I think sometimes the source of our bitterest sorrow comes from those whom we once trusted and let into our minds (and yes, even our hearts) but then betrayed us.
I certainly intend to post some “lighter” fare in the immediate future but before I turn and take a rest, time for one last dance (at least for now) with the topic at hand – in this case, The Economist.
I’ve spoken and read English since I was a child and I traveled much, living and visiting many countries. Whether at the newsstand or delivered in the mail via a subscription (Rom: abonament), The Economist was always part of my life. Last week during my “vacation” I even found an old issue from early 2010 wedged behind my sofa – still with its price of over 8 U.S. dollars.
It’s certainly an impressive magazine, The Economist is. It comes printed on glossy paper and the words inside are written ever so professionally with its polished public school British grammar and style. Compared to “comparable” American news magazines like Time and Newsweek, it is a bright diamond amidst junky costume jewelry.
Certainly The Economist covers more topics and more “true” news from more countries and regions of the world than any other news magazine (in English) that I’m aware of.
And the back of every issue is filled with employment ads written in tiny type – jobs that are the cream of the crop, prestigious positions at the United Nations and other similar organizations. It’s the magazine that educated people read, politicians, statesmen, leaders, business chiefs and yes, even economists.
And yet I cannot see a single well-crafted issue on the shelves of my local newsstand without shuddering. Because beneath the shine and the glamor of its perfect formatting is a deep sickness. And once your eyes and heart can pierce the sheen of its never wavering confidence and tones of absolute certainty, you can never look at it the same way again.
To begin with, none of the articles ever include the author’s name. There’s never a person out there whose byline you can look for and know what to expect. No. Almost every article (including on their blog, as I linked to in my last post) is written in a voice of “God on high”, with neither credit nor culpability ever given to any mere mortal writer. Even the title speaks of that, The Economist, not many “economists” but one, forever and ever, amen.
Far worse than that however is that The Economist is actually a religious publication, although they would deny that even to themselves. Their faith is not that of Jesus or the Prophet Mohammed but rather that of business, perhaps Business with a capital B, and not just Business but the flashing neon cross of the Great Modern Hope, known as the lily white tower of Capitalism.
The Economist do not truck in the ordinary, honest business of a farmer unloading a sack of potatoes hard won from the dirt nor the craftswoman selling her weavings at the market. No, it is the great god Capitalism whom they worship, the prophet that perennially shouts to the rooftops that yes, things are bad now for you (the little people) but we, the Elect, know a great Plan and if we are allowed to implement it untrammeled by your petty concerns and greed, the Future Will Be So Bright We’ll All Need Shades.
Perhaps today it’s the sniveling Hungarians who quaveringly beseech their doctors for too many pills. Perhaps it’s the Romanian government employees who are paid too much. Perhaps it’s the thrifty German folken who need their budgets cut, benefits reduced, services slashed. Or even the proud British, with their overly “wasteful” concern for the health and education of their citizens and long-term residents. Or perhaps even Mighty Columbia herself, America, a land crumbling into violent anarchy and ruinous disease before our very eyes.
But to whomever the watchful eye of The Economist turns to in their next article, their next issue, the prophecy is always the same: “Little people, rabble rousing ingrates that ye are, suffer unto the Kings of Commerce, the Mighty Wizards of Capitalism, and all will be well! Allow your leaders to take your money in taxes and fees (and the parasitic VAT) and do with it what they will, yea even unto offloading most of it in the form of electrons to Bankers and Financial Experts you’ll never meet in your whole life, and only thus will The Good Life be yours!”
Does it matter that the roads crumble so soon after they were built with such great expense? No. Does it matter that the poison fumes of petroleum blanket the countryside so that a chosen few may cart themselves about at lethal speeds? No. Does it matter that the very bread that ye’d put in your mouth rises in price every year, every month, almost every week? No. Does it matter that the garlic on your table and the socks on your feet and the computer screen shining its electronic light into your eyes were made by slaves in a far off land? No.
Because all must bow before the Messiah of Capitalism, the great modern hope for a shining future for all of us. And just because those in the cockpit of the machine, the very Masters of Finance, are dying inside of rot and decay, their wicked hearts kept pumping via machinery and pharmaceutical trickery, does that mean the Rabble should abandon the course? No. No, no and always no.
All the money could be theirs and it would still never be quite enough, would it? Every tree, potato and hectare of arable dirt could be boxed up, shipped out and sent to be turned into trumpery gizmos and gadgets and it will wouldn’t be enough. If every ill and drug-weakened person were abandoned to die for the sin of being unproductive, if every able person were literally chained and yoked to the great Engine of Capitalism, if human rights were abolished and forgotten and legislated out of existence and if there were a camera on every corner, a wiretap on every phone and a backdoor virus in every computer, it would still never be enough.
Until every single human being’s labor has been captured, until every plant and tree and grass and root has been harvested and processed, until every animal is food, until every last mineral has been dug out of the ground, all to plump up the electrons in some far off databank, will it ever be enough.
Until then we must all groan under the lash for the Good of Modernization, of Capitalism and of Loans and staggering Debt. All for our own Future Good, of course, so sayeth the prophet Adam Smith.
And so sayeth The Economist. So sayeth Forbes. So sayeth The Wall Street Journal. So sayeth Jeffrey Franks. So sayeth the World Bank. So sayeth the EBRD and USAID and the IMF and the BIS. So sayeth Mugur Isarescu and the Trilateral Commission and the Council of Rome and the Council on Foreign Relations. Aye, so say they all.
And yet I wonder if they know, in the core of their shriveled and fearful souls, just how little time they have left. And whether it was all worth it, after all.
Lay on, Macduff, and damn’d be him that first cries, “Hold, enough!”
-Macbeth, William Shakespeare