Walter Rhett

“I’ve Already Done the Screaming:” “I’m Jamming Today”

In National Government on July 11, 2010 at 6:10 pm

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God is, indeed, good. Friday was my birthday. I prayed for the ancestors who saw us through the journey and for the One who guides our steps, offering thanksgiving for the ways my life has been enriched by family and friends.

But God’s gift was a surprise!

The New York Times editors highlighted my comment on 2008 Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman’s important and widely read economic blog.

In “Affluent Deadbeats,” commentor #22 calculated the stats as Dr. Krugman noted default rates (14.3%) for mortgages over $1 million are actually higher than defaults (8.5%) for mortgages under $1 million! Poor folk are defaulting at a lower rate, yet are blamed by many for the housing crash and banking collapse.

To celebrate my birthday, I’m sharing a direct link to my comment (#1) on the comment page.

My comment is a difficult read. It references the Red Queen’s famous exchange about “impossible things,” from Chapter 5, ” of “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” This children’s book, an adventure in make believe, is a conceit for author Lewis Carroll’s larger idea that every age finds and is driven by its own obsessions.

We celebrated, having done the “impossible thing” and elected an African-American President. But now our country’s obsession seems to be turning the “impossible” into the unthinkable. Other impossibles, spawned by the celebration, are engaged in the unthinkable–a closing assault on our values. Dr. Krugman documents and the Red Queen notes, all it takes is a little practice.

Surely, the rich defaulting on mortgages, if not impossible, is unthinkable. It assaults our values. It contradicts the incantation of “socialism,” which supposedly robs the rich to support the poor; instead it is the poor who are being robbed.

By defaulting, the rich lose their moral edge. Socialism is being stood on its head, as Marx once did to Hegel. (An inside economic pun.) Things spiral out of control: in the comment, even I yield to the Red Queen’s Looking Glass and flip Mr. Bourgeois. (Hint: there were two Bourgeois, Louis and Leon. And for Carroll’s two Queens, even time going forward ran backward.)

What do we make of the new arrivals, blaming us while breaking convention, ranting day and night about the financial welfare of unborn grandchildren and imaginary trust accounts? If we are obsessed, we must learn to adapt. That’s the point of my comment: our conventional views are being turned upside down.

To adapt, our curiosity must be forthright.

Is the “unthinkable” a reality deprived, or just unrealized, or by turns, feared, touted or ignored? Years from now, we’ll all forget the mussels grab of Paul the Octopus or the 44X HD zoom on nails with manicured expletives. Greed is the new welfare. Vitriol, or any bitter abrasive, is the new truth. And instead of snake oil, we have the hype of “second amendment remedies” for our political ills.

Yet “impossible things” spiral around our core of meaning, like DNA in our genes: looking for a cake recipe this weekend, I found slaves and descendants from local plantations and the 1861 war; John Dent, Samuel Faber, and Muam Nancy’s featured recipes preserve Charleston’s traditional tastes. Their hoarded cooking memos from impossible times were collected and prized in a society cookbook whose 1976 printing run was 50,000. The unthinkable can be gotten beyond.

The Rules of Make-Believe

So, swimming against the Red Queen’s strong admonition about surprises, I’m jamming today. That on my very birthday, my comment would be the first posted on a popular Nobel Prize winner’s economic blog and highlighted as interesting and thoughtful by the editors of the New York Times–America’s top online newspaper, its audience of 32.5 million viewed 715 million pages in May, 2010.

Read the comment, please. If you enjoy it (don’t take off for the misspellings and typos!), please click recommend. That would be a great gift for my birthday!

Maybe a few others of the 30 million reading this month will note my riff tying Dr. Krugman’s blog on defaults to the Red Queen’s wisdom. She candidly foreshadowed a world where you had to go further down to get higher up, a culture in which the rich defaulted mortgages, oil bliged from down the hole in the hollow earth to despoil the waters and shores, the fish and fowl, and as usual, as she prepared us to note, sympathy was offered for the unthinkable. Because “We have already screamed.”

For your patience and service, I offer this prayer:

“May the Great Spirit Bless you with the knowledge of your inner strength & wisdom.”

From “The Looking Glass:”

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.

. . . . .

Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life what is it but a dream?

In Memory of Professor O.R. Dathorne

1934 – 2007

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Illlustrations by John Tenniel, used under fair use.


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