Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ents in Isengard

I feel somewhat apologetic for it, but I cannot help, at a certain level, feeling somewhat relieved -- yes, that is what I said -- at the economic crisis. Am I a jerk? Probably. Yes, I know how bad it will be for so many things that I like, and for so many people's real lives and real livelihoods: including those of us who have invested our all in the academic profession, which unfortunately is a surplus industry. Just this morning the Cambridge Crier announced that Cambridge University Press is cutting half -- half -- of its staff. That is not fun times for anyone's family. But we have been living in a bubble world where the face of the earth has become a video game; and eventually things had to break. And yes, there is that grim delight in destroying rot that Treebeard sings out so perfectly somberly in Isengard.

Michael Lewis says:
In the two decades since [the late 1980s], I had been waiting for the end of Wall Street. The outrageous bonuses, the slender returns to shareholders, the never-ending scandals, the bursting of the internet bubble, the crisis following the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management: Over and over again, the big Wall Street investment banks would be, in some narrow way, discredited. Yet they just kept on growing, along with the sums of money that they doled out to 26-year-olds to perform tasks of no obvious social utility. The rebellion by American youth against the money culture never happened. Why bother to overturn your parents’ world when you can buy it, slice it up into tranches, and sell off the pieces?

At least one other person agrees with me:

When I hear the stock market has fallen,
I say, "Long live gravity! Long live
stupidity, error, and greed in the palaces
of fantasy capitalism!" I think
an economy should be based on thrift,
on taking care of things, not on theft,
usury, seduction, waste, and ruin.
(W. Berry from Some Further Words)

I would be very bad at it for quite awhile, but I've always sort of wanted to be forced into trying farming ...