Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Multivariate Drainage

Make mine contra-indicated

You know how the water is supposed to swirl down the drain in one direction or another depending on which hemisphere you live in?

Well, it's not true. Water swirls the way it was going when you filled the pot or tub or toilet. And if it has settled for hours and become quiet, it goes this way or that depending on how you disturb it when you open the drain.

In other words, it goes with the flow according to the nature of things. Which doesn't allow water to know where it is in relation to the equator, what day of the week it is, or who is watching. It simply happens. Pull the plug and water goes whatever way it has to, which is down. Always down.

That is the important thing.

The rest is what happens later. Many things do, but they are much harder than falling through a hole in the bottom of a sink. Harder and more subtle, and they take longer. And there are no shortcuts.

Just as pure, clean, cool water, when dumped may take weeks or months or years to get back to that state, human affairs do to.

I've been thinking about how smart we aren't. Here.

You hear a lot of platitudes and self-congratulation. City on a hill. Best country in the world. Exceptional in its exceptionalism.

You don't hear about going down the drain. Not even after it's happened.

We're soft and stupid and lazy. And doomed. In the short run.

I'm still fascinated every time I hear about it, when a huge company that has been around forever goes bust, after years of decline. Take Eastman Kodak, the latest really big company to do so. Inventor of the digital camera. Holder of more electronic imaging patents than any other company in the world. Foof. Gone. Won't be back.

Ricardo Lagos Escobar wrote "The Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future". It's a book. About Chile's recent history. Ostensibly.

That was his purpose, but that is not what I got out of it. That is not only what I got out of it.

During the years of the Pinochet dictatorship the country of Chile followed a neoliberal policy. Here "neoliberal" means, in effect, every man for himself and the devil takes the hindmost. It was a success. In dismantling Chile's government, economy, and much of its social structure.

After Pinochet was gently pushed out of the way, Lagos and many others began rebuilding the country in 1990, a process still very much incomplete. Government and society were so weakened that there were almost no resources left to be used in rebuilding. A small step here, a tweak there, plus a lot of hope and intelligence were all the country's leaders and people had.

But they also had one great advantage: no empire.

There was no huge weight of history or belief in their own importance. The people of Chile knew that they had a small country out on the edge of the world, and they made the best of things.

Unlike us. Unlike U.S.

This country, the United States, has a long way to go. A long way down to go, before we even realize that things are wrong enough to do something serious about them. We are blinded by the certainty that "We're Number One!" and that nothing can touch us.

Like Britain, and its Empire. Remember them? Biggest empire the world has ever seen. Gone. Who looks up to the United Kingdom these days? Anyone?

Relax, reduce, and remove regulations. Let the rich take all. Destroy factories. Close schools. Feed on the dead. Yep. That'll do 'er.

Things are very likely to get much, much worse than they have been lately before they get even worse.

We think we're out of the "recession" but we aren't. It hasn't started yet. We're running on inertia. Enough of our society and economy have not yet been destroyed, but when that point comes, so will the collapse. The only reason the "recession" we're coming out of was a "recession" and not a depression is that, now, unlike in the 1930s, we have a Social Security system, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and unemployment compensation. None of which existed before. All of which the neoliberals want to do away with.

Like they did in Chile. Gleefully. To show how good things could be if only greed ran free. Greed and dictatorship.

Which is where the United States may be headed.

And the beauty of an ideologically-based economy is that when things go wrong, it is because you aren't trying hard enough, not because your ideas are crap. So not only does the ship of state sink, but sinks with all hands on deck, partying harder.

So, like Sears and Circuit City and Best Buy and General Motors, the United States is now circling the drain. Whether it is clockwise or counterclockwise makes no difference as long as that deep dark black hole is there and we are going into it.

And though what happened in Chile is a marvelous example of applied intelligence, of doing what you can with what you have, the United States is just too big and rich and powerful to bother paying attention before the situation is irreversible, or after. For a very long while.

Some day, in the future, remember these Kodak Moments. If you still can.

Bon voyage.

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