I used to dream about moving to Iceland. Land of Purity, Sigur Ros, Deserted Farmhouses… endless subarctic vistas. Home of the Sagas, Laxness. Bankrupt. A whole country. Geysers…volcanoes. These bastards. These greedy Wall Street credit-swapping rich bastards. Economic rape. The end of whatever version of innocence was possible in this world— Christmas, birthday wrapping, cake and trick-or-treating. They spoiled it. For what? So they could super-size their second and third homes, put a Tag Heuer on every child’s wrist? A Ferrari in every garage? A golf course in every gated community?
My personal economics haven’t changed much. I refuse foodstamps. I have a brain, I still refuse to pay $2 for a pretzel, even when I’m starving. Waiting for a bus at Grand Central last night, one of the vendors offered me one for $1. It was the best tasting food I’d had all week …hot, fresh, smoky. A food value investment. When I boarded the hourly crosstown at 3 AM, the guy waved to me. Is this a sign of the times? Love, I felt. A certain human camaraderie. The kind most people forget about. The kind these Hedge Fund guys don’t feel at $10,000-a-plate dinners.
I refuse to live on credit, which is a form of rich-man’s charity, with not just strings but chains and handcuffs. For the poor, that is. I choose freedom.
The rich? They not only lived on credit, but banked millions from this. Monopoly money. And the worldwide piggy bank has shaken itself out. So who gets punished? If I see either Bernanke or Henry Paulson one more time I’m going to puke. Unless they are wearing one of those John Doe uniforms and out shoveling. Call me then.
How can we have let these assholes run with our ball? Our country? Because we are a race of ostriches and media-anesthetized morons who don’t complain as long as our cable and cellphones are working?
My old British grandfather once advised me that if he could not die with a million pounds, it was just as well to die owing a million pounds. Apparently his ethic is universal. Personally, I have a moral aversion to slavery. Borrowing for poor people, I reiterate, is not pretending you are a rich person, but a kind of slavery.
Because there are two sets of rules. Two sets of standards. Two sets of consequences. There is the occasional wrist-slap of bad behaviour among the rich, and there are the dismal prisons and brutal beatings for the poor. A wallet-snatcher is beaten mercilessly by local police, handcuffed and denied the right to vote while in prison. But a billion-dollar credit-snatcher gets 10 years of excessive Hampton-weekends, gourmet meals, platinum cards and 7-figure bonuses. And then? A bailout. His buddies are on the Federal Reserve fixing things so he can keep his homes and his children’s ponies will not suffer.
Meanwhile my investment banker neighbors are planning a massive renovation of our lobby. Undoubtedly they still have several million of their last Christmas bonus in some kind of bank, will hire their colleagues, receive the standard 10-20% kickback which will cover their portion of the assessment. The rest of us? We will be billed. Along with our tax increases and excessive oil bills so these neighbors can run their Jacuzzis overtime.
I play in a band with a guy who wears earplugs and blasts his guitar so that my ear-damage is beginning to affect my existence. My passion for music, which has maybe placed me in the undesireable economic category I am in..is going to be destroyed by an individual whose MO is ‘all bout me’. All. He whines, he blasts. He ignores. Accountability? There is a parallel here.
But for others, life seems to go on. There are lines at Starbucks, rush-hour traffic jams. There will be a debate tonight. Neither candidate will be able to keep promises, because there is no money. But people are content with this. Cash comes out of ATM machines. As for me, I have a phobia of plastic. I don’t like it. My bank doesn’t make much from my account. I don’t accrue fees, I don’t borrow. My credit is excellent, even though I live at the national poverty level. In Manhattan. When I get yesterday’s rolls I give a couple to the homeless guy on the corner. I am accountable. Am I accountable for those who are less fortunate? For those who may be helpless victims of their own accountability? I feel this. I really do. I am obsolete, aging, badly dressed, underfed, and losing my hearing along with my religion. But I am accountable.
I used to dream about moving to Iceland. Now I am wondering if deaf people dream with soundtracks.