Crisis of Conscience

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephen Green

The economy was already faltering when I arrived at Italy's Lake Como in the spring of 2008. I was there for a seminar on commerce and finance, one of those Davos-like gatherings where the rainmakers of global capitalism wander around fountains and confide in each other. But the mood was bleak that year, and the rumble of approaching economic thunder accented all discussion. Instead of being a time to relax and share, it became a time for worry and reflection--about a system that suddenly seemed to be built on sand instead of rock, and about the whole direction of economic and social development.

The global recession of the last few years has begun to pass. But while the outlines of a more temperate, more sober capitalism are coming into focus, I find myself wondering about the people--myself included--who will work within it. Where did we fall short? What do we do to better shape the future? And, beneath it all, what have we learned about ourselves as human beings? These more personal aspects of the financial crisis have preoccupied me greatly in recent months, not only as someone who has spent his professional life in banking but also as an ordained minister in the Church of England.

We are all guilty of compartmentalization, of dividing our lives into separate realms with different rules--and nowhere is this sin more obvious than at work. The office risks becoming a neutral world where questions of worth (other than shareholder value), of rightness (as opposed to what is lawful), or of wisdom (as distinct from what is practical) need not arise. But they are questions we need to face if we are to find a path of fulfillment, for both ourselves and the world in general.

We may never get there. …