Tag Archives: Ethics

Snake-Handling Pastor

The photograph above was taken by Lauren Pond, a photojournalist. It depicts Randy Wolford, an evangelical pastor who handles venomous snakes as part of his ministry, dying from a bite he received earlier that day. In a moving and thought-provoking essay, Ms. Pond explains why he declined medical attention – and why she kept shooting.

his is what I saw through my camera lens: Pastor Randy “Mack” Wolford, tossing and turning on the couch in his mother-in-law’s West Virginia trailer, suffering from the pain of a rattlesnake bite he had received earlier in the day. Parishioners surrounding him in prayer in the stifling heat. His mother stroking his feet, her expression a mixture of concern, sorrow and, eventually, acceptance: This is how her eldest son — a legend in the local Pentecostal serpent-handling community — would die.

Camera in hand, I watched as the man I’d photographed and gotten to know over the past year writhed, turned pale and slipped away, a victim of his unwavering faith, but also a testament to it. A family member called paramedics when Mack finally allowed it, but it was too late. Mack Wolford drew his final, labored breaths late Sunday night. He was 44.

The scene has been playing over and over in my head since then, and the questions are weighing on me: As a photojournalist, what role did I have in this tragedy, and what is it now, in the aftermath? Was it right for me to remain in the background taking pictures, as I did, and not seek medical attention for the dying pastor, whose beliefs forbade it? Or should I have intervened and called paramedics earlier, which would have undermined Mack’s wishes? Finally, what was I supposed to do with the images I shot?

Why I Watched a Snake-Handling Pastor Die for his Faith   [WashingtonPost]


Leaving Goldman Sachs

After almost 12 years at the firm, Greg Smith left Goldman Sachs today. He wrote an open letter explaining his motivations for doing so and his issues with the ethics – or lack thereof – of the company.

How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.

What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.

Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.

Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs   [NYTimes]

Perelman Urged to Take $1M Prize

Four years ago when Grigori Perelman, a Russian mathematical genius, solved the Poincare Conjecture (which was one of the most elusive problems in mathematics) he was offered several large prizes, including the Fields Medal and the Clay Prize of $1 million USD. In an unprecedented (and I think, rather admirable) move he turned everything down and left mathematics in protest of its ethical standards. He now lives, jobless, in a tiny flat in St. Petersburg with his mother.

He’s come under new pressure from a children’s charity in Russia to accept the prize and donate it to charity. Will he do it? From the BBC:

The mathematician is reported to have said “I have all I want” when contacted by a reporter this week about the Clay Millennium Prize.

According to the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper, he was speaking through the closed door of his flat.

Russian Maths Genius Perelman Urged to Take $1M Prize [BBCNews]