About fifteen years ago, in the town that my business operates in, I met ‘John’ who was in the midst of transitioning from politics to running a nightclub.
His career had been as a trade unionist but, aged about fifty, he had been seconded into becoming a speechwriter for the then Prime Minister (also an ex union man) and the deputy PM. Life was good. Then the government was voted out of office and John lost his job. Still, it was the government and he received a very fat termination cheque.
He dreamed of a jazz nightclub in the city. Large though the pay-out cheque was, it was not large enough to finance the nightclub. Regulations add at least $500,000 to what would be the correct cost. So, a loan was taken out against both his own family home and his parents’ home.
I was deeply sceptical that a man whose only experience was in the union movement and politics could succeed in the real world, but he did. I was a good nightclub.
I was busy with my business and he with his, and we didn’t meet up for about nine months. Then he came into my restaurant one day for a coffee – and a chat. He needed a shoulder.
He ended up in tears. He was out of business. “What happened” I asked – shocked because it had seemed to be going so well.
He told me that the unions had made demands of him that he simply was unable to comply with and he had been forced to terminate everyone and shut up shop.
He then referred to his past union days with a statement full of pathos… “I never realised what we were putting people through” he said. I did not have it in me to laugh at the irony of the situation. He had lost his fat terminations cheque, his own house, his parents’ house, and his wife had left him.
There are all sorts of sayings that cover the situation ‘what goes around comes around’, ‘karma’, ‘what you sow, so shall you reap’ etc. The simple truth was that John had been a thug who, eventually, got beaten up by thugs. The problem is that they truly don’t realise that they are thugs – until, as with John, the boot is on the other foot. Despite his union past, he was essentially a decent man.
And now he was totally broken. Over a million dollars of capital was destroyed, about fifteen people were put out of work and two generations of a family were wiped out.
For what? Nothing. Who gained? No one.
The site is still empty over a decade later.
We live in a perverted version of reality where bad is good, ugly is pretty and gender is optional. It’s the planet of the damned.