Watching the ceaseless coverage of our global fiscal eschaton is somewhat disconcerting; the remorseless jeremiads against the markets/banks/John Q. Fatcat-Banker and the overall tone of impending megamoneypocalypse sit uneasily with my personal passivity. It’s like watching silently on your earth-bound monitor as grainy footage taken from inside the capsule shows the shaved monkeys somebody somewhere shot into space seventy-two hours earlier are slowly asphyxiating. Having almost nothing in assets of any kind, it is difficult to find a level of engagement beyond the abstract, and as the pretty numbers all shift into reds and minuses, I feel like an unhappy spectator, watching from the sidelines who fails to understand the horror of the crisis or the profound despair of those vanquished by Market Forces. There’s no smugness, for sure: I know this is real, and it’s serious, and it will doubtless impact on all of us somewhere along the line. It’s simply that I don’t have a dog in this fight (and as such, I felt an affinity with two recent posts by excellent bloggers), and so whilst I can feel pity, it’s empathy that is absent, and this results in almost complete disengagement.

And so, it came as some surprise when a recent newspaper Op-Ed piece about the economic crisis almost blew my head clean off my body as I was reading it. It begins by exploring the mysteries of global high finance, and the way in which transactions and their results have become so complicated and their articulations so esoteric, that explanations for why things happen are beginning to transcend normative statements of cause-and-effect. As such, it sits well alongside another recent insightful piece on the ‘faith-based’ economy by Arjun Appadurai, because subjective-seeming issues of belief and confidence begin to override the impact of apparently objective occurrences. And here’s where it gets weirder, because for the author — a guy named Richard Dooling — we are in danger of seeing those systems we initially created to monitor and calculate the multiplicites of the market’s rhizomatics actually take the fuck over. Accumulated capital has become so abstract and translocated that it has transcended our ability to understand it fully and much control must be ceded to a variety of technological apparatus in order to maintain some kind of equilibrium. This abstract marketplace then finds expression in ways that strike those not inside the machine as absurd or illogical, but our reality has become subordinate to the machine’s reality, and in order for the entire system not to come crashing down, we cannot turn the machine off.  As I read further into the article (and here’s what caused the cranial asplosion), all I could think of was Tlön. We never needed a battalion of modest demiurgi secretly compiling the encyclopedia of a counterfeit world based on idealist imaginings; instead, it has been left to the financial logicians to create their subsequent and proximate macrocosmos, to which reality has immediately begun to yield with some relief. Thus, maybe disengagement is the inevitable answer to this, and the best thing is to pay no attention and go on revising my uncertain Quevedian translation of The Wealth of Nations (which I do not intend to publish). Or write my very first blog post.

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