Friday, October 31, 2008

Just a quick note...

...for all the útrassavíkingur and politicos and columnist who keep telling us that "we" are to blame for the Great Icelandic Financial Meltdown. I have just 5 words for you.

Speak for your own damn self!


We didn't throw the economy down the toilet. You did. a lot of us (myself included) didn't take out any damned loans, we didn't go on a credit bender, and we don't have a goodamned flat screen or a luxury SUV. Some of us do, but mostly because "we" were doing what people who have been robbed of all control over the structure of the world the live in do.

We tried to get by, and tried to be happy with the narrow limits you allowed us.

So go screw yourselves.

We know who's to blame, and WE WILL FIND YOU!

Jú sey jú vant a revólúsjón?

I’m getting weirded out folks.


I’m used to the news pissing me off, and even more used to the op-eds in the Icelandic papers making me foam at the mouth.

For years now my friends and I have been crying out in the proverbial wilderness, shouting “Sustainability!”, “Self-Organization!”, “Economic Equality!”, and occasionally “Rise the Fuck Up Already!”

To absolutely no avail.

Then everything went straight to shit, as most of us knew it would.

Now the op-eds are filling up with intelligent discourse about sustainable economics, about the cronyism and corruption amongst Iceland’s elite. People are calling for a sea-change in how Icelanders make their living, calling for diversification, self-organization, and economic equality. They’re shooting their well aimed barbs at the white knights of aluminum and fish and the E.U.*

They’re even flirting with the idea of rising the fuck up.

Which is encouraging, if a tad disconboobalating.

That’s my own word by the way.

I mean, what the hell am I going to blog about now?

But I thought about it for a bit, and decided that I’d indulge in some magical thinking. Seeing as so very many of the issues and ideas I’ve blogged about in the past have sudden appeared on television and in print, I’m going to throw a few of my wilder ideas out there and see if they make it into the collective consciousness.

For starters, this Saturday will see the third major protest downtown in as many weeks, which is downright shocking by Icelandic standards. Originally a call for Davið Oddson to step down as head of the Central Bank, they’ve now (better late than never) become a call for new elections ASAP, aka kicking the bastards out. All fine and dandy. I’ll be there, I’ll meet you half way.

But consider for a moment a couple of points. Right now the Icelandic State is in deep financial doodoo, and in order to pull themselves out, they’ll need to slash public spending. This will mean less money for students, children, the disabled, fewer social services, increased fees for supposedly “free” healthcare, and more than likely a package of tax hikes and the downsizing of many a public employee.

Public employees mind, not public officials.

So how about we save ourselves a lot of money, and simply dissolve parliament? We’d save on their over-inflated wages, their retirement scam, their “day-money” that would take me two weeks to earn, their gas-guzzling official cars, private jet vaca…I mean meetings abroad, and their teams of sycophantic yes-people hired at public expense to do their jobs for them.

We then declare the Icelandic public to be the legislative power, giving the average Jón and Anna the right to propose laws, gather support for them, and then vote on them in twice yearly democracy days.

Meanwhile, we vote on who gets the ministerial positions, for a four year term. Instead of being political cake for unqualified politicos, they’d become administrative positions for people who can make them work, instead of purposely running them into the ground so that they can be gobbled up by Mammon. So we get healthcare professionals in charge of the Ministry of Health, and maybe, just maybe, a FUCKING ECONOMIST IN CHARGE OF THE CENTRAL BANK!

Likewise, let’s save some more tax money by teaching the State to stop eating itself. Student loans are not, repeat not, income. It’s a fucking loan. You have to pay it back. Why the hell do you have to pay income tax on it? The same can be said for disability payments. The State taxes the public to pay disability payments to those who cannot work and then taxes those same payments??? The same is true of pensions. What the fuck? Not to mention taxing the interest people make off of individual savings accounts.

How ‘bout this? Just declare disability payments, student loans, and pensions to be tax free. Then lower the amount paid out by the amount of taxes levied. Everyone gets the same amount of money and the state saves on the costs of processing all those unnecessary taxes.

Individual savings deposits should be tax free. Period.

Not only will this encourage people to save instead of borrow, but any government that is already charging me taxes on the money I bring in should keep its filthy corrupt piggy fingers out of what I manage save of the money I have left.

