Perhaps the poster child for our societal condition is Jared Kushner, recently profiled in Netflix’s Dirty Money series. It isn’t so much the despicable things he has done; every generation produces hordes of such people. What is unique is how we collectively shrugged it off as Trump brought him into his Administration and gave him access to all important information, decisions, and even illegal security clearances, that he has since used to further enrich himself. No conflict of interest there at all.
Forget that he at 36 years of age has zero political experience. His irresponsible father-in-law has nevertheless assigned him the following duties: Middle East peace, resolution of the opioid crisis, criminal justice reform, liaison with Mexico, liaison with China (where wife Ivanka happens to own a clothing business), and liaison with the Muslim community. When will the boy sleep? And never mind that in prior administrations, each of those issues were the sole responsibility of highly experienced and accomplished civil servants. But super man can handle them all? Methinks we’re being royally screwed here.
Far from realizing that the people are the employer of the government, Kushner was quoted as saying “the American people are the government’s customers.” That telling statement reflects just how disconnected and condescending our so-called leaders have become. It is imperative, especially for our youth, that we replace them with qualified leaders of integrity.
It’s ironic and discouraging that Kushner, himself a Millennial, has such ignorance of the plight of most of his generation. To be fair, he grew up in a bubble of extreme wealth, to unscrupulous parents (his father went to prison for entrapping and extorting his own brother-in-law with a prostitute) whose material ambitions knew no bounds. As the Jesuits famously said: “give me a child until the age of seven, and I’ll show you the man.” So maybe poor Jared didn’t have much of a chance from the outset.
Nevertheless, by 39 years of age one has had ample time to question earlier values and decide which to keep and which to discard. This is extremely difficult to do, and very often requires an existential crisis to force one to face their mortality. From all accounts, Jared has yet to face such a crucible experience.
The issue facing his generation is not so much him as a person as it is his mindset, and the accompanying danger he represents. We stand at a crossroads in human history where the choices and actions we take regarding climate change, income inequality and unpredictable technological innovations can either save or sink us as a species. Jared Kushner likely understands this, but does not care.
And while we all sleep, Kushner and Trump continue to get away with their devious activities. In the recently passed Stimulus Bill, an obscure clause was inserted deep among the 880 pages, that will yield $170 billion worth of tax relief to the real estate development industry over the net ten years. What has that to do with rescuing distressed employees and employers during the pandemic? Nothing. Who are the biggest real estate developers in New York and New Jersey? Donald Trump and Jared Kushner. And that’s how our ‘leaders’ like Kushner view the world and every event they face: as an opportunity for further self-enrichment.
It is truly time for us to ensure we become informed of what is really taking place in our society, (perhaps start by watching the Dirty Money Kushner episode?) and to take action, radical if necessary, to remove these miscreants from positions of power.
Michael Darmody is a leadership consultant and executive coach. More detail on the challenges we currently face can be found in his new book The Boiling Frog: How Complacency and Ignorance Created Our Leadership Crisis and What We Can Do About It. https://amzn.to/2kh9GdM