The Moment of Truth — January 19, 2002

Enron and The Metaphysically Self-Putrescing Logic of Extreme Capitalism

Well, it finally happened. The day has finally come when I just don’t give a good god damn. I know in my heart that justice will not triumph in the Enron case, and I can’t bear to pay attention to the sickening drama of it all, the tragedy. Former Enron employees, whose life-savings have been pulverized into nothing, are reduced to selling Enron ashtrays and staplers on Ebay. Had they not had the good sense to commit petty theft, they would have been left with nothing at all. Meanwhile, a majority of the US Congress has profited more from Enron than all of that corporation’s rank and file workers. The committees that will investigate the fascinating accounting strategies that helped the corporation misrepresent its stock and bilk its workers will be peopled with Enron beneficiaries. Can we expect justice in such a situation? Please, don’t make me laugh, because then the hot lead I’m vomiting will spray out my nose. And people are going to watch as the crooks are winked at and the workers are left screwed and justice is mocked? Watch as hope, doomed from the beginning, is kicked and spat on like a despised corpse before it’s finally burned? I guess they will. I mean, I’ve heard of such things as Cubs fans.

And even if it’s discovered that Bush and company had something to do with the mess, looked the other way or helped cover up the true state of the energy broker’s books or maybe even profited from the inflated share prices and the workers’ dollars that were imprisoned there, locked in the hold to go down with the sinking ship — even if there’s a full investigation, who’ll pay for it? Well, since the very rich and their corporations aren’t paying much tax these days, I guess you and I will have to cough up the change. And then we can pay for cable to watch our money go down the toilet on CNN and CSPAN as these crooks wink at each other on our dollar. Wink and flirt and act out their little skits in their unconvincing style.

This is the kind of thing that drives people to alcoholism, drugs, and spiritual enlightenment. If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out! I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but what the hell? It’s good enough advice. Pluck it out, why not, if it offend thee? Why shouldst thou leave something in thy head that offendeth thee? Go ahead, pluck! It’s thine own eye, after all.

I think Don Rickles said it to Ray Milland in “The Man with the X-ray Eyes.” Ever seen that movie? Ray Milland gets X-ray eyes, and at first he can just see people’s underwear, and then their natural birthday suits, and then their bones. But little by little he can just see through everything to the very core of existence, which apparently is enough to drive ya crazy. At which point it’s helpful to have Don Rickles or someone there to advise you to pluck out your offending eye. Although at that point it might be too late. I don’t remember how the movie ended, but it could have plausibly concluded with Ray Milland plucking out his offending eye and then saying, “Oh no! It didn’t help! I’ve seen so far into the depths of existence that I’ve seen into the place where vision and blindness meet!”

A similar thing happened to James Franciscus in “The Incredible Shrinking Man.” He kept shrinking and shrinking. And the more he shrank the bigger of an asshole he became. At one point he’s on the balcony of a little doll house ordering his giant wife around like a regular Stanley Kowalski. It’s quite an extraordinary scene. In my opinion, that’s the emblematic tableau of the film, not the scene where he’s running away from his cat or fighting a spider with a pin as a spear. Although the cat scene is interesting in the way it inverts the power relationship between man and house, man and housewife, man and house cat.

But the cool thing is where James Franciscus gets to be so small that he ends up where the infinitesimal meets the infinite. He shrinks down to where the great oneness of the universe and the singularity of the infinitely small point are one and the same.

What are we to learn from these marvelous B sci-fi flicks from the Nineteen-sixties? I think one lesson might be the metaphysical one that opposites extended to their logical extremes will come full circle to meet each other.

A corollary implication of this theorem could be the following: taking the exact opposite of the STUPIDEST imaginable position does not necessarily lead to finding oneself in the SMARTEST imaginable position.

I think some people have imagined a world in which corporations and rich people would be taxed so heavily that society couldn’t possibly work. Nothing new could be invented because no one would take the risk to capitalize the research because in the end any profit that could be made from such a venture would be taken away by the government. So civilization would stagnate, creativity would wither, productivity would grind to a halt through lack of motivation. We’d all be lying idle against rusty machines with cobwebs all over us.

That would indeed be a stupid world.

So these people have taken the polar opposite stance: Let’s allow people to get as rich and powerful as they can connive to be, regardless of the way their wielding of their idiotically overswollen wealth distorts politics and social priorities. And I’ve gotta tell ya, it doesn’t seem like we’re that far away from the point where the grandest stupidity and the minutest intelligence meet in a glorious union of dumbness.

In this diagram, thesis and antithesis come together to parent, not synthesis, but an inbred likeness of one another. An offspring so ludicrously misshapen that it cannot exist; rather it collapses in a formless mass of jellied putrescence.

I guess that would be interesting watch on CSPAN. Maybe I will go back to paying attention to how this Enron thing plays out.

Remember the Nice Five from last week’s Moment of Truth? Let me quote myself:

“The main mechanisms we have asserting the value of human beings beyond the price supply and demand dictates to them are these five things: 1) the pursuit of quality in our endeavors; 2) philosophies and spiritualities; 3) civil declarations like the one of Independence, the Universal one of Human Rights, the Sermon on the Mount, the original Dr Seuss version of the Grinch, even — yes — the Communist Manifesto; 4) the richness of our inner lives; and 5) of course, our interpersonal relationships.”

The question I left you with last week was, How do we put the Nice Five on a more tenable footing with the power of greed? Well, there’s always the possibility that in the ruins of the union of opposite stupidities the Nice Five could have a chance to grow a bit. I’m talking about something different than the entire economy collapsing. It would just be bad ideas collapsing under the weight of their own imbecility. Keeps the disaster in more of an abstract realm where, in a truly civilized world, they ought mostly to take place.

I say “mostly” because I don’t want to fall prey to the extreme-idea-self-annihilation syndrome.

Oh, what the hell: extreme capitalism sucks. Get rid of it. I promise to shop 1000% more if you raise my wages, cut my taxes and raise them for the super-rich and corporations. Build a nationwide highspeed rail system and I guarantee I’ll ride it at least 5000 miles a year and do expensive touristy things at both ends. Give me national health care and I promise the free lyposuction you provide me with three times a year will more than pay for itself in the economic stimulus of my pigging out. Give me a twenty-hour work week and I’ll see four movies a week, buy a new car to go to the beach in — hell, I’ll even take one of those F-16 fighter jets, since I’ll have time to learn how to pilot it. I’ll get all kinds of durable goods. You won’t believe how great everything’ll be.

Let’s get on the ball! Hop to it! You know it’s a good idea, you know it, you know it, Washington and Wall Street.

All right, we’ll do it your way: wait till you collapse in your putrescence.

Until then, I’m mejeffdorchen and this has been another Moment of Truth.