After all, like most of us, I can’t just vote myself a raise.

I know, I know. I’ve ranted this before. Doesn’t make it any less of a good idea.

Another thing I’ve been happy to hear is people talking about CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, whereby farmers sell directly to the public, hence cutting out the middlemen and getting a better price for themselves, while also providing the public with fresher, less processed, higher quality, and often cheaper food.

The problem with this is that when it comes to everything but vegetables, this is illegal in Iceland. You cannot, repeat cannot, legally sell dairy products, meat or fish direct from the producer. Instead you are required by law to sell (at an artificially low price) these products to State mandated middlemen who then sell them on to retailers who then sell it on to the consumers.

At an artificially high price.

Not to mention that because it has to go through the middlemen the food has to be shipped to the processing centers, often times located well away from the farms and communities it was produced in, processed, shipped to the retailers (through a series of warehouses), and finally comes back to the community either unripe and tasteless in the case of vegetables, or with all the fresh yummy goodness removed (in the case of many of the dairy products).

This is also why, up until the current foreign currency crunch, the cheapest fish you could buy in Iceland was frozen Peruvian cod sold under a Danish label.

From a supermarket located across the street from the fishing docks.

My solution for this is simple. BREAK THE DAMN LAW! If you are a producer, and you’re tired of selling your produce cheap, only to see it mixed in with other, possibly lower-quality produce, labeled with no information on where it came from, and then sold at a ridiculously high price to consumers who then blame you for their empty wallets, STOP!

Sell it direct to the public. Screw the law.

Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right

And just because something is illegal doesn’t make it wrong.

Witness the guys who have been out fishing without a kvóta to protest the privatization of a national resource. Fishermen have started it, farmers can join the parade.

Likewise, anyone who is currently paying full price for electricity to run their greenhouses or software companies should immediately subtract 95% from their electric bill, so they pay the same rate as Alcan and Alcoa.

Personally, I’d love it if I could get away with subtracting the percentage of my taxes that goes into the pockets and retirement funds of parliamentarians. Not to mention the percentage that goes to the State Church and a law enforcement and immigration authority run by a person who anywhere with actual free speech (where one can state an opinion without being dragged into court for libel) could be described as a paranoid fascist bootlicker with a uniform fetish.

But hey whatcha gonna do?

While we’re at it, let’s renationalize the kvóta system, and grant each and every community that has a harbor a percentage of the total catch, based on population and infrastructure (meaning that communities with limited economies would get a bigger share, not smaller). Said community can then split their percentage amongst those who wish to fish, charging a small percentage of the gross profit to fund public services. Sound good?

Let’s start up a few companies while we’re at it. And by “companies” I mean Sf., not Ehf. and definitely not Hf. Cooperative companies that recycle paper, aluminum, old tires, plastics, etc and sell their products back into the Icelandic market, helping to balance out our trade deficit. Cooperative companies producing food, clothing, building materials, energy, tools and hardware, electronics, software, electric vehicles (trains trains trains!), and tourist/recreational services.

Cooperative companies, wherein all employees are partial owners, and more importantly wherein all owners are required to be employees. Co-opts in which all decisions regarding capital and profits are handled democratically and hence are intrinsically more egalitarian, and thereby inherently more stable, than companies run from the top down, whereby people with no real talent for massive responsibility reward themselves with massive bonuses and take massive ill-considered risks to justify said unequal pay. Co-opts are also more egalitarian that State-run companies, where the ruling elite reward their loyal toadies by appointing them the head of a national bank or television or other such foolishness…

So that’s it. A bit of constructive civil disobedience, a bit of self-organization, and a bit of reform, whereby we reform the institutions responsible for fucking us over for years now right out of existence, and bingo! Revolúsjón bæbí!

Dónt jú nó its góíng tú bí all ræt?

*'And I looked, and behold, a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him...'

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Upside of Downturns

In order to comply with the new government regulations requiring all discussion of current events in Iceland to be positive, optimistic, and generally complacent, I hereby present you with the the upside of economic downturn.

