Monday, April 20, 2009

Musings: Saving the Day

After a bordering-on-balmy weekend, the brrrr factor was back in effect when Koko and I went walking this morning on ground drenched in heavy dew. Thick mist crept out from the pastures and onto the road, and wide blue shafts preceded the sunrise, which my neighbor Andy — otherwise preoccupied with walking three large dogs — wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t brought it to his attention.

We were talking about UFOs, and Andy said he believed in them because there are lots of objects flying around that the average person can’t identify. He then recounted how he was sure he’d spotted one very early the other morning when he noticed an extremely bright light on the horizon that seemed to be coming toward him. But it was moving ever so slowly, and then a cloud obscured it, and he later realized it was probably Venus rising.

My acceptance of the phenomenon is based more on the belief that it’s ludicrous to imagine we’re the only life in the universe, as well as by what my father told me. It was his job, when he was serving in the Air Force in Alaska back in the late 1950s, to investigate all reports of UFOs, which had him traveling to remote villages and also talking to USAF and commercial pilots.

While he was able to determine that weather balloons and military flights accounted for some of the civilian reports, the stories from pilots left him baffled. They told of strange disc-shaped craft that came in and tucked under their plane’s wings, then zoomed off at unimaginable speeds or performed maneuvers that even military aircraft couldn’t. The pilots were sure they’d encountered alien craft, and that’s how it went down in the reports when my father was unable to find an alternative official explanation.

It’s definitely not official, but a friend offered the best explanation yet for the financial crisis. “There’s no more powerful or addictive drug in the U.S. than $100 bills,” he said.

As a corporate lawyer recently opined in the Wall Street Journal, while noting that “the system is warped” and attorneys really should have seen the crash coming:

The emergency-room atmosphere that permeated the processing of derivatives deals, corporate takeovers, and whatever else has been going on at Goldman, Bear, Citi and Merrill for the past decade, could rival that of an operating room during open-heart surgery. Only, of course, it was a matter of money -- not life or death.

Money made the mad hours worth it. This is why the insanity of working as if the very fate of nations were at stake when it was actually just about whether or not to do a leveraged buyout of, say, a company in Decatur, Ill., went unnoticed by an entire industry.

Anyone in a position to criticize this inhuman work ethic -- meaning, anyone who liked sleeping, or dating, or occasionally walking his own golden retriever -- opted out instead. These are the people who are now attorneys in the public sector, who run nonprofit organizations, or who simply made what money they could and are now painting landscapes in Taos, or skiing full-time in Sun Valley.

I can’t help but wonder about all those people who traded their lives for money, only to see that false world crumble all around them. Do they now — did they ever? — question whether their lives had any meaning, whether they were contributing something to the greater good? Do they ever reflect on how their greed brought down the world’s financial system and caused untold suffering in the poorest nations?

Now Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is saying that Americans need to sharpen their financial know-how, which is all well and good. But it sounded like he was talking to just the average folks, when it’s really the big players who need to check into King Midas rehab.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, it seems that many still haven’t yet gotten the message that the greed fostered by unrestrained capitalism is not good for humans and other living creatures. A recent article in The Week noted that the work of free market crusader Ayn Rand is more popular than ever, with her epic “Atlas Shrugged” selling at its fastest rate since its 1957 publication. The article reports:

A 1991 survey by the Library of Congress described Atlas Shrugged as the second most influential book in the U.S., after the Bible.


Apparently she’s not been discredited, even though her most devoted modern disciple, former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan, admitted last October that he was "partially" wrong to resist regulation of some securities and believe that lending institutions would protect shareholder’s equity.

People are still buying into her idea that the industrialists and capitalists will save the world, even as they systematically destroy it. But frankly, when the shit really comes down, it isn’t the CEOs and investment bankers and guys who in suits who will save the day.

It’s people with common sense, ingenuity and creativity, people who understand and can work with the land, people who are hardy and not afraid to get their hands dirty, people who can cooperate with others. It’s people like those in the video Coconut Revolution, which I recommended before and am putting out there again as a heartening alternative to the “Road Warrior” scenario of a post-apocalyptic world, one that emphasizes community, not capital.


Anonymous said...

bougainville !!

the soundtrack - so catchy !

Dawson said...

> “There’s no more powerful or addictive drug in the U.S. than $100 bills,” he said. <

That should be tattooed on the forehead of every politician in the country. Reversed, so they can read it each time they look in the mirror.