Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Fantasy, Dreams and Nightmares on Wall Street

On Wall Street the happy clappy bell-ringing ride to the golden age is over and the rickety pickety ghost train is coming along the tracks with its rattling cargo of uncloseted skeletons. The doors of the long black limos are firmly locked and the bolt action shotguns are under the seats along with the mandrake roots.
The blackout windowed zoom the clutched briefcase sniff investment snort brigade blurred white powder zoom today zoom blurred along and up and down the avenues and streets in the phantasmagorical red line safety deposit box fanatical ride to the financial cocaine fuelled watershed yacht club is on.
The red line deepens like the Mid-Atlantic trench. There is no way out. No golden lifeboat. No yellow submarine. We and the red listed polar bears and the icebergs have rumbled the game. The band is not going to play on. The blue chips are now down. Hallowe'en and the Election are just round the corner. Fantasy, dreams and nightmares are Phi Beta Kappa on Wall Street. Philanthropy is a dirty word. The cavalry is away in the desert. The Monopoly board is going back in the box.
What Bin Laden, Hitler and H G Wells failed to do, the guts and glory leaders of Wall Street have gone and done for themselves. And may have done for the rest of us.
Blame will be tossed down the line like a bag of corn to land at the feet of young stockmarket adrenalin junkies. The movers and shakers will turn up in the world's sunny resorts for shady dealers and another 6,000,000 US jobless and homeless will be dumped on Skid Row. And the fallout in the rest of the world? We can only hope it's ad valorem and not radioactive.

Finance is a gun. Politics is knowing when to pull the trigger. Mario Puzo (The Godfather)

Will it ever be safe to plunge back into the world's murky polluted financial waters, the rough seas that will need a miracle to calm them?
Here's a timely reminder of the way things really are, and what is at the root of the problem, from the writer who brought us Animal Farm and Nineteen-Eighty-Four:

Why I Write

Part II: Shopkeepers at War

I began this book to the tune of German bombs, and I begin this second chapter in the added racket of the barrage. The yellow gun-flashes are lighting the sky, the splinters are rattling on the housetops, and London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down. Anyone able to read a map knows that we are in deadly danger. I do not mean that we are beaten or need be beaten. Almost certainly the outcome depends on our own will. But at this moment we are in the soup, full fathom five, and we have been brought there by follies which we are still committing and which will drown us altogether if we do not mend our ways quickly.
What this war has demonstrated is that private capitalism - that is, an economic system in which land, factories, mines and transport* are owned privately and operated solely for profit does not work. This fact has been known to millions of people for years past, but nothing ever came of it, because there was no real urge from below to alter the system, and those at the top had trained themselves to be impenetrably stupid on just this point. Argument and propoganda got one nowhere.

George Orwell (pub. 1946)
* here we might add - banks, insurance, property,


  1. When I was a kid, an old man told me that during the BIG Depression, his mom made tomato paste soup every night for dinner for 8 people (6 children and the parents).

    Open up a can of tomato paste, add water and 1/2 onion and 1/2 potato (and if they were lucky - some chicken - but not always). Cook and serve with TWO crackers. Milk, if it was a good day. Dessert for a holiday.

    Well, at least, people in the US might lose weight if they can't afford to get food.

  2. We often have tomato soup made with porridge oats and some tomato juice mixed with hot water in our house. What we don't ever have is freedom fries, pommes frites, coca cola, sugar, or anything with added colouring, aroma, artificial flavouring...etc.
    Bon Appetit!

  3. Well-selected Orwell! A reminder that one side effect of the current appalling crisis is that it at least scotches the myth that we live in a "post political" age.

    By the way, regarding fallout: I heard a programme on the radio this week saying how Welsh hill farmers are still getting their flocks checked with geiger counters post-Chernobyl.

  4. Hi Dominic,
    I recall reading something Orwell wrote; 1984 was titled 1984 because it would sell better than a book titled 2025 or whatever the date was that he originally had in mind.
    The lamb chops ready-grilled. It's unsettling how many people of my acquaintance here in the middle of Europe have developed strange health symptoms lately.


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