For starters, men's fashion will improve. No more faggoty-assed pink shirts. No more striped blond hair artfully moused. No more orange-skinned hairless yuppie freaks. They can't afford to look that ridiculous anymore. Men will look like men again. Beards will be back in fashion, 'cause who can afford razors? Long hair or buzz cuts will be the rule, and full-body-waxed spray-tanned Armani-clad cads will no longer be considered hip og kul.

Women will start to look like women again, as opposed to the spray-painted Barbi clones that recently roamed the streets, as the price of cosmetics and snobby beauty parlors becomes prohibitory. One will once again be able to snog without first resorting to an electric paint stripper. Likewise, no more fat chicks. Thin will be in...evitable.

Stupidly non adaptive fashion will fade away. No longer will Icelanders shell out gazillions of krona for the latest pair of shoddy canvas low tops with pink skulls on them. People will start to wear boots instead, because they last, and because its friggin cold when you walk to work, instead of driving there in your giant four-wheel drive penis extension.

The stupid tradition of wearing an overpriced piece of useless silk around one's neck to show social/economic superiority will fade as no-one is able to afford them, and the surplus is re-sewn into much needed undergarments.

The streets will be safer, as fewer and fewer large vehicles whip around corners driven by people too busy talking on their 3G phones, drinking expensive coffee, trying to score more coke while wondering how much money they might make in shady financial deals that day.

Children will spend more time with their parents.

And finally, there will be increased opportunities for social interaction. Whether waiting for the bus, standing in line for soup, waiting for our ration cards, huddled together for warmth in the cold nights at the labor camps, or dancing through the streets to the light of flaming bank offices, we'll all be a little less lonely in the days to come.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Up and Down

So I decided to update the Ipod my sis gave me a couple Xmases ago this morning.

I know. Two years to update a playlist. What kind of looser am I?

But to be honest, I don’t like walking around with earplugs blocking out the world, and so I mostly used the Ipod for transporting data to computers actually connected to the interwebs, and for playing the songs saved on it on my laptop, Selma.

My sis loaded my Ipod with a lot of great stuff. The nearly complete discography of NoFx for starters. Everything Gogol Bordello had put out up to two years ago. A bunch of Bif Naked.

All gone now.

Apparently the act of adding new songs to my Ipod erased all my previous stuff.

Fucking Apple.

I’m sure there’s some reason behind it. Something about “protecting copyrights” and “preventing piracy” or some such shit.

Steve Fucking Jobs can kiss my Luddite ass.

Couple this with a leaky nose and the fact that the only effect the kreppa’s had on me is that I can’t afford to get the stuff I need to continue my remodel until next payday and am hence sitting around with work that wants doing and nothing to do the work with, and you’d expect me to grumpy as all hell, right?

I’m not.

It’s snowing. Big fluffy whiteness drifting down like a Xmas song. In October!

Thanks Ma Nature.

I needed that.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Canary And The Phoenix

In the early days of the Industrial Revolution, as man first began to take advantage of fossil fuels, namely coal, canaries were carried down into the mines as an early-warning system. Because of their small size and fast metabolism, these little birds pass out, or even die from poisonous gas or asphyxiation long before miners feel any effects. Hence, when the canary dies, you get the hell out of the mine shaft.

Iceland is a small nation, and like most small nations, is inherently more susceptible to changes in the world environment, at least when it gets dragged down the mine-shafts of globalization.

Like the coal miner’s canary, what happened here is a forewarning of what could or will happen elsewhere, if people fail to get the hell out of the mines.

This doesn’t help those of us here in Iceland all that much. The damage has been done, and for all the harping on about Russian loans and the IMF, we need to recognize that the heyday of Viking Economics is over. Iceland will not be a international financial superpower.

Let me repeat that: Iceland will not be an international financial superpower.

Get over it.

Our waxy wings got way too close to the sun and we burned.

This may not be a bad thing. As Octavia E. Butler pointed out in her semi-prophetic Parable of the Sower:

In order to rise from its ashes
A Phoenix

I for one hope that we rise from our ashes.

