The self-proclaimed “Wolf of Wall Street” Jordan Belfort is currently on a world speaking tour, and last night graced us with his presence at Brisbane’s convention centre. A few of us from the Brisbane catholic worker community thought there was another side of the story that needed telling, so we dressed up in our best clothes and handed out this flyer to the attendees. We lasted about three minutes inside before being kicked out by security (who apparently made good on their threat to call the cops), but handed out the rest of our flyers out the front. Then we raided the dumpster nearby and went home.
A Wolf in Wolves’ Clothing
The success of the movie and book “The Wolf Of Wall Street” rides on the back of a familiar scenario in Hollywood – it banks on the fact that while we might be morally against Jordan Belfort’s actions and excesses, we are still seduced by the glamour and wealth.
Movies like this might claim to critique Belfort’s activities, but by focussing on the glamorous spoils of his plunder and not the lives of those whose money he stole, all it does is glorify the notion of getting rich from the exploitation of others.
Belfort may not be using dubious stock market tactics to get rich these days, but the fact that on the back of the movie, this convicted criminal can tour the world getting people to pay at least $125 to hear him speak shows that the glamour of his ill-gained wealth still holds an appeal. Belfort is of course quoted as saying about his speaking tours “this year I’ll make more than I ever made in my best year as a broker.”
The irony of Jordan Belfort’s story is that he was able to con others using the same myth that was the basis of his own wealth – that you can get rich without having to work for it or worry about the consequences on others. Maybe it is this same myth that is at the heart of his continuing popularity.
But Belfort’s pump and dump scheme perfectly represents the inevitable conclusion of this story – our riches only ever come at the expense of others, and every bubble eventually bursts.
While the story of Jordan Belfort and others like him remains our dominant cultural narrative, this is the end that awaits us all – we may get rich, but we will always be wary of others trying to steal our wealth, or the consequences of our actions coming back to bite us. On a global level, the spoils of our pursuit of wealth are plain to see – corrupt governments and businesses, ecological crisis, resource wars and a global financial system on the brink of collapse.
But an alternative story to the wolves of Wall Street exists. A story of possibility where we don’t take more than we need and don’t seek to gain at the expense of others. It might not make for movies as dramatic or glamorous, but it gives us more chance of a happy and fulfilled life, a more equal world and maybe even a sustainable future for humanity.
For this to become our cultural narrative will require quite a shift in our thinking, especially considering who has the resources in our society to tell the stories that make it to our screens. But to transform our own lives is as simple as a decision to seek true happiness instead of ever-expanding wealth, and to acknowledge other people’s lives as just as important as our own. And that step is completely up to us.