This article first appeared in Alternet.
Ray Dalio is a billionaire hedge fund manager who makes more money in a single day than most Americans will earn in their entire lifetimes. That’s because hedge funds are the top of the Wall Street food chain — and Dalio runs the largest hedge fund of all, Bridgewater Associates. Life’s good at the top of this food chain: in 2008, a bad year for most Americans, Dalio took home $780 million. That same $780 million could have paid the salaries of about 20,000 teachers — and those 20,000 teachers could have taught about 400,000 American students (using author Les Leopold’s calculations). A lot of people might find this offensive and unjust, but not Dalio—he thinks this is all part of Nature’s Plan, and it just so happens that Nature favors the hedge fund managers:
“I believe that self-interest and society’s interests are generally symbiotic [bold--Dalio’s]…That is why how much money people have earned is a rough measure of how much they gave society what it wanted.”
So now we know why hedge fund managers are raking in record pay (last year, the top 25 hedge fund managers earned on average about $1 billion each), while hundreds of thousands of America’s teachers are getting fired all across the country: Nature hates teachers and other do-gooders. Sure, Dalio’s hedge fund is flush thanks in no small part to all the teachers retirement funds that Bridgewater managed to tap—without those teachers pooling their money together, he’d have a lot less to plunder, and society would never even know what a great person he is.
To which Dalio would answer, “Be a hyena. Attack the wildebeest.”
Did you write that down yet? Because that’s Cruel Reality According to Ray Dalio, a self-described “hyperrealist” and author of a bulky book of maxims leaked recently via the financial blog Dealbreaker. Dalio titled his collection of maxims—some 250 in all– “Principles” and he makes every Bridgewater employee memorize it. A weighty title like Principles might have you thinking he’s the Descartes of the new millennium. Except that his philosophy comes down to something like this: “I [am too rich to] think, therefore I am [a delusional asshole].” Or better yet, “If I’m so rich, then you ain’t smart.”
You can read Dalio’s Principles thanks to the folks at Dealbreaker who leaked it last week. Imagine some Ayn Rand geek a few decades later and a few billion dollars richer, and you get Dalio’s Principles, exemplified by his “Be a hyena” maxim:
When a pack of hyenas takes down a young wildebeest, is that good or evil? At face value, that might not be “good” because it seems cruel, and the poor wildebeest suffers and dies. Some people might even say that the hyenas are evil. Yet this type of apparently “cruel” behavior exists throughout the animal kingdom. Like death itself, it is integral to the enormously complex and efficient system that has worked for as long as there has been life. It is good for both the hyenas who are operating in their self- interest and the interest of the greater system, including those of the wildebeest, because killing and eating the wildebeest fosters evolution (i.e., the natural process of improvement). In fact, if you changed anything about the way that dynamic works, the overall outcome would be worse.
That’s right, America’s largest hedge fund manager sees himself as a hyena, and the rest of us as his wildebeest. As awful as it reads, coming from the mouth of one of the oligarchy’s most powerful barons, it also reveals what an idiot Dalio is. Does he even know anything about the hyena he compares himself to—specifically the spotted hyena, since that’s the only hyena that regularly feasts on wildebeest? Can he handle the truth? Because he’s not going to like it—not unless a macho hedge fund manager like Dalio is into being dominated by bitches.
See, spotted hyenas are matriarchal. The females rule each clan, with male hyenas always expected to submit to even the lowest female in the pecking order. The females also sport enormous clitorises as large as the male hyenas’ penises. If there’s a domestic dispute in the hyena clan, the submissive female hyena’s clitoris grows an erection as a sign of her submission to the alpha-queen hyena (the male hyenas cower and scurry around with their tails between heir legs).
Here’s a description of the female hyena’s bizarre “pseudopenis”:
The labia are fused into what looks like a scrotum, complete with two pads of fatty tissue that resemble testes. In addition, the clitoris is elongated to the point that it is nearly the size of a male’s penis and is likewise fully erectile. Astonishingly, females mate and give birth through the long, narrow canal running down the center of this “pseudopenis.” During mating it retracts much like a shirt sleeve being pushed up, and during birth it stretches so much that it looks like a water balloon. “From a human perspective, the process can be thought of as giving birth through an unusually large penis,” says Frank.