I hope that the “New Iceland” everyone is talking about will be a triumphant thing, an affirmation of hope and reason and community, a vision of a prosperous, flourishing island, a well-balanced blend of town and country. Productive farms feeding and fueling clean cities, small scale industry supporting electric rails and new aluminum boats, sailing out to fish and trade on the wind, recycling plants turning what was once wasted into a resource, and cities bustling with the work of “knowledge factories” ,the schools and information companies. I hope for horizontal organization, from the bottom up instead of the top down. Real democracy, of the people, by the people, and for the people.

None of this is going to happen though. Not unless we make some hard choices and throw out a great many outdated and self-destructive habits.

The most damning of which is looking to Authority to solve all our problems.

Right now, the very same people who caused this crisis, either by their blind faith in the dogma of the Church of the Invisible Hand*, or by passive acquiescence to said doctrines have the unmitigated gall to don the mantle of salvation and claim that they and they alone can save us from the very reckoning they called down on us. These same people, falsely cloaked in Authority, will stand in the way of nearly every effort to build a new and better Iceland, because a new and better Iceland will have no use for them, for their cronies in big business, for their closed-door party meetings, for passing laws without debate, for musical-chair ministers and some-pigs-are-more-equal-than-others retirement schemes.


Just no, damn it!


No more of your vested interests. No more claiming brides as speaking fees. No more of your transparent scapegoating, kicking down hostel doors to distract us from your fraud. No more funneling the nation’s wealth into the pockets of your supporters.

You had your chance. Hell, you’ve had more than a chance. You have had chances, plural, each more pressing than the last and each more shameful.

When the canary started to sicken at the rising price of food and fuel, did you look the truth in the eye, recognize that oil is on its way out, and push for a nationwide move away from that poisonous black gold and towards sustainable domestic production?

No you did not.

You threw some crumbs to the crowds, little phrases like “bio-diesel” (imported, despite the fact it could be manufactured here) and “the hydrogen economy” (to date nothing but a pipe dream). You talked about destroying what little is left of Icelandic agriculture in favor of “cheap” imported food, instead of moving to build up agriculture, creating jobs, sustenance, and fuel in the process.

When the Housing Bubble burst, as anyone with eyes could see it would, did you move swiftly and effectively to soften the blow? No. You knelt at the alter of the Invisible Hand and hoped for the best, only taking action long after it could have had any real effect, and then only to insure the banks would pay no consequences for their predatory lending schemes.

Worse yet, when it became clear that the Banking Bubble was going to burst, you did nothing, even as the greedy few dragged the many into debt while lining your own pockets with 30 (thousand) pieces of silver. Then, to pile incompetence on inaction, you moved with misguided zeal to “save” the banks, dragging the nation down to prop up institutions that according to your own oft-stated believe in competitive markets should have been allowed to fail, taking their overpaid captains down with them.

Now you spout drivel about heavy industry, which will put the nation further in debt, whilst reaping a meager harvest of jobs and cash and a whirlwind of environmental damage. You bat your eyes like a courtesan at a tyrant to bail out our banks, and look to an organization that once tried to privatize an entire country’s water supply and sell it to Coca-Cola for advice on how to restructure. You tell people their pensions will be slashed, while using the crisis to excuse the continuation of your own embezzled “retirement” funds, and claim to investigate yourselves when you can’t even pass a law on public disclosure.

By your actions and by your inaction, you have forfeited any claim to leadership.

You who claim Authority over Iceland have failed the people time and again, and it is high time that people shook you off their backs. We don’t care how hard you work now to prop up the tottering house of cards you built.

Let it fall.

Let it burn.

Then get the hell out of our way so we can build something better from the ashes.

All the golden gilt in the world doesn’t make it any less a cage.

We’re tired of being your canary.

*If we could see the Invisible Hand of The Marketplace, it would be giving us the finger.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

8 reasons why I feel fine

  1. Move. First off, cancel your gym membership. You don’t need it. People kept themselves in fighting trim for centuries without Nautilus or Pilates by doing something called “being active”. Walk or bike to and from work, for example. Go for a swim, hell some of the pools have free weights. If that’s not enough, do some push-ups and sit-ups. Work in your garden. Hell, I if I can find one, I’ll be rowing a boat out to fish whenever I can. My decision to only take the bus when forced to by time constraints or weather, to ride or walk whenever possible, has paid of in twenty-dropped kilos, while my forays to Sundhollinn have added muscle I thought I had lost forever. The best thing is, I’m not paying anything for it, and because its part of my daily routine, not an addition to it, I tend to stick to it better than any gym-inspired attempt at achieving svelteness.

