I think I’ve found a thread through yesterday’s shooting, economics and gender politics. Its actually a lot less impressive than it sounds. What we’re going to deal with – collective mythology – runs through everything but still, in the immortal words of Crash Davis, “we’re dealing with a lot of shit here.
Before I lose any more readers let’s quickly establish the link between myths and economics because few things are more collectively expensive than maintaining mythologies. Why do you think defense contractors get away with charging $2500 for a bolt? Complaining about it interferes with the myth of “America, the most powerful country in the world”. The disgusting morass of agricultural subsidies is politically ringfenced by the Faulknerian Pastoral Legend of The American Farmer.
This mythology shit is expensive.
Mythologies compete, too, and the arena is politics. Politics is merely the art and science of packaging mythologies into consumable portions. There is more myth in the phrases “American Values” and “Social Justice” than the Illiad and the Odyssey combined. Note also that the two examples above conflict with the myth of Free Market Capitalism.
“But wait”, you object. “America is the most powerful country in the world. Its not a myth.” That’s because you are misusing the word, or at the very least treating it disrespectfully. Real myths are more true than almost anything else. Why do you think they’re kept vague? Like newborns, they are way, way too important to be brought out into the sunlight, subject to the elements and dissection. Northrop Frye (on the short list of “Non-Hockey-Playing Canadians of Which We are Most Proud”) puts it this way:
Persecution and intolerance result from an ideology’s determination, as expressed through its priesthood, or whatever corresponds to a priesthood, to make its mythological canon the only possible one to commit oneself to, all others being denounced as heretical, morbid, unreal or evil. This means that there is a strong resistance within an ideology to placing its excluded initiative, the myth it lives by, into focus and examining it in a broader perspective. (“Words with Power, p24)
Try this. Grab a pen, unstrap the Rolex and put it on the desk where you can see it. Now give yourself 30 seconds and write down the ten words that best describe the financial industry. Don’t think, just write.
There’s your Finance Mythology. There will be plenty of overlap with other industry people, but its yours. Everyone, as Bellow wrote, has his own book of poems.
The Fly gave me the link between this, Newtown and finance. His appropriately somber and respectful post yesterday concludes thusly:
This country is diseased through an acute lack of morality and integrity. Everything about America has become rotten to the core. I am disgusted by this news, but also saddened for what it says about us.
The thing about the Fly is that for all his derision and highly entertaining trolling he is by far the most transparent money manager on the Internet. Every single trade and why, including losers, for free. Why would he do this?
I’m guessing, but would be willing to bet, that LeFly’s 10 words about finance focus on its more helpful aspects, the “helping clients achieve their financial goals”. With this interpretation, his hilarious dickishness is just a cover for the fact that he’s being helpful despite the fact he’s convinced the world’s going to shit. This takes belief.
Technology and social adaption are threatening any number of mythological structures. I deal with the slow, painful death of The Cult of Good Journalism every day. The average dude is struggling with the Death of Manhood as prescibed by Hemingway, Emerson and our grimy, factory worker grandfathers. (How, exactly we’re doing this is none of your business, btw – its The Myth, far too important for outsiders).
I’m not about to predict the future for the Mythology of Finance. Well, besides the part where demographics virtually makes it a certainty that it will be at least 30 to 40 per cent smaller as a percentage of GDP by 2030. But I am curious as to how it will happen. Let us not kid ourselves – money is how we value societal contribution and finance has most of it still. This, combined with the fact that the roots of the cult run deep – Smith, Hamilton, Morgan, The Industrial Revolution-led British Empire – suggests that a spirited defense, possibly a victorious one in the end, will be led.
But it is about mythology.