Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought of golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would lay these cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Aedh wishes for the cloths of heaven, W.B. Yeats.
Many, many years ago when I first read this poem, I was completely absorbed by the purity of emotion, the exquisite expression of devotion. It is of course, a love poem and one that I myself read and take quite literally. But at a deeper level, Yeats words can be taken as an example of how men should treat each other – with respect for each others dreams, the shimmering cloths that pave our paths through life and over which we must tread if we are to meet our own life’s goals.
Our dreams, those precious pieces of our souls are bound deeply to our sense of self, our raison d’etre. You could argue that our dreams are part of our spiritual self, for without something to hope for what point is there in living? The Australian Aborigines long ago realized the importance of connection between the spirit and the impermanent corporeal self, holding tight to their Dreams lest they damage the spirit. They also believe in the continuity of the past, present and future, how they exist all at once and how each is inter-dependent upon the other. To tread on an Indigenous man’s Dreams is to offend him to the most serious extreme and potentially damage the very essence of who he is.
It has become politically correct in the past decade for corporations to speak of social responsibility and corporate diversity. Playing to an audience that professes to be intolerant of racial exclusion and bullying the masters of spin at corporations such as Ernst & Young have fashioned a reputation as the gleaming light of everything a big shiny business should be. The only problem is the disparity between Ernst & Young’s public image and the reality.
Pat had dreams. Dreams of finishing his university studies, of raising his family and growing old with his wife, as well as the Dreams belonging to his indigenous culture. Pat also expected to be accorded the courtesies inherent in democratic rule – an equal voice, protection against discrimination, a fair trial. All these dreams and more were ground to dust by the actions – and inactions – of Ernst & Young, with the collaboration of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the ACT Department of Treasury.
Pat, the former Commissioner for ACT Revenue was a former employee of Ernst & Young in the Australian Capital Territory. An Indigenous man and a child of the Stolen Generations, his suffering like so many of his generation is a story that non-Indigenous and corporate Australia would prefer not to acknowledge, for to do so would be to give credence to the devils within our midst. Head hunted by Tania Taylor, a senior recruitment consultant working with Ernst & Young in 2000, Pat worked in the ACT Public Service in the Department of Urban Services before accepting the role for which Taylor pursued him for at Ernst & Young. A couple of years later, Pat accepted a role back at the ACT Department of Treasury, first as the Manager Policy, Legislation and Projects and then as the Commissioner for Revenue. Pat and his racial tormenter, the ‘Inquisitor’, were already acquainted from Pat’s days at Urban Services, where Pat experienced the initial racist attacks he suffered at the hands of the ACT public service. The Inquisitor, having also applied for the Commissioner’s role, launched a racially motivated attack on Pat immediately the appointment was announced and was ably abetted by none other than Tania Taylor and Gillian Morphett (then Manager of Human Resources, Ernst & Young Canberra), not to mention the legal beagles of the accounting firm itself. In releasing and allegedly manipulating Pat’s Ernst & Young personnel file for the Inquisitor, who had no legal or moral right to the documents, Ernst & Young not only enabled a racist attack on a Indigenous man, but trod on the cloth of his dreams in goose-stepping army boots. So much for Pat’s dreams.
It’s in these actions that I find Ernst & Young’s claims to corporate or social responsibility and the individual to be contrary. Pat was entitled to expect that he would be treated with respect, honesty and civility, to expect that those issues precious to him would be respected under the rule of law. Instead Ernst & Young, in conjunction with the ACT Department of Treasury and the AFP subverted the rule of law and placed Pat’s Dreams on the floor to use as their doormat.
Pat’s Dreams were stolen and placed at the altar of Mammon by the Inquisitor, but he could not do so alone. Ernst & Young provided significant portions of the cloth of Pat’s dreams. Now, they have been ground to dust at the feet of everyone who stood to benefit from the destruction of one man’s hopes, all for the sake of one soul-less racist individual. He must be soul-less and so must Ernst & Young, the AFP and the ACT Department of Treasury. Each person has a moral responsibility to behave in a manner which honours the sanctity of the spirit and the respects the supreme importance of each man’s Dreams. As corporations and institutions cannot exist without individuals, without their thoughts and wills, accountability for Pat’s demise must be placed at the feet of those in whom Pat placed his trust for failing to live up to the very tenets they espouse.
Divorcing the spirit from the self leaves a person without the moral anchor that alerts us to the Dreams of others and makes us mindful of causing harm. Divorcing the spirit from the self allows greed to flourish and permits subversion of the rules that we as a society tell each other are the basis of our democratic and just society. I can see no other possible means by which Ernst & Young could allow the harms that came to Pat to have occurred, let alone for them to continue to fail to address the issues even today that have so destroyed Pat and his family. Ben Polis could learn a thing or two from the Big 4 accounting firm.
And yet, still there is no movement from by the accounting firm, the AFP or the ACT Government. Apparently no investigation into how one man, the ‘Inquisitor’ could be protected to such a degree that he could destroy the life of another simply because of racially motivated greed. No investigation into the breaches of confidentiality, legal responsibility or fraud that lie at the heart of Pat’s torment. Silence. It leaves me in awe of a supposed system of justice that claims that not even the Prime Minister is above the rule of law … but we’ll make an exception if the victim is Indigenous or connected to someone Indigenous. It’s a mighty cynical viewpoint, I know, but one exemplified by Pat’s dilemma and that of his family, still without justice after ten years, with one of the world’s largest accounting firms smack at the centre of the controversy. Pat’s dreams, ground to dust have been swept into the streets, the remnants ignored by an uncaring police, government, corporation and public service, all of which are staffed by people whom I can only consider to be soul-less. I would rather die than sacrifice my soul for the accolades, career opportunities or monetary gain that comes with divorcing myself so completely from my spirit. It amazes me that so many others have done so, without being destroyed with guilt, for so long.
Take my spirit, it is yours
A crumbling husk not fit to hold
This precious once warm minor soul
Feed Mammon his wretched tithe
The usurer who binds your pride.
Taken now and crushed ’neath heels
The Dreams of one who did not steal
Take this spirit, battered shell
Lest steal some more I cannot fill.
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