Tuesday, September 23, 2008


By : Kent J. Oversoone, Former Chief Financial Officer and Portfolio Supervisor, Treasure Island Funds Management Co., Inc., New York (died September 21, 2008)

Does market volatility have you down? Are you anxious? Is your hard-earned money flitting away as the Dow plunges and politicians bicker? "How much longer can these losses continue?" you wonder. It is true: Since the Lehmann Bros. collapse last week, the U.S. financial markets have descended into chaos. Fortunes are disappearing. Brokers with lucrative portfolios on Friday wake up with worthless portfolios on Monday. Homeowners owe more money on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Mortgage lenders are going belly-up in droves. Employers are losing their income-bearing assets, requiring them to cut jobs. College graduates cannot find employment. Gas prices are rising again. And on it goes. There is no end in sight.

This is not the American dream. This is the American nightmare. We are all losing money. We are losing everything we worked a lifetime for. We are failing. Despite our best efforts to work, manage a portfolio, save and watch our investments, the market is destroying us. We followed the rules; we did what we were told. Now we are suffering for it.

Market volatility has made our lives a living hell. From hour to hour, we live in suspense. Our stomach knots as we watch the industrial averages slowly sink all day. We think about our children's educations, our wives, our homes, our vacations. We think about all the things we worked so hard for and realize that they will soon be gone. We are losing all our money. We are losing, losing, losing. We even pray--even though we never did before.

But there is a way out from this misery. There is a way to solve your financial woes and escape this volatile market once and for all: Get yourself a pistol and shoot yourself in the head. It is not as difficult as you may think. In an instant, you can free yourself from the anticipation, worry, anxiety, fear and depression that will plague you for the rest of your days. In one, painless instant, you will free yourself from thinking about finances, interest rates, loans, puts, calls, mortgages and short-sells. No more will you fear failure or feel the sting of defeat. Once the bullet passes through your skull, Wall Street will no longer dictate how you feel. In fact, nothing will dictate how you feel: No more bitter relationships; no more disappointing children; no more illnesses; no more regrets; no more mistreatment from employers; no more passing over for promotions; no more collection calls; no more caustic disputes over money; no more unfair parking tickets; no more taxes; in fact, no more anixety about anything at all. You will be out of the game for good.

Admit it. You failed. You did not succeed, you worthless, unimaginative loser. You could not stay ahead of the curve, my friend, and you did not think out of the box. You did not choose the right stocks and you sold when you should have bought. You are to blame...do you like the way this makes you feel? Of course not. Do something about it. Think about yourself for once. Get out of the race; you will feel much better for it. Would you rather go on living in uncertainty? Would you rather get up in terror every morning, knowing that your precious life savings are going down the drain? How about all the investors who depend on you? Do you want to lose all their money, too? What about your wife? Do you want to see her reduced to poverty? Do you want to file for welfare after living your whole life in a beautiful one-family home?

Do yourself a favor: Get a pistol and shoot yourself in the head. Refuse to live in financial terror. Beat the Wall Street Crisis. Tell the world that you refuse to live in fear any more. I did; and you can, too.


MaxThrust said...

Wow, this really is encouraging! What did some of your favorite authors think about suicide?


Balthazar Oesterhoudt said...

Nietzsche was a chronic depressive; he did not write about suicide "per se" but he did write about nothingness as a solution to intractable difficulties. Freud escaped reality through intoxication. I can't pinpoint any explicit text about suicide, but his writings on neurosis and anxiety likely shed some light on what he thought about it.

George Carlin's second-to-last album from 2005 dealt with suicide at length. I took inspiration from that. In my piece, I wanted to expose a few problems with current rhetoric about suicide.

First, there is a popular misconception that suicide is "per se" an irrational decision. I disagree with this. Rational thinking involves a conscious use of reason to weigh envisioned benefits versus envisioned costs. When the costs of living outweigh life's possible benefits, it is not irrational to want to die. For example, a person may face nothing in life except anguish, physical torment, illness, terrible humiliation or terror. Death in those circumstances may actually be a preferable alternative to those endless bodily or mental tortures.

Second, I wanted to show how commercial pressure translates into emotional pressure. People in both the West and Asia commit suicide when they feel they have "failed." Even if their health is fine and they face no physical pain from continued life, their sense of personal accomplishment leads them to choose death. What does this say about the influence of social expectations? In our world, hard-driving people--the "success- chasers"--want commercial victories. They want to make and amass money. When they succeed, they feel personal worth. When they fail, they feel that their entire raison d'etre has vanished. The feelings are so intense that they truly believe that death is better than living. That is why I included the stark line in the piece: "Admit it. You failed." Being branded as a "loser" is tantamount to a death sentence. After all, "winners" succeed; "losers" do not. And if success is life's sole aim, then losing is dying.

I suppose my ultimate point is that we should not invest so much emotional capital in the culture of "success." People would not have such intense emotional reactions to failure if they did not subscribe to the value system underlying "success." The word "success," of course, implies judgment. Obviously a person can be "successful" from a subjective standpoint, but more often they worry about whether some external power will label them "successes" or "failures." Submitting to that external judgment is dangerous.

MaxThrust said...


Thanks for the reply, wonderful to read.

Epictetus said of suicide "Death's door is always open for our escape from what we judge to be intolerable situations in life. Therefore, death is in fact a refuge, and so nothing difficult ever traps us in life."

Many read that as an endorsement of suicide, but the Stoic would only in the most extreme circumstances need it, as their perspective on life would carry them through life's tribulations. It is spoken in his other statement "wherever I go, it will be well with me." A man with that view has no need of suicide.

I have noticed, in my thinking, the issue with the word "success" is that it's so general. It's a catch-all phrase that can weigh heavily on the mind if it isn't properly dissected. "I'm not successful" has a larger downing affect than "I'm lacking a source of income." Of course, in our society, those 2 statements are equal.

MaxThrust said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MaxThrust said...

I forgot to mention, only after reading your comment did I realize you wrote that! I honestly thought it was a serious news article.