25.11.08

The Financial Crisis, or A Chance for Communal Purgation

Most public intellectuals, editorial journalists, and professional bloggers seem to subscribe to the notion that massive government intervention was and is needed to rescue/bail-out/life-line the banking industry. Some, of course, do so "reluctantly;" they bemoan the necessity for this operation; they decry the failures of the regulatory agencies, the greed of the chief executives, and the short-sightedness of the system as a whole. Yet, left and right, they acquiesce to taxpayer supported medicine, because, no doubt, the alternative is certain doom.

Granted there are a few right-wing and left-wing populists protesting government intervention. The right-wingers, subscribing to a Reaganomic caricature, complain that the ideals of the free market would be trampled upon, that survival of the fittest should rule the capital sphere, and (the most convincing of their arguments) that the bailout would only encourage these companies to do it all over again--for all the downsides of risk have been shifted away to a faceless mass of taxpaying citizens. The left-wingers, while sharing the latter concern, complain that such relief should be directed at the poorest among us, to the individuals most disproportionately affected by any potential bank failure. Although the compassion of the left-wingers and the honest consistency of the right-wingers are to be admired, the middle term between them--the banks sloughing off responsibility onto their customers, i.e. parasitism or slavery depending on the metaphor--this term is the term that reveals the folly of government intervention.

I've never considered myself much of a Marxist, but it seems that a Marxist analysis, if anything, is called for in these times. For what are the banks' relations to the modern consumers if not predatory in the most bloodthirsty of terms. Banks enslave the modern consumer through the necessity of extortionate loans, phlebotomic fees, and the subscription of institutions which perforce even more loans and fees. Some may say that there's choice for the individual to inscribe themselves within this tragically repetitious cycle, that they could choose not to get loans and not to open bank accounts and not to buy pants but to make them with the wool spun of the neighborhood sheep, but this is a preposterous re-proposition of the fallacy of the radically autonomous subject (or maybe I'm ahead/behind the times, and the fallacy is not now revealed as such, no?).

Before the present moment (in which the choice to rehabilitate these criminals must be made), the first world individual was doomed to a career, to a profession, to wage or salary based labor whereby the ever accruing debts might ever, at that event beyond the horizon, be paid off. Sure, there was much material good to come of this. For example, television images are remarkably clear now. But the image of the person, of the soul, in relation to the neighbor, to nature, to the whole of creation and to God, this image was blurred and subsumed under an obsessively appetitive struggle to ascend to the top of this social pyramid whose ontological linchpin was the banks.

Now the system reveals itself as inherently unstable. Greed is not glue enough to maintain a healthy society. By letting the banks fail now, we open up the opportunity to escape the nihilism of this order. As the previous Western authorities have collapsed--the late antique Roman Empire, the medieval Church, the modern Nation--so too will the contemporary Corporation. What is at stake in choosing the time and place of its demise is ensuring that we're not dragged down with it. The Romans embraced Christianity too late to save themselves, the Christians (though not the Church) embraced the modern Nation quick enough, and the modern citizens took to capitalism with only the loss of Russia to mark.

Although the successive authority has perhaps not yet revealed itself as such, that's no reason to cast our collective lot with an unsustainably avaricious authority. Whatever dark ages lie ahead, they'll be shortened the sooner we stop propping up the source of our own disease and place ourselves in a position whereby we'll be forced to tap our social-creative potential towards the construction of a new synthetic authority. At this moment the banks are weak. At this moment we can let them die of the cancers they themselves have spawned. At this moment we can choose to fast-forward to that ever distant horizon of freedom from commercial servitude, and reclaim a place for humans in a cosmos not unduly limited by points and lines of credit and interest.

Or we can fall once more to the addictive cycle, and scrape away the tumor so that the cancer might again return at some date beyond today. Doing so we admit the banks contention, that what's really at risk are our pensions, not realizing that the bait is no longer anything more than a dried husk of itself. We find there chaff with no wheat; delivering more a thrashing than a threshing for those cowardly enough to to fall for the ploy.

1 comment:

Frosty said...

You may be the first person I've heard actually put the blame on people who deserve it. Bravo!