“Tell me one thing you have ever learned from a true intellectual,” I said to my friend, a well-read, bright man. He confessed at the close of the evening that he couldn’t think of a single thing he had ever learned from those who are deeply lost in the far soggy reaches of the brain. For me, I have been taught more by my kids and my dogs than I have ever been taught by an intellectual.
I think of those from whom we have learned the most. They are the simple story tellers of history. They are Buddha and Christ and Martin Luther King and Gandhi. And how about Mark Twain? It takes a special kind intelligence to tell a story, and from our tribal days to this moment we learn most from stories.
At this same said gathering the people wanted to talk about Madoff and his now infamous Ponzi scheme that skinned some of the brightest minds of the financial world. How could this happen? Yet what we discover is that the world was earlier taken in by a world-wide Ponzi scheme that has brought down the entire world’s economy. The result is referred to by the timid as “a deep recession.” In truth we are sunk in a world-wide depression that most of my readers have never personally experienced.
How did this happen to these mighty money-intellectuals? Like all such massive frauds built on greed it caught up with itself when the banks could no longer sell any more worthless credit instruments along with their clever derivatives. The whole ugly mess imploded and brought down with it the innocent, the naïve, and the poor.
The culture of the money world teaches that the principal value above all is profit. Give me profit. If I have to cheat, steal, lie, bribe — it is all right if the one, principal value remains in tact — namely profit. Money! And why should the people complain? They got their promised trickle down although their wages buy less than in the seventies. Houses were built. People had jobs. They could buy cars and TVs and furniture and ocean cruises and, and, and …all on credit, no money down. Mother worked along with dad. The kids went to good schools where they prepared themselves for life in Ponzi Puddle. Life was good for everyone. Why cry now?
The guy who lately got caught in his fifty billion Ponzi enterprise — why get upset with him? He paid his clients 10 or 12 per cent over many years. Doubled their money. Tripled it. Everyone was happy until the collapse came. They got big returns while the widow got her Social Security payment and the retirement fund of the Joneses was losing its value to inflation and millions were without health care.
I say we are living in the aftermath of another major ubiquitous Ponzi economy. But we can survive the wreckage.
Those of my generation were but children when the crash of ‘29 came. Still I remember how our family lived off our garden and the resourcefulness of my parents. Mother canned for the winter. We put the squash and the turnips and carrots in moist sand in the cellar for winter eating. My father worked six days a week and rode his bicycle to work.
We had a nanny goat and chickens in the back yard. The nanny provided us with milk. Humans have been living for thousands of years off of goats. They are warm and wonderful and gentle and have a pretty little bleat. You can stake them out in the alley. We had chickens and preserved the eggs for winter in a crock of water glass. My father was a hunter. We lived off wild game. You know the story. We might have even been happy.
Many people can no longer find a place to grow a garden and our wild game would soon be wiped out if the nation hunted for food. But remember, we have plenty of golf courses with lots of water that would feed thousands of people. We can buy pinto beans by the hundred pounds and rice the same and live for a year on nearly nothing.
We can help each other. We can still barter. We don’t need two or three cars and all the TVs and four wheelers and snow machines and appliances. Mother washed once a week and we hung out our clothes, summer and winter, to dry on the line. We can darn our socks and press our own shirts. We don’t need twenty pairs of shoes. We had a pair to work in and a pair for Sunday. We can bake our own bread. Our kids can work and earn money for college.
We can stop killing our brothers and sisters across the world because we want their oil or because they worship a different God. That will bring real prosperity — if only we can no longer afford war. Perhaps that should become a universal prayer that takes the place of a prayer for prosperity.
The new life coming may turn out to better. More money has not made us a better nation. Our penitentiaries are full. We are building more. Our justice system is broken. Our democracy is being challenged by politicians who want to sell to the highest bidder the people’s right to representation. Our poor are being wasted and abandoned. Our middle class is disappearing and many are now unemployed.
Our children are not prepared to work with their hands. Learning to perform an honest day’s labor has been lost to soccer and hockey and a host of school activities “to keep kids occupied.”
We have given up our independence to the poor of foreign countries who make our steel, make our automobiles, make our clothing, grow much of our food — make our everything while we trade money back and forth and barrow from the producing nations and find ways to engage in yet another world-wide Ponzi. The result of all of this could be a change of values where money is no longer king and where honesty and caring become more satisfying.
Yes, as they say, “We are up Shit Creek without a paddle.” Perhaps you didn’t know the following. No intellectual has revealed this truth — but Shit Creek is a tributary of Turd River. No matter how hard we fight against it, we cannot get off that river until we reach Turd Falls at its end.
Well, my friends, the challenge is to have a good trip. What we face today is just another part of the passing landscape though which the river flows. One does not need to be an intellectual to come to that conclusion. Hopefully we will find a way to survive these dangerous rapids and learn something of worth about ourselves and each other in the experience. Yes. Have a good trip.