He couldn’t quite remember how or when these thoughts had first occurred to him. Being of a rather indistinct, subliminal nature, they simply just seemed to have been there all along. Like air, they, too, appeared to be too fleeting to be grasped. Yet, whenever these thoughts crossed his mind, they affected and distorted his perception of reality like a mirage. It was then that he became painfully aware of both their existence as well as their effects on his otherwise unwavering conviction in the necessity of his vocation. Who else could be counted upon to probe into the given financial reports and data, verify and check or even double-check the numbers to assure that past and future decisions were and will be in order? Decisions on which the future prospect and overall well-being of so many people were hinged.
Although he called himself an “accountant,” he didn’t quite know if he really was the person who, in the literal sense of the word, should be held accountable for all these decisions. Well, he knew that HE wasn’t the one liable for the mismanagement, the fraudulent financial reports presented to shareholders, the investigative journalism that often unveiled both and subsequently sent stock markets into volatilities that were reminiscent of a nightmarish Dreamworld roller coaster ride. Nor was HE the one who would eventually decide upon and sign a business plan into being. But he still felt profoundly responsible for the ever-growing number of those who were once part of his company’s payroll, but were now having a detrimental effect on Australians’ “employment status”, which he had read about in the Australian Bureau of Statistic’s latest census. Thinking on it, he realized that this census had been written by statisticians, who -given a broader definition of the word- could be seen as accountants counting and checking the numbers, rearranging and depicting them in easily digestible charts and graphs. With respect to their accountability, however, they were far less responsible for the actions taken based on the numbers they had sifted through. Seen as an often lamentable documentation of the status quo rather than an impetus for politicians and the public alike to take actions that would really change something, their accounts more often than not remained uncharted and altogether unheeded by all but those who were truly affected. Was this due to the inherently non-profit-making character of this singular, self-sustaining organism that most called government?
In stark opposition to this institutional body, the rather parasitical, omnivorous, bodiless corporations that he had and still worked for were solely interested in the maximization of their own (well-)being, which they equated to everyone’s happiness. Accounting for whatever financial resources had been spent and thus forming the foundation for others to decide upon how to rationalize expenditures or intensify investments was what he deemed to be the sole lubricant that kept this whole automaton working.
But who was he that he should “judge the true and false from […] capacities?” This line that he had once read in one of Montaigne’s essays stuck to his synapses. While Montaigne had written about human capacities, he himself wasn’t so sure as to the meaning of this sentence and thought that there had to be another meaning to him and his situation. What confused him even more was the fact that he had read in that same book that neither precise calculation nor thorough consideration allowed for a reliable decision that was free from the strokes fortune and coincidence. But if that truly was the case, then why was he there in the first place? How could he account for the turns that the Wheel of Fortune had taken? Why calculate and try to explain the turns and returns that his company had had in the past? To what end?
Those were the thoughts that collided with his otherwise steadfast mindset, like layers of air diffusing with one another and thus diffracting his otherwise straight way
of thinking, until the reality that he had created for himself seemed to blur and waver in this mirage of thinking.
That’s when, to the astonishment of all his colleagues, he simply stood up and walked out of the office.
By Johannes Ehrenmann from Germany