Power of 'The'


Employees of the World Bank simply call it "The Bank." To them, there are no competitors. To their clients, there are no alternatives. From April 2020 to the end of 2021, The Bank invested over $150 billion around the world, far more than most countries could afford to spend themselves. I went to The Bank's headquarters for the first time in January 2020. The day I flew to DC, I woke up at 5am next to a near-stranger. I put on black underwear adorned with fried eggs and neon yolks, ate a six-egg omelet, and took a cab to JFK while Lynn stayed in my bed. The flight was enjoyable—I sat next to Rupert, my unapproachable boss, and he ranted about his favorite restaurants in Jamaica Bay. Rupert's hair was greying prematurely after one too many nights spent sending frantic 2am emails while his newborn slept restlessly. He had a desperate glint in his eye; as the former head of epidemic preparedness for Google, he was fairly certain the world was going to shut down in a few weeks. The kernel of bullshit in Rupert’s regular pitches for money and power was that he always spoke of how our organization at the United Nations was ready to "turn the corner" on any given project. In his mind, the world was an octagon. Before infiltrating The Bank, we met for coffee with Clyde, who I affectionately refer to as Saudi Money Man. A bald political scientist turned venture capitalist and power broker, Clyde was thrilled to be in on the action. He made clear that we were in town to “rob the World Bank” and that we would stash the cash in my expensive leather duffel. I didn’t drink any coffee; I never have, really. Growing up, my mom would wake me at 5:30 every weekday so that she would have company at Starbucks. I always got hot chocolate with whipped cream until she decided my body needed reconfiguring. I dozed off in our third meeting at The Bank. I went to the bathroom and slapped myself across the face. I gave up on taking notes, investing all of my energy in keeping my eyes open. Our interlocutors commented that they had a “small fund” of $200 million in Uganda (15% of the country’s entire public sector spending portfolio) and that they’d be open to giving us a cut. The following evening, I got dinner with my first love. It’d been six months since we had seen each other last, and I was hoping that losing twenty pounds and buying several thousand dollars’ worth of clothing would pique Es’s interest. We had fish at a restaurant on the water, walked to grab a bottle of dry white wine, and chatted for an hour in my AirBnb. I asked her to stay a while longer, but she said that she hated her body and had to go to SoulCycle early the next morning. *** McKinsey is known internally as “The Firm.” Most famous for maintaining Puerto Rico’s status as a debt colony and stroking narcissistic 22-year-old egos, The Firm made a record $10.6 billion in 2021. Several higher ups at The Firm mistook me for the UN’s Resident Coordinator for Qatar on a call with Clyde in May 2020. I didn’t correct them. We were hoping The Firm would bankroll a project to institutionalize fatphobia in the country and my elevated status was helping move the deal along. Clyde began a subsequent meeting with the same representatives of The Firm by lifting an enormous rabbit onscreen. Clyde explained that Adolphus was his Flemish Giant, the largest breed of rabbit in the world. He had been getting lonely while holed up in his condo in Miami, sometimes circumventing my supervisors by calling me on WhatsApp in the middle of the day. *** The CIA is referred to as “The Agency” by alumni. The current CIA director was hired to our center by my boss, who says he’s been “a friend to The Agency since before it was created.” In February, I prepared a presentation on Why China Is Big and Scary and We Should Maybe Go to War for an audience of 60 members of The Agency. Although Mike Pompeo’s plot to assassinate Julian Assange fell short during the Trump administration, Pompeo might just get his wish four years later: a British court recently ruled that Assange can been extradited to the US, despite the chance that he may be put to death. Already a thin man, Assange lost 30 pounds after being forcibly transferred from the Ecuadorian embassy to a maximum-security prison. The sudden weight loss contributed to a decline in his health which prevented him from speaking normally. Reflecting upon his own gaunt physique in the wake of losing 90 pounds in six months, Pompeo, a former director of The Agency, commented in January, “losing weight has been a lifetime struggle for me.”