Even Andrea Dworkin would cringe, but for Ray Dalio, this is the description of the ideal Bridgewater employee. Dalio is a major Republican donor—he gave $2 million to the Republican convention in 2008 where Sarah Palin made her debut—and he’s a self-described bow hunter who kills Cape Buffalo and wart hogs. Besides the fact that spotted hyenas live in warthog burrows and generally get along fine with them, Ray Dalio sees himself and his fellow hedge fund billionaires as the spotted hyenas of the gh –and he’s just as successful, by his own boasting: “Like the hyenas attacking the wildebeest, successful people might not even know if or how their pursuit of self-interest helps society, but it typically does.”
And yet, as Robin Meadows writes in the Smithsonian Zoogoer, hyenas are the only known species who get erections as “a submissive gesture” to the dominant female.
Who would have guessed Ray Dalio is so dickless, and proud of it?
Billionaire Ray Dalio schmoozing–just like a hyena!
But there’s more about the spotted hyena for the aspiring hedge fund maverick to admire: like the spotted hyena’s two pronounced anal glands that squirt out a white pasty substance which produces a “powerful soapy odor which even humans can detect”—that way, you and I can smell if we’ve crossed into a Bridgewater partner’s territory. And hyenas eat anything and everything. It’s true that they chase down wildebeests. But they’re just as happy to eat someone else’s wildebeest too—even if it’s been rotting for days in the Serengeti. Hyenas will follow vultures all the way to some other predator’s kill, then chase them away and devour it themselves. You’ve heard of Wall Street Vultures? Well, hyenas are the vultures of vultures. Nothing makes them sick. Nothing. Spotted hyenas eat every single fucking thing on a rotting corpse, and to prove their point, hyenas begin their meals anuswise: by chewing through the carcass’s anus until reaching the entrails, then tearing into the belly and opening up the whole smorgasborg of guts and ribs and flesh—and finally chewing up and swallowing the rest: hooves, bones, skull, horns…everything is devoured. Almost everything is digested; there’s almost nothing left for a spotted hyena to shit, just a puff of “white powder with a few hairs.”
So to recap: if you want to be like billionaire Ray Dalio, you need to be a submissive vulture-chasing scavenger with no gag reflex whatsoever, willing to swallow anything at all, living with warthogs, scampering away from boner-popping females, and occasionally shitting out plumes of chalk dust. Which is a pretty good description of the Bridgewater Associates employee, as this ex-employee’s confession in Dealbreaker shows:
Most management meetings and department meetings are recorded, both the business and tech side, as are individual quarterly reviews or any meeting at managements discretion. Often if a manager or Ray thinks something is worth educational value they will email out a meeting recording company wide, these usually involve the individual getting shredded publicly for the greater good of the company. An example would be like when former COO Hope Woodhouse was shredded in front of the management committee and the sessions were sent out to the company to learn from (she was brought to the point of crying in the recording). Everyone is encouraged to given open and honest feedback so meetings often resort to public shaming and the demolition of people. 360s end up being everyone’s chance to totally dig on and destroy other individuals and say whatever things all year you’ve hated about people, 90% of feedback received in 360s is negative.
From the outside people think it’s a nice wholesome principled place that wants to cut through the corporate BS but it’s anything but. Ray’s hyper realism (in “Principles”) is insane. Once you read it you’ll get the idea–it’s all about adherence and indoctrination.
One of the secrets to Bridgewater’s success is that unlike most hedge funds, Dalio’s avoids wealthy clients in favor of public funds: teachers retirement funds, public and private pension funds, central banks, endowments and the like. In other words, this hyena avoids costly scavenging fights with other predators, in favor of easier kills—that is, us wildebeests. Sure, it may not seem fair that the billionaire’s hedge funds have been decimating pension funds over the past decade with unfulfilled promises of high returns, levying shocking fees and expenses, all tainted with accusations of bribery, kickbacks and corruption. But you have to look at it through Ray Dalio’s eyes, you’ll see that it’s all just cruel nature at work, and anyone who thinks differently is just a weakling, or worse, a wildebeest.
