Thursday, May 17, 2007

Good-bye, Wolfie, good-bye

In case you did not know, dear reader, your blogstress is never more than a degree or so removed from every major story taking place in Our Nation's Capitol. Take, for instance, the imminent departure from the World Bank of Paul Wolfowitz, our man fighting corruption in the Third, er, undeveloped, er, underdeveloped, er, developing world, where he had hoped, one day, to install an Iraq-style democracy in every Godforsaken country for the betterment of Western contractors and their client states. (That would be us, as in U.S.)

Oh, yes, but what of your blogstress and the Bank? Well, unfortunately, when your cybertrix worked there, she was in no position to give her girlfriend an enormous raise (though she was, from time to time, in a position that encouraged her girlfriend to assume an elevated pose). And as for your Webwench's boyfriend...well, never mind.

Back when your écrivaine toiled at the Big Bank, she, like most of the American administrative help, was designated an independent contractor, so that the World Bank, überpurveyor of globalized capitalism, could skirt such socialist-inspired expectations as health insurance and paid holidays. Then there was the much vaunted change-over to an operations software system from the German firm, S.A.P., which was purchased off the shelf, without customization for the most customized of organizations. Too bad the official language of the Bank is English, not German. Instead of learning German in order to learn how to work the system, Bank officials simply stopped paying the admin staff for a while, but expected us to come to work anyway. Yours truly staged a Norma Rae-style protest and got her damn check. But I digress.

So, it's not like the Bank was clean when Wolfie found it. There were million-dollar Christmas parties for entire divisions; the one your net-tête attended came complete with a cigar bar, in case you needed a fat one to accompany your single-malt scotch. Then there was the tale -- possibly apocryphal, but hopefully not -- of the lady in procurement who embezzled, like, a mil, but got caught when she deposited it into her World Bank Credit Union account.

So what, you may ask, was a fine, upstanding (thank you, underwires!) lady such as your blogstress doing in this den of corruption? Well, one, supporting her writing habit. But, two, she was working with some of the finest people she will ever meet on this earth. No kidding.

The World Bank does, and has done, a lot of bad things. It has been led by misguided men with inflated egos. (Wolfie's predecessor, James Wolfensohn, once responded to criticism by saying, "We're doing God's work.") But many, many good and brilliant people populate the Bank's staff, people who really do mean to do good in the world.

There's the economist who brings electricity to people living off the grid, in jungles and forests. This saves the lives of many women. His wife wishes he could get home more often. There are the Bank people going village to village in Central Asia, showing people how to adapt their native heating ovens to burn more cleanly, so the tent doesn't fill with pollutants. There are the interpreters who sometimes come close to losing their minds as they, on the spot, translate the politically-sensitive language of a Bank officer to the heads of states where lives are on the line.

So, my heart goes out to the rank-and-file of The World Bank, who once again suffer the foibles of their leader. Kudos to the Bank's Staff Association, who did the work that brought Wolfie down. Had your blogstress been allowed to, she would have been a member. Alas, though she worked there every day for more than a year, your blogstress wasn't staff. She was an independent contractor -- to the tune of $20 an hour. She was obviously dating the wrong people.

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