I read this quote from the Turkish-Saudi arms dealer and former "richest man in the world" Adnan Khashoggi in a recent New York Times profile, and it suddenly struck me as the perfect motto for these troubled times.
As Anthony Minghella once wrote in the screenplay for "The Talented Mr. Ripley": "You never meet anyone who thinks that they're a bad person. What ever they do, whatever harm they cause, it all makes sense within their own head."
Khashoggi has lived his life at the center of a lot of controversial events and transactions and for a long time was able to profit handsomely from almost all of them, most famously as a player in the sale of Isreali arms to Iran that became part of what was known as the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980's.
According to the article, his business m.o. seemed to be to spend as much money as possible on his lifestyle and personal accoutrements (at one time it is said that his nut was $250,000 a day) in order to create a climate conducive to the enormously lucrative business of selling weapons systems around the globe.
I read a pulp paperback once years ago that was a thinly veiled fictional account of a Khashoggi-like character spreading "baksheesh", or the bribes that lubricate the wheels of the corrupt system.
In his way, the aging Khashoggi, who started his career in the '60's, feels like a trailblazer today, lighting the way for the Madoff's and others who symbolize our current kleptocracy and casino-like economy.
Or as Walter Matthau once put it: "Poker exemplifies the worst aspects of capitalism that have made our country so great."