Friday, December 28, 2012


"Pacifists who refuse to examine all causes of war, from natural fitfulness on through the direct economic causes, are simple vermin, whatever their level of consciousness, their awareness or unawareness of their actions and motivations."
Ezra Pound (GK, p. 117)

In the prologue to Douglas Adams' So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, we are given a characteristically silly analysis of our predicament. Adams tells us that, here on Earth, "most of the people ...[are] unhappy for pretty much of the time." He goes on to explain that this problem persists because the proposed solutions "[are] largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper", i.e., money (for those who hardly see the stuff anymore or whose money isn't green). Adams does mention in passing that part of the problem is that "lots of the people [are] mean", which I'll get back to in a moment. In any case, it is clear that Adams believes that economic solutions to our problems entirely miss the point. After all, "on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy."

Adams also tells us that "two thousand years [ago] one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change", and then proposes to tell the story of a woman who "suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time," and figured out how to fix it. "[S]he finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything." For my part, rereading this prologue, it suddenly became clear to me that Adams' analysis of "the problem" is as facile as his interpretation of Christ's message, which, whatever your faith in it may be, is neither as simple, nor as obviously true, nor as harmless to the state, as he makes it appear. Unhappily, fixing our problems may very well involve nailing somebody to something, certainly on having someone's head on a stick (bring it on Dr. Dooley!). It's highly unlikely that someone will not make a martyr of anyone who proposes a solution.

This post marks my New Year's resolution to stop ignoring money, whether in my personal, professional, or political life. (Such as all of these are.) Money has never really been a problem for me. I'm privileged that way. But I've also never really taken it seriously, except in the abstract and intellectual sense of having "gotten wise" to the scam that it obviously also is. I now believe that solving the problems of the human condition can not get around a plan for the careful management of money. It's not everything. But it is one medium of human activity in which both the "natural fitfulness" and general meanness of people can be be channelled towards, well, yes, more "profitable" ends. Taking it seriously will probably also make me less of a nuisance to my administrative surroundings.

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