  1. Eat. The nice thing about getting in shape in the aforementioned manner is that you get to eat more. Or at least better. When one is trudging through wind and snow, biking against a stiff gale, and doing ones best porpoise impression several times a week, one finds that one needs good hearty food. With butter. One finds oneself eating filling, nutritious food because one needs to and diet-plans involving self-imposed starvation fly right out the damned window. And good riddance. Good home cooked meals are one of the simpler and more complete pleasures in life. They are also cheap. If you do the prep yourself, you can feed five people a great meal for what it would cost to feed yourself at any place worth calling a restaurant. This brings us to the next benefit…

  1. Share. For far too long the social scene in Rvk has been under the monopolistic control of “the bar scene” whereby everyone had to pay through the nose for flat beer to get the chance to socialize and meet new people. Not many of us can afford that anymore. But we can afford to have dinners together. Be they potlucks, or stone-soups (whereby everyone brings an ingredient and the whole party works out what to do with them), communal cooking and eating is fun, and comforting. There is something deeply human and primal about breaking bread in the company of good friends. We should do it more. Just like we should play music together, have video nights, play ball in the park, etc.

Not to mention theme parties. I love theme parties. Especially when the theme includes partial nudity…

There’s another benefit here. When times get hard, people generally figure out that all this imposed competition isn’t actually brining out the best in us, just the opposite in fact. Use this opportunity to create closer ties to your neighbors and friends. Extend your social network. It not only makes everyone feel a bit less alone, a bit less worried, but provides a network for mutual aid. Got a friend that needs a babysitter? You need a hand painting? Bingo, cashless solution to both your problems…

  1. Love. What with the friendly socializing, good food, and healthy fitness, its only fair to indulge in one of life’s other pleasures, namely fucking. Now, this might just be my singleness talking, but come on! Its fun, its free, its healthy, and it makes you happy. Screw your way through the Depression! Make with the horizontal tango! Form the two backed beast! Why not?

  1. Create. Once upon a time, back before China provided for all our material needs, people used to make useful things for themselves. Some of us still do. This is not just economic, its fun. It fills time otherwise spent worrying about money. Knit, sew, homebrew, carve, weave, paint, compose, potter (?), whatever. Doing something worthwhile with your hands is probably one of the best ways to get out of your own head and achieve some zen.*

  1. Read. For free. From the library. I suppose you could watch a DVD from the library too. Or listen to one of their books on CD/mp3 as you bike to work. Or just take some time to have a free cuppa and read the papers. Libraries rock, but they rock out with their metaphorical cocks out when times is hard. Need to know how to homebrew? Go to the library. Need to know how to repair your bike? Ditto. What to learn how to cook new and interesting food? Ditto ad infinatum.

  1. Rise up. Take to the streets. Seriously, if the events of recent months haven’t activated you inner activist yet, you’re either sitting on a pile of tax-paradise trust funds, or you’re, frankly, a dolt. I don’t care if you disagree with my politics, just get out and make some fucking noise already. Every disaster bears the seeds of opportunity, if we’re willing to go out and gather ‘em up. Plus, when done right, its fun. Its thrilling, its good cheap fun. Politics shouldn’t be a chore. As soon as it feels like one, its time to inject some fun back into it. Play merry havoc in the streets. I mean, if they arrest you, can you say free room and board?

  1. Hope. For better or worse, we will survive this. Its bad, but its not the End of the World, just the End of the World as We Know It. And you bet your ass I feel fine.

* Kreppa Koan:

If a tree falls on an investment banker, does anyone care?

What is the sound of one hand washing the other?

If wealth is created from nothingness, is it worth anything?

Three monkeys sat on a branch as a monster walked by. The first monkey blocked his eyes and said “Globalization is making us rich”. The second monkey plugged his ears and said “Business is booming”. The third monkey covered his mouth so he wouldn’t say anything that might be construed as leftist. They all got eaten.

