The global economic picture is unstintingly bleak, and it is all because of bankers taking stupid bets. Put them all against the wall, reconstruct the regulatory regime that was in place prior to the late 1990s, ban derivatives that require ridiculous amounts of leverage, and this will all come to an end.
No, wait, it’s all because governments and the corrupt muppets running the show are unable and unwilling to get their fiscal shit together. Vote them out, replace them with technocrats who understand the stakes and will take the measures necessary to get government balance sheets back in order, and gut entitlements so that businesses can hire more and have greater liquidity to reinvest in capital improvements.
Capitalism! Yeah, the desire of the moneyed classes to assert their advantage once and for all during a moment where the poor and the lumpen proles are at their weakest is what’s to blame for all this. Occupy the 1%! Forgive my student loans! Stop fracking! Raise taxes on the wealthy, end the pointless and costly wars that have helped create this situation, and we can have a better world. OCCUPY EVERYTHING.
Forgive me for being a cynical asshole…or don’t. It’s not as if it matters. It seems to me, however, that everything—the deficits, the unemployment picture, the crushing debt burdens on students, the recriminations—has to get worse before it gets better. The idea that taking a giant scythe to everything in sight and hitting the reset button in the least destructive way possible is attractive, in part because it seems like the only way to actually resolve anything.
Doing so without bloodshed, suffering, and fucking things up to the point where there’s nothing to build a better future with is an exceedingly difficult proposition. If I were bitter beyond hope, then I’d say it was impossible, and would drink myself to sleep each night while chain-smoking. Pandora’s box, however, had a shred of redemption, and so I hold out for an ideal solution while fucking up my back with poorly executed yoga poses. One must make sacrifices in this life, after all.
The temptation toward hatred and rage and deeply satisfying fantasies of revenge is not solely a human trait, but it is entirely human to commemorate vengeance in cultural history. From Othello to Deathwish, we savage creatures have written paeans to the sort of justice codified by Hammurabi. Monuments to wars won and lost are continually made to remind us of the justice or iniquity of one crusade or another, when most of these conflicts have merely served as the vehicles for the most elaborate, cruel and evil expressions of cynical vengeance humans have arrived at so far. The phrase ‘just war’ is anathema to this view of human history, as aggression begets self-defense and self-defense in turn become pure aggression itself. ‘Justice’ exists, and self-defense is often legitimate. But there are times where fights just have to happen. It’s farcical and ignorant of history and the concept of avarice to think otherwise. Some people deserve to have their asses kicked—but, in turn, they reserve the right to not take a whupping passively. If you are getting choked out by someone who you stole money from, are you just going to take your deserved beating or bite the guy on the arm?
What if you don’t fight back, though? Turning the other cheek Jesus-style is nice, after all, but does it even solve anything? It can easily become a passive-aggressive assertion of pure spite (“I can’t even be bothered to hit you back, so here, have at it and wear yourself out while I take the moral high ground you Neanderthal prick”) instead of the act of forgiveness and example-setting it was ostensibly meant to be. If someone if about to beat you senseless, and you turn the other cheek but nothing good comes out of it, what comes next? Deathwish, that’s what.
The actual answer is the truth, unvarnished and raw, without regard for sensitivity or sensibility. The truth, when unleashed in such a willfully unguarded way, is a weapon unlike any other. Nothing terrifies the delusional (all of us at various points in time) than an unstinting depiction of reality.
As evidenced by recent events and the observation that self-delusion is a powerful means of escaping one’s immediate circumstances, we live in unreal times. Narratives are constantly fed to us by mainstream media, ‘alternative’ and ‘independent’ media sources, social networks, and our own imaginations. Our politics and our economics reflect an ideologically-driven quest to perpetuate a raison d’etre that itself is based in the insane idea that progress and order march hand in hand forever and ever through the sands of time, never to come to blows.
Look at the words emblazoned upon Brazil’s flag (‘Ordem e Progresso’, order and progress) and then think for a moment about the history of Brazil. Order and progress have throttled each other from the time of Pedro I’s initial declaration of independence from Portugal, with order generally winning out at the cost of stability and justice. The story of Brazil is one of dizzying highs and brutal lows, equilibrium be damned. It is, in one sense, the story of how order and progress exist in tension, and it is a story we would do well to heed.
So, then: what is the truth? The truth is that we’re not totally sure yet. We don’t know because the financial system has dedicated large chunks of its capital to finance derivatives and other supposedly profitable means of taking bets that few understand and even less can explain to the people who are supposed to supervise the business. Political systems everywhere are all sorts of broken, but there’s a problem of where to start. The two-party system and the power of narrow, moneyed lobbying interests in the US? The weakness of democratic institutions in the EU? The disastrous rule of the ANC in South Africa? The ticking time bomb that is China? The expired time bomb that is Russia? The smell of rot is foul and all-pervasive, but there are people’s lives at stake and, just as importantly, there are positions of power to guard. The truth, however, does not distinguish. It is, and we can either flee or accept it, but one cannot erase its existence. No lie — no matter how well-constructed or grandiose — is capable of that.
The truth is most dangerous to those whose power is based upon a lie, but the truth is what those who are forced and bribed to perpetuate the lie crave the most—even if they don’t know it. Perhaps, then, what’s most needed is courage. Someone has to break the seal, but once it is broken the truth will leak out because even the grandest and most pervasive lies are but balloons that, once perforated, will inevitably fail. Whether the balloon pops or slowly deflates is a matter of conjecture—there is but so much we humans can control in this world. What is certain, however, is that the events of this year have shown courage to be alive and well in this fucked-up world of ours. There is hope, and that is a truth more glorious than any news headline could ever be.