having been given rebirth from the lips of Texas Governor Rick Perry during the Republican debates. Perry related the term to Social Security, indicating that those 70-year-old programs are really nothing more than Ponzi schemes.

The term has come to explain any unsustainable program that was built on promises that cannot be kept. Some call at it a chain letter, maybe a pyramid scheme. In short, if we take out the legalities and fraud, it is “pay as we go — the risk is on you.”

To that end, my friends, what isn’t a Ponzi scheme?

What, these days, isn’t filled with empty promises, false advertising and skewed intentions?

Let’s look at a recent Ponzi-angled phenomenon called Facebook. Think about this notion: Everyone identifies themselves and all of their interests, strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Paste it up on a website for everyone else to see.

Maybe you want to find a way to subtly mention things you are unhappy with and perhaps you could state it in a way that would make the average reader conclude that you might want your life to go in a new and perhaps more exciting direction.

Low and behold, some former flame happens to look in just to see what you have been up to and — Shazzam! — she finds out you are not so happy.

Avoiding the cowardice that made you stay away for the last three decades, you launch a semi-personal email to this person to let them know you still care. The mail is received and the recipient is excited.

The boring old mate that they have been raising kids and a life with for the past millennium isn’t as exciting as this person or this moment. Maybe you should write back and let them know that after all these years, you still think of them too. Why not? It’s only a stupid email. What’s the big deal? What’s the harm?

Here’s the big deal. You are cheating already and, over time, as the comfort zone grows, you will probably take it up a level or two.

As your marital partner dozes on the couch, you are flying to the moon with an ex from your distant past that is re-awakening passions in you that were thought to be dead.

Do you honestly think you’d have ever had the guts to say this to this person if not for the anonymity of Facebook and similar types of social media?

I don’t. Hey, if this idea is about bringing people together, that’s fine. But in my opinion, the majority of people that have a significant other would likely never want their partner to read their Facebook pages; too personal (too personal for your partner?).

This whole social media premise goes way beyond people simply keeping up with each other. This is primarily a dating service, and the intrigue of unfinished business from the past is what drives it and keeps it going.

You invest in it and your payoff is not guaranteed, but is highly alluring. If you find that over time you are more prone to keep your site private, the truth is you are hiding stuff and lying. Aren’t you? An unsustainable program built on promises that cannot be met — Ponzi scheme.

Drug and alcohol addiction, covering up former mistakes on resumes, seeing someone else during your marriage, living one life at work and a different life at home — all nothing more than Ponzi schemes; all unsustainable with a “payoff” or “payback” day looming in the distance.

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