When the tide ebbs, it is considered a tragedy. But when the tide never ceases to rise, it is considered anything but a flood.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What I didn't do this weekend

I didn't work on the apartment.
I didn't work on an article for the Grapevine.
I didn't go out dancing and seduce some lovely young thing.
I didn't load all my music into my computer.

On the upside:

I didn't spend much money.
I didn't waste time trying to seduce some lovely young thing.
I didn't spend the entire weekend alone.
I didn't worry (much) about the state of the world.
I didn't give into my urge to get a mohawk again (sooo doesn't suit my new glasses).
I didn't wake up hungover.

All in all, not bad for me.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ten Radically Simple Truths

  1. Loans are not income! As blatantly obvious as this is, it needs saying in Icelandic society and in the halls of finance. Loudly, and often. Iceland has been a debt driven economy for far too long. Until very recently (weeks ago, months tops) easily 90% of the Icelanders I know were more or less living off their overdrafts. Taking out a loan in this manner has become so common place that many here don’t even consider paying for something with actual earned income. Hell, even the government can’t seem to grasp this concept, considering that they tax student loans as income…
  2. A króna saved is a króna earned. Again, obvious. But oddly subversive nonetheless. We are told that our “duty as consumers” is to prop up the economy with constant spending. Debt is held up as a sign of prosperity, whilst frugality and savings are considered a “poverty mindset”. While 90% of the Icelanders I know have an overdraft, I think less then 5% have a saving account. The only people I know with saving accounts in Iceland are foreigners. Which leads us directly to:
  3. Anything you can make, produce, grow, or create yourself is ALWAYS more economical than buying it. ALWAYS. The actual monetary savings involved in growing a garden may be low, but the increase in food quality, the sense of accomplishment, and the feeling of security that goes with the sure knowledge that you can feed yourself are priceless. It’s always more economical to mend your clothes, to fix broken furniture than buying new, to brew your own beer instead of buying from the store. ALWAYS! The same goes for sewing your own clothes, baking your own bread, or, in the extreme, distilling your own fuel. A good book from the library, a dinner party with friends, a movie night with the neighbors, or playing music with likeminded folk are all cheaper and more fulfilling than say, spending the better part of your weekend wandering around shopping center hemorrhaging money just to stave of boredom. This is equally true of nations. If you can produce it domestically, do so! As “old-school” as it sounds, a healthy economy should strive to balance imports to exports, and a truly thriving economy should try to import less than its gross exports. Any country that imports more than it exports is letting its mouth write checks that its ass can’t cash.
  4. You cannot have infinite economic growth in a finite world! As soon as an economy grows beyond its actual productive abilities (in real goods and commodities) it becomes a sort of virtual reality, which while entertaining, is nonetheless a game, of the sort played in Vegas, a crapshoot where financiers wager the hard work and labor of the commonality for personal gain. Its bullshit. Everything they say, everything about global trade and interest rates and stock exchanges is bullshit. Its only wealth, only business because they’ve managed to convince us that it matters. It doesn’t.
  5. Any man woman or child, society, community or nation only needs five things. They need food, they need shelter, they need clothing (provided they don’t live in the tropics), they need energy, and they need meaningful connections and activities. Anything else is, to use the American vernacular: “gravy”. Now gravy makes any meal a feast, but a gravy heavy diet will kill you quicker than you can say “cardiac arrest”. Iceland has been chugging down gravy for breakfast of late. The current kreppa is the inevitable result of societal arteries clogged with over-consumption.
  6. A rising tide only lifts those rich enough to own boats. Everyone else either has to tread water or drown. Far better get everyone to high ground instead of forcing them to live on the beach.
  7. You can’t eat gold, you can’t drink silver. Take a bag of each out into the lonely desert. See how long you last.
  8. The further the gap between the richest and the poorest in any society, the more unstable that society will be. There will be more crime, more terrorism, more misery, and less unity, community spirit and mutual aid.
  9. Sustenance has always been the foundation of any society. Food culture is the last facet to fall away from immigrants, even language falls before. Any society that gives up its ability to feed itself, that does not build its economy on a foundation of sustainable sustenance, is doomed from the start.
  10. The meek really will inherit the earth. Because the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and lo how the mighty are fallin’. Usually out of the upper stories of Wall St. “Meek” in this case doesn’t mean “weak, obliging, and obedient”, it means “humble, realistic, stoic, and pragmatic”. Nations and communities that strive for a sustainable, low-growth to zero-growth economy aimed at creating a happy healthy society, instead of simply increasing the numerical amount of currency, are going to survive. Hell, they’re going to thrive. Those societies and nations that keep chasing a purely currency-based vision of human well-being, wherein all the “economically irrelevant” values like health, environment, happiness, equality, etc, are ignored, are fucked. Simple as that.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Parable About Fish

