It’s rally time on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average eked out a positive day for the eighth day in a row to hit a year-long high amidst the longest streak since April of 2007. Before you get too excited about this bit of green-shoots news from the boys on murderer’s row, let’s consider the cause and consequences.
Occasionally when people talk to me about my new life in and around the mud hut, their conclusions include one of the following statements: (1) You’re selfishly wasting your talent as an excellent and inspiring teacher. You should be teaching at the university, saving students, instead of preparing for economic collapse. (2) Don’t be silly. The United States cannot suffer economic collapse.
My responses go something like this:
I used to believe the bankruptcy of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation would have substantial implications. The FDIC officially ran out of money last Friday when they shuttered the usual handful of banks. When they close another handful this Friday — conveniently out of the media’s not-so-watchful eye — they’ll have exactly nothing with which to back up the deposits. Since backing up deposits in failed banks is the FDIC’s entire mission, this should cause the financial system to fail overnight.
The twin sides of our fossil-fuel addiction — energy decline and global climate change — are the most important topics we can address as a species. The national conversation ignores or marginalizes these critical topics. On the rare occasion they inadvertently come up, we act like a roomful of eight-year-olds with plates full of peas and mashed potatoes, pushing the main course around without actually ingesting it, wishing for the distraction of dessert.
I’ve dug trenches (requiring only a strong back and a weak mind, so it’s the perfect job for me) in which to install water lines, and even installed a
near the chicken coop and duck house (I’m a plumber). This morning I laid
in the outdoor kitchen (I’m a mason). I’ve built several awnings for tools and shade, along with a few structures for animals (I’m a rough carpenter). And we’re growing considerable food, planted from seed, in our own garden beds and also in a neighbor’s field (I’m a sharecropper). My two favorite titles, then, are Professor Emeritus and Sharecropper.
I’ve long recognized the two-party, one-ideology basis of American politics, and I was calling Barack Obama a neoconservative long before it was popular to recognize him as the Teflon President 2.0. But even I can hardly believe this tidbit from a guy I thought was pretty damned smart: From the I-cannot-believe-this-is-happening camp, Obama is appointing a Monsanto man as food safety czar. Welcome to Farmageddon, land of the free.
It is clear that some of us are committed to lives of service, and others are not. I’m sure social scientists have identified myriad patterns to justify our quirky lives, without actually explaining them, much less identifying mechanisms underlying them. And that’s just as well, given the magnitude of the task. I’d rather we spend our considerable cognitive surplus on other issues. Consider, for example, how much time we spend tweeting. And then trying to determine if twittering counts at literature. (If you think twit lit is, well, literature, I think you’re an idiot. But I digress.) Never mind who’s drinking which brand of beer in the White House. We’re so absorbed with television and the Internet and who’s screwing whom in the world of celebrities, we can’t bother to focus on the inordinate suffering we’re causing, to humans and other animals. Sixth great extinction, including our own species? Whatev. Solving those problems will simply have to wait until after I get a tattoo proclaiming my independence from mainstream culture.