I had to call my investment guy yesterday on an unrelated matter — unrelated to the current crisis, that is — and couldn’t find his number. So I logged on to my account to see if it was displayed anywhere on my welcome screen.
Note to self: Don’t do that. Like, ever again.
Oh, well. Middle age has a few rewards. Cons: Harder to lose weight, something always hurts, gray hair. Pros: Generally calmer in crises. I ask, what can I do? and if the answer is not much, I change the brain channel. Answering the question is difficult, however. I figure it’s my duty to learn as much as possible, and then think creatively about what I’ve learned. This sounds easy, and isn’t. What if Alan lost his job? What if I did? How would we manage? I end these trains of thought with, I guess we’d make it up as we go along, and while that’s not much of a caboose, it certainly beats checking in with the various end-times lunatics who’ve secretly been praying for this with every turn of the compost pile. Rod Dreher in particular seems to go looking for them, and is always turning up another dropout who left (insert high-paying job in large city here) for (insert details of modest acreage in low-value state here), etc. His latest crush is one Sharon Astyk, filing from an internet connection somewhere in upstate New York, who writes:
We’re all going to need reliable sources of food. We’re all going to need some transportation. We’re going to need health care, and emergency services. We’re all going to need good work – even if it is only for food. We’re going to need ways to keep people housed, to connect folks who need homes with those who can’t keep them unless they rent some space. A lot of people are going to need warm clothes and blankets. A lot of people are going to need a meal, a helping hand, help with disabled family members and elders. And folks, when the formal economy falls away, when we cannot trust our government to act in our interests, all of us have to get acting to compensate, to keep the wolf from the door.
“When the formal economy falls away” — that’s a telling phrase, there. Not if, but when. I don’t single it out to somehow underline the scary stuff; I think this woman is full of about 12 percent common sense and 88 percent shit. But it’s hard not to read her, and Dreher, and James Howard Kunstler, and all the other Cassandras out there — many of whom, oddly enough, have a book to sell — without thinking, they’re happy about this. I stumbled upon Dreher via two paths, Amy Welborn (who’s sorta-friends with him) and Roy Edroso (who mocks his pants-wetting anxieties better than anyone). Obviously I’m more in tune with Roy, who in a thrice, with his typical laser vision, identified what bugs me — and should bug you — about the guy and his confederates:
When brother Rod denounces the West, as he is increasingly prone to do, my defensive reaction troubles me less. Because while I would agree with him, and his sources, that there are many things wrong with this country, his judgment of general rottenness on our way of life so offends me that I turn into a regular Yankee Doodle Dandy. When he says “[Patrick] Deneen raises the possibility that events — economic, especially — will do more to enhance traditionalist conservatism’s prospects with the public than anything else,” and I realize he is praying for catastrophe to befall us so that we will all come running to Jesus and the Old Ways for protection, I feel the sort of things that liberals of old must have felt when student radicals threatened to burn the motherfucker down: this is still my country, and if we are ridiculous about a number of things, I will certainly side with it against the likes of you.
Roy coined the phrase “godly paupers” to describe what Dreher and others hope will rise from this rubble, and that, friends, is worth fighting against. I know Jeff the mild-mannered in particular thinks Wendell Berry can do no wrong, and to be sure the man is an elegant essayist and speaker, but when I read shit like this I just want to scream:
What more than you have so far learned will you need to know in order to live at home? (I don’t mean “home” as a house for sale.) If you decide, or if you are required by circumstances, to live all your life in one place, what will you need to know about it and about yourself? At present our economy and society are founded on the assumption that energy will always be unlimited and cheap; but what will you have to learn to live in a world in which energy is limited and expensive? What will you have to know – and know how to do – when your community can no longer be supplied by cheap transportation? Will you be satisfied to live in a world owned or controlled by a few great corporations? If not, would you consider the alternative: self-employment in a small local enterprise owned by you, offering honest goods or services to your neighbors and responsible stewardship to your community?
Mr. Berry, take note: I would not consider it. Not everyone wants to be a humble craftsman of honest wood, or whatever. I want to rock ‘n’ roll in a big city full of other cursed rock ‘n’ rollers, and honestly? The idea of living next door to the Drehers, or the Astyks, or some other band of pious back-to-the-landers? Makes me barf. (Unless, of course, the neighbors are the Coozledads. In which case we’d spend our days cultivating our pot plants and our evenings putting the speakers on the porch and baying at the moon. That wouldn’t be so bad. So Mr. Berry, correction: I would consider being the village idiot.)
Come the apocalypse, you all are welcome to stop by my house. Where we will be keeping the flame of urban living alive.
That said, I’m thinking maybe next year we’re going to take an ailing flowering tree out of our back green patch (it’s too small to be a yard) and plant a victory garden. Not because we’ll need the food, but because I like homegrown tomatoes.
The GOP plays the Quayle card:
Palin’s routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric’s questions for her “less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media.” At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, “Sit down, boy.”
Actually, I should call that the Shine card, as it was Steve Shine, now GOP chairman of Allen County, Indiana, who incited a similar mob in Huntington 20 years ago, when he left live mics on the swarming of Quayle by a clutch of national media. This was DQ’s first availability since his nomination, and everyone wanted to ask him about his National Guard service. Quayle did what he was supposed to do — repeat “I’m proud of my service” endlessly, no matter what the question — but as he continued to evade, the questions got tougher and the crowd got meaner. I pulled off my credential, stuffed my notebook down my pants and slipped into the crowd as a civilian. If someone had thrown a bottle, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
I’ll give Huntington this, however: I never heard anyone called “boy.”
Have you listened to TAL’s “Another Frightening Show About the Economy” yet? Well, why not? (The first chapter is about the commercial paper market, which the Fed is shoring up as we speak. If you don’t know what that is, you need to. So go listen.)
Me, I’m off to the gym, surely the first luxury to go when HELL RAINS DOWN ON US ALL. Back later.