Once there was a small pond, enclosed by a meadow in the mist of a steamy tropical jungle. Though a massive river ran nearby, the pond itself was tiny, save for rare occasions when the river flooded well above its banks and swamped the pond, but most of the water came from frequent rainfall.

The pond was a thriving little place. There were hundreds of species of insects, twenty or so kinds of fish, a few amphibians, uncounted and uncountable microorganisms, aquatic plants, crustaceans, and the like.

As a whole, it was a very stable little system, and for its scale, a thriving one. The microorganisms were eaten by the smaller fish and insects, while the smaller fish and insects were eaten by the bigger fish and invertebrates. But the biggest fish in the pond (tilapia agriculturalus) ate the plants and the algae, keeping the water free of blooms, and providing, by their fry, waste, and eventual decay the foundation for life in the pond. Smaller fish helped in this process, eating the insects that might harm the plants the big fish needed to survive, stirring up the sediment so the plant seeds could grow and the silt wouldn’t solidify, and eating some of the organisms that would otherwise prey on the big fish’s young.

One day there was a big flood, and a new species of fish (piranhas ravenous financialus) came into the pond. This species did not arrive alone; it brought with its own parasites, the Trading Leech, and the Speculative Worm.

The new fish were single minded and hungry, and quickly set about devouring everything in sight, so that they could grow bigger. Meanwhile their parasites attacked the smaller creatures and large alike, weakening them, hijacking their hosts bodies to feed themselves. Soon the new fish had consumed all the small, medium, and large fish in the pond, along with everything else worth eating. The native fish, already weakened by parasites proved easy prey, and the piranhas grew ever larger, sleeker, and stronger.

Soon though, they discovered there were no more fish to eat, except for other piranha. So the larger piranha started devouring the smaller ones, and the ones made weak by parasites, growing sleeker and stronger, until there pond was full of huge, sleek predators, circling each other, waiting for a chance to devour each other in order to grow ever larger.

Meanwhile, the plants that had been kept in check by the tilapia began to fill up the edges of the pond, while blooms of algae began to form over the surface, blocking out light, trapping heat in the water and leeching poisons into the pond. Bacteria that were kept in check by the insects and little fish, now swallowed by the piranhas, began to infect the few fish left, and any fish that weakened was immediately devoured by its brethren, who continued to grow, spawn, and devour their own young.

Finally the pond began to silt up, the water to stagnate, the plants to fill all the available space, as the last few piranhas circled in an ever smaller pond, proud of how large they’d grown and fiercely they devoured each other.

In the end, one fat bloated fish gasped for life in the stagnant, slimy puddle that remained of the once prosperous pond. Its only hope was that someone would come and bail it out, or pump more liquid assets into the pond.

Hey, I never claimed it was a good parable.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Things Fall Apart


I've got to do some shopping. I got one pair of boots with gaping holes in the soles, another that are so busted up inside that walking sounds like shaking maracas, and a pair of cheap wellies that I'm therefore forced to wear more often than makes any kind of fashion sense.

Meanwhile I've got exactly three pairs of comfortable pants, and another three that I can squeeze into, and most of my favorite T-shirts are sporting holes that you can see from satellites. None of my sheets match, my leather jacket needs serious repair, and my last pair of tennis-shoes had to chucked out because the sole peeled off at work.

Add in a "kitchen" that currently consists of exposed wiring, a gaping hole in the wall, and enough dust and rubble (along with the requisite respirator) to make my place frightfully ironic when I was working on it on the 11 of last month.

Plus the back tire of my bike, Sid, fell off on my way to work last week.

Result, I look, smell, and feel like a hobo.

And you all thought this was gonna be a blog about the economic collapse, didn't you?