What makes this all so goddamn humiliating is how banal and comical this is. Ever since the early 1980s, metal heads and computer-science libertarians have been riffing on this same pimply-faced Social Darwinism—joined by the Ayn Rand Trekkies and all the other misfits. Who would have thought that the Revenge of the Nerds would look this absurd—and this awful? It’s such a cliché that it’s become the butt of sitcom jokes on NBC’s “The Office,” with its Ayn Rand libertarian dweeb Dwight Schrute. Even Dwight’s boss, played by Steve Carrell, gets in on the Social Darwinism act when he decides he’s Going Ray Dalio on a rival family-owned paper company. Here’s how Carrell describes the same philosophy that Dalio swears by:
“In nature, there is something called a food chain; it’s where the shark eats a little shark. And the little shark eats a littler shark. And so on and so on. Until you get down to the single cell shark. So now replace sharks with paper companies and that is all you need to know about business.”
But Dalio has no idea he’s just a parody of himself. And it does us no good at all that he’s a parody—because this parody of a fascist is still plundering America’s wealth. So when Dalio parrots the parody, it’s not all that funny, not to us anyway. He doesn’t even care about the billions he’s plundering—it just makes him feel strong, that’s all:
… people who have made a lot of money typically never made making a lot of money their primary goal. Instead, they typically engaged in the game or craft of what they were doing, got very good at it and society rewarded them because it valued what they were doing. In other words, I believe that the way “reality” generally works is that it is the pursuit of self-interest that motivates people to push themselves to do the difficult things that are required to produce what society wants, and society rewards those who give it what it wants. That is why self-interest is a far more powerful force for good than mercy and charity, though mercy and charity are certainly natural and beneficial forces in some cases.
And to add to the insult, Dalio wants to lecture us as he’s chewing into our anuses. Because we’re crude slobs who make the billionaires sick. In December of 2007, a Dalio foundation ran an ad in the Wall Street Journal denouncing Christmas consumerism–for some reason, rich people, especially the sons and daughters of rich people, started Going Naomi Klein every Christmas, and Dalio wanted in on the act if that’s where the hyenas were heading. So his ad campaign, “Redefining Christmas,” sneered at the wildebeests: ”No sooner does Thanksgiving end, than the loathsome shopping season begins–a monthlong compulsion to buy something, anything, for anyone.”
And that’s it. We’re ruled over by crazies who despise us and think of us as wildebeests and themselves as hyenas, and don’t even care that it’s a laughable analogy because they’re too fucking lazy and stupid and too busy devouring everything they can. And in case you thought things were about to change, and that financial reform was failing only because of the Republicans, I’ll leave you with this scene from a New Yorker article published last October, titled Inside The Crisis: Larry Summers and the White House Economic Team, recounting last spring’s “stress tests” on the bailed-out banks. Those tests, you’ll recall, were roundly criticized as a joke and a fraud, but Obama’s economic team wasn’t interested in our opinions. Guess who’s opinion they sought to please most of all:
The results of the stress tests showed that the banks were not in as dire shape as commonly believed. Most of the nineteen banks were able to raise money privately. “It worked,” the Treasury official said. “People had money to put into banks. The nationalization crowd would have had the government putting all that money in.” On the day the results of the stress tests were released, Geithner met with the President. He smiled and handed Obama the first page of a report from Bridgewater Associates, a private investment firm that had consistently taken a dim view of Treasury’s plans. The report was headlined “We Agree!”
There you have it–the entire goal of Obama’s economic team was to get a self-described hyena to take a break from his wildebeest feeding frenzy to give a big thumbs-up in approval and cackle, “We agree!”
Wildebeest hopes that by burying his head in the mud, the hyena will just go away.
This pretty much answers every question about why nothing has changed for the better in the wake of the financial crisis—it’s a matter of perspective. Everything’s better for the hyenas—that’s just the way Nature wanted it, and that’s the way it’ll be until we wake up. Remember, even wildebeests can kick a hyena to death. Their power is in numbers—and in the real Nature, wildebeests are winning, while hyenas are protected by conservation efforts. It’s only in the human world—our world– that the hyenas are winning.
This article first appeared in Alternet.
Mark Ames is the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine.
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