stretched between the animal and the Chairman of Goldman Sachs.
-- F.W. Nietzsche, Chief Process Improvement Visioneer,
"Overman, Overman & Zarathustra"
"Overman, Overman & Zarathustra"
Since before we were even a country, two great horrors have haunted the subconscious of bourgeoisie America: Poverty and Scary Brown People. And to cope with our eternal, subcutaneous terrors, two, broad avenues are always open to us: standing on our own two feet and confronting our fears on our own terms, or kneeling before our fears and making them into ogres and demons with magic powers.
The first path demands reason; it calls to the “better angels of our nature” to be calm and to banish our fears of fear itself with a belief that citizens in a democracy governed by laws can rise to any occasion.
The second path – the path of the Pig People – eventually demands that belief in laws and men be overthrown. It demands that we wade into the reptilian muck with our conjure sticks to summon men who are more than men
to defeat the demons.
Men who are laws unto themselves.
And supermen always, always insist
on special rules.
That is the compact we sign when we beg the supermen to save us from shadows and nightmares. That they will be above the petty reach of auditors and bean-counters. Beyond the grasp of hobbling regulations
and some ankle-biting “Constitution”.
And the thing is, because calm confidence banishes dread, and raving, magical thinking murders reason, eventually you have to have choose one or the other. No way around it.
And for a very long time, this country has chosen wrong.
To fight a tiny number of Very Scary Brown People, America wiped its collective ass with the rule of law and turned itself over to this idiot
and his band of pinstriped terrorists
And like the sirens and apparitions we followed into catastrophe during the reign of Bush, America allowed itself to be fatally mesmerized by powerfully authoritarian impulses in the world of finance.
As Flight Suit Action Figure Dubya promised to protect us from the collywobbles under our beds, Pinstripe Action Figure CEOs
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
promised to deliver ouchless wealth that would forever cofferdam us from the specter of Scary Poverty.
So when they told us they had pulled a whole, new economy out of their collective heinies made out of incomprehensibly complex "instruments" that would make us all rich as pirates forever and ever, instead of calling the Bunko Squad, America tossed common sense and basic arithmetic into the wood chipper and turned itself over to the League of Free Market Economic Justice, who had come thundering down from Mount Laffer to deliver us from want.
And in exchange all we had to do is give them what every other comic book superhero gets to have; unlimited power.
Even the language
"The mere words of robo-hunk John Thain were enough to cause Merrill Lynch stock to climb 7.1 percent yesterday by the end of trading. …We, for one, believe him and believe in his heroic efforts to save his company — if only because we've always wanted to Photoshop his head on a vintage Superman's body. It just looks like it belongs, no?"
were straight out of the funny books.
(Yes, I'm picking on John Thain here, as well as in the introductory graphic because frankly he’s such an irresistibly textbook example of the bastard love child of obscene excess and arrogant entitlement:
Creep of the Week -- John A. ThainAnd in exchange for unchecked power and no supervision, like Rumplestiltskin, they would forever to spin shitty strip malls and abandoned corn cribs into gold, because what with working 65 hours a week, raising kids an keeping up with Gray's Anatomy, we were busy enough -- too busy, really -- to pay close enough attention to the incomprehensibly complex domains of foreign or fiscal policy.
Thain's behavior has been so cartoonish as to suggest he's a soulless concoction of Marvel Comics. A Wall Street villain: Thain - the bond-shark who spends more on a commode to festoon his office than most Americans earn in a year!
Even James Post, a management professor at Boston University, suggested that Thain was more of an avatar than a human when talking to the AP about him and other Wall Street CEOs who spent $18 billion on year-end bonuses after getting $350 billion in taxpayer dollars to bailout their failing financial companies, "Thain is a symbol of the species. It's a breed that I think is going to have to change its habits, at least for a time."
It was a job for supermen
and their masterminds.
While far, far away in the airless political wasteland of Liberalville, Dirty Fucking Hippies screamed their warnings that this was all a very bad idea and an insult to the best of what America is into a vacuum.
And so long as the fever burned and the teevee screens were full of ay-rabs being blowed up real good and real estate values rising like rockets, every excess was excused.
Torture? So what?
Illegal wiretapping? Who cares?
Billion dollar bonuses thrown around like nickels? What, are you some kind of commie!?
Until one day a Bad Thing happens. A Very Bad Thing, that is neither safely 10,000 miles away nor arcane enough to be buried behind the used car ads in the business section of the paper. Something so close to home that all but the most relentless ignorant true believe can’t help but wake the fuck up.
A major American city drowns.
A major American bank collapses.
And where are our saviors?
Look, up in the sky.
It’s a bird.
It’s a plane.
Suddenly, calamity is throwing light in all kinds of places we weren't supposed to see,
Suddenly the armor of public delusion falls away, the Emperor’s New Armani disappears in a blast wave of unrebuttable failure, and the Great Man upon the throne is revealed to be what he always was: a half-bright, smirking fucknozzle whose private depravities -- ingrained by repetition and doctrine and decades of privileged-fueled carte blanche -- had become public behaviors which we were all strongly encouraged to politely ignore.
The greed and sadism, the pathological lying, the arrogance and ignorance and rapacious sense of entitlement...all now out caught in the harsh and unforgiving spotlight that real crisis brings and delivered with such reeking volume and velocity that even the Pig People can only drown it out by Turning Rush Up loud enough to induce seizures.
What we are finally getting a good, strong whiff of the gangrenous rot underneath the shiny facades on Wall Street. Seeing that, while out here in the fields, we fought for our meals, in the boardrooms, the meals are choppered in from that lovely little Italian place.
On the coast.
Because why the fuck not?
When the only people you know are rich, the only America you see is served to you in one-page executive summary form and read in comfort as you jet between Sun Valley and Davos, and the only people you speak with tell you how completely you have earned every lavish perk and comfort, why not go wild?
You are a World-Saver. A Decider. A Superman.
Master of a Universe where wealth bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Where money understands all.
And thus we find ourselves where the road diverges once again.
On the one side, are the men and women who council reform.
Who call to our better angels and ask us once again to stand against:
“…this new industrial dictatorship. The savings of the average family, the capital of the small business man, the investments set aside for old age—other people's money—these were tools which the new economic royalty used to dig itself in. “
Franklin D. Roosevelt
July 27, 1936
While on the other side are democracy’s enemies,
who try to gin up those old, reliable fears one more time.
Who whisper that all we really need
are more supermen.
"And, for an instant, she stared directly into those soft blue eyes and knew, with an instinctive mammalian certainty, that the exceedingly rich were no longer even remotely human”
William Gibson, "Count Zero"