Monthly Archives: November 2008

Money for nothin’ and bricks for free

When I came into my later teens, as many I imagine, I fell for the Rock Star image; band, gigs, drugs and all. I kidded myself, via some small amounts of musical talent that I was fortunate to harbour, that it was not purely for that tempting promise, nicely portrayed in this smash hit song. But with age I have to admit that it was at least a contributing motivator.

In recent years, that promise was best projected through a career in financial services. Add the fashion suits, high-tech muscle cars, jet besotted hedonistic weekend in Acapulco and you get Rock Star 2.0. But while the original Rock Star in his excess will overdose or wrap his sports car around a tree and slip away, the new breed displays a steely attitude. As John Spencer in the West Wing says, these guys don’t know the word “enough”.

I can’t help but wonder if we’re observing a time where a shared madness allows weird things to happen. And I feel a little abandoned by my lack of understanding of economic theory. I can bullshit you about politics, music, particle physics, the meaning of life if I must (oh go on.. just tempt me!), but don’t expect me to explain what is supposed to happen now! Bear with me, while I try to lay out in my very uneducated terms what is confusing me.

The rapidly growing financial sector has collapsed because it was forced to be fuelled by inappropriate customers. The World Finance was forced to take money from people who couldn’t really afford the deal they should have been given. So the banks had to give it to them for less, while still having to shave off some percentage to contribute to the bank’s business growth. At a high octane economy, that was not a problem. But then came the slow-down, the market potential was saturated and the trickle of money stopped. Is that a fair description?

So father state comes along and opens the pockets. Government must invest in the down cycle. We, the tax payers, have been convinced that propping up these lanky institutions is in our self-interest. But it’s not really our tax money that we’re using to do this, it’s just debt. Meaning, somebody else must be doling out the cash: The Chinese! (Just btw.: Maybe Rock Star 3.0? I know that gamers were already preparing to claim that title, but I think it’s going to be “to be Chinese”.) But hey, the Chinese are in trouble too! (Or are they?)  A very troubling article compares what’s going on with looting and it is us, tax payers, who are being looted. But I am trying to have a more optimistic approach. So if it’s not the Chinese, how are we all going to get our own and the ultimate bail out? It can’t be that we really will be asked to pay up?

One of the nicest ides of the Star Trek ideology is the total absence of money. Nobody would need to pay for anything, because we all would contribute enthusiastically to the common good. What nobody explains is how we get from our money obsessed culture to this Utopia.

As it appears, all countries will try, maybe even maniacally, to fight their economic troubles by making dept. Some exceptions apply and will surely result in some advantages later on. But overall, we seem to converge on a global consensus that in the future, there will be this near infinite amount of wealth and we’ll get there by allowing us all to go into debt.

You might think you’ve been naughty with your credit card and now you feel pinned down. But trust me, however bad you were, it is nothing compared to the debt that will be piled on to you over the next months, if not years. But don’t worry, we will all be redeemed in the next bubble. And it will be green and it will last. Amen!

Money really has always been a differentiator. You can afford this, but you cannot afford that. And because of that, the handling of the flow of money was a delicate subject for a long time. But these days, we seem to have endless hordes of people, who are experts and wholly (holy?) devoted to the art of manipulating these flows. And I think they have found the Golden Tap that flows eternally! It’s the new faith: if we all believe that all our debts will be redeemed then there is a way to make it happen.

We’ll just borrow from tomorrow! Time is eternal, tomorrow is a resource which never exhausts. So we can keep borrowing, and borrowing and build a whole new economy based on tomorrow.  The news all talk about how to restore confidence in the markets. Who doubts that there is a tomorrow? Seriously? And even if you have doubts? Do you really act as if there is no tomorrow? And why would anybody in their right mind want to? We all portray confidence in there being a tomorrow. A market based on tomorrow will have all our confidence!

If we can endlessly borrow from tomorrow, then we never have to pay back. Ever! Anything! And that’s where money becomes obsolete.

But cynic that I am, I think: Can’t be! Too good to be true!

Have I undone it with my disbelief? You tell me! 


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Filed under Politics, Society

When does Comedy stop being funny?

I am surely no fan of Russell Brand’s humour and I long have been wary of Jonathan Ross’s attempts at stand-up  (although I admit that, occasionally, he allows a brain-blessed celebrity to go beyond its Hello-magazine image, which has become a rare sight). I surely agree in judgement that their pranklacked any justification and do not feel sorry for the humiliation they have experienced.

Even though I could not possibly disagree more with most of Jeremy Clarkson’s political opinions, I find his humour sometimes appealing. Given his style of straight forward and unambiguous attack, he cannot complain that people take offence at his sermons. I think he even relishes animated antagonism. I was watching that edition of Top Gear and I read his portrayal as deconstructing the stereotype of a lorry driver.

What really worries me is what is portrayed as a public outcry at “Comedy gone mad”. Thousands of letters asking for people to be sacked because they feel offended by .. by what? Comedy! There’s supposed to be a line drawn! And of course, we should all agree where that line exactly is and what it looks like: quantifiable humour. That’s for me when Comedy stops being funny.

The fact that a few thousand letters can cause such a storm is frightening, given the million people audience that these programmes reach. This is not a democratic opinion process, it’s rule by lowest common denominator. And what kind of Comedy can we expect that adheres to that?

I imagine that based on recent success certain groups are sharpening up the PC axe to see what else they can get hacked and slashed. What will survive their onslaught? I do not dare to imagine… and I’d be surprised if they’d care to see Free Speech amongst it.

But their time has not yet come. Tonight’s the next instalment of Top Gear. I am eager to see if Jeremy is allowed to comment in his own manner. And so far, they haven’t suspended my favourite BBC show either. Warning: it’s very silly and certainly not PC. But if you like the clip below, then I urge you to check out the rest. And now enjoy and relish, while Comedy is still allowed to be funny!

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Filed under Society