The Sword of Damocles
How will we take care of each other after the money fails?
We live in a perilous time. A time when many of the institutions and standards that are meant to facilitate reliable order are threatened. The order that is necessary to sustain many of the vital functions of a complex society all seem to be threatened at once.
Let us now focus our attention on the monetary system. Money is used to facilitate so many of the transactions necessary for commerce. Our highly specialized systems of production and delivery rely on trade routes, with production and consumption so removed from each other, that we have only vague notions of where anything comes from, or how it got here. When money fails we will find ourselves in despair. Even if the machines that produce those things that we depend on are intact, we will be powerless to resume normal activities.
Do you remember how suddenly the financial crisis of 2008 seemed to appear? There had been some discussion of instability, and there were some failures, before late September. After G.W Bush’s September Eighteenth press conference and Henry Paulson’s demand for Seven Hundred Billion dollars to prop up financial markets, it became clear that a crisis had been initiated.
G.W. Bush and the two candidates for the next Presidency put aside their differences and met to affirm the inevitability of Paulson’s plan. Bill Clinton even chimed in with his support. This event was so special that no competing solutions were offered for serious debate. The die had been cast and we were bum-rushed, into inevitable abuse. These abuses were perpetrated by those who pretend to represent the people. Afterward, claims were made that nobody saw this crisis coming.
None of the corruption that led us to the crisis of 2008 has yet to end. It was rewarded instead. There was a wave of foreclosure and job loss. A flood of newly created money fueled a continuation, of the binge of wasteful spending, that supports the illusion of wealth. Consider the “Cash for Clunkers” Car Allowance Rebate System, to understand just how wasteful and destructive government imposed solutions can be. It was billed as a two for one solution, with both economic and environmental benefits. This program, with its’ hokey game show like theme, managed to destroy a great many still functioning machines and usable spare parts. The energy cost or environmental impact of destroying, then replacing, functional equipment was not ever considered. It was funded by issuing more debt, thus providing yet another transient illusion of wealth. Similar concurrent schemes in Europe should have caused us to ask ourselves: Are these governments guided by something other than the people who elect them?
As a presidential candidate, competing against Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump gained support by pointing out the emptiness of the cheerful sounding economic indicators of that time. As President he used those same metrics as bragging rights. He complained that the Federal Reserve did not keep interest rates low enough. In August 2019 he even suspended the debt ceiling limit. His term was an almost miraculous success. Only a truly great reality television star could have kicked that can down the road four more years.
Below is the story of The Sword of Damocles, copied from Wikipedia.
According to the story, Damocles was pandering to his king, Dionysius, exclaiming that Dionysius was truly fortunate as a great man of power and authority without peer, surrounded by magnificence. In response, Dionysius offered to switch places with Damocles for one day so that Damocles could taste that very fortune firsthand. Damocles quickly and eagerly accepted the king's proposal. Damocles sat on the king's throne, surrounded by countless luxuries. There were beautifully embroidered rugs, fragrant perfumes and the most select of foods, piles of silver and gold, and the service of attendants unparalleled in their beauty, surrounding Damocles with riches and excess. But Dionysius, who had made many enemies during his reign, arranged that a sword should hang above the throne, held at the pommel only by a single hair of a horse's tail to evoke the sense of what it is like to be king: though having much fortune, always having to watch in fear and anxiety against dangers that might try to overtake him. Damocles finally begged the king that he be allowed to depart because he no longer wanted to be so fortunate, realizing that with great power comes great responsibility.
King Dionysius effectively conveyed the sense of constant fear in which a person with great power may live. Dionysius committed many cruelties in his rise to power, such that he could never go on to rule justly because that would make him vulnerable to his enemies. Cicero used this story as the last in a series of contrasting examples for reaching the conclusion in his fifth Disputation, in which the theme is that having virtue is sufficient for living a happy life.
Like Damocles, desirous of benefits, we pander to our rulers. Even though we know that stimulus checks, car allowance rebates, and Paycheck Protection Program loans are not really solutions to the fundamental causes of any problem, we still reliably reach into the carcass, for that last scrap of rotting flesh, not wanting to be left out of whatever may be available. Like Dionysius, our rulers have committed many cruelties and can never rule justly. Unwilling to face the peril of searching for a better way, and despite imminent tragedy, we cling to the vaporous comforts bestowed by treacherous leaders.
“When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:
And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.
Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.”
The subtitle asks: How will we take care of each other after the money fails? Perhaps we should ask instead: Will we even consider trying to take care of each other after the money fails, or will we once again accept whatever our rulers offer? These important questions require forethought. They require understanding of the causes and nature of the crisis. They require that we abandon the corruption that lured us into this trap.
Do you have anything to offer that can serve your fellowman in a time of need? Are you willing to assist those who can provide substance, even though the risks and rewards will no longer be what you are accustomed to expect? Can you function in a productive capacity when no guarantee of reward is offered or implied?
Do you remember how suddenly the financial crisis of 2008 seemed to appear? Most modern crises are the result of artifice. Governments and quasi-government corporate entities increase their franchises by failure. What is the next step in our subjugation? Some proposals are already published. The groundwork for a New Normal is being laid. A New Normal that nobody would choose unless they were driven by fear and hopelessness into despair.
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