14 Dec 2011
“Regrets are mistakes that memories make.” – Misheard Lyrics In My Head of Adele’s Someone Like You
So, what is the point of all this? Well, the problem of memory and public culture here is that we’re remembering what we’re already living in, like a sad Alzheimer’s patient. We’re just stumbling around trying to find the answers we need, and every once in a while, we’ll see a face that we feel like we’ve seen before, but can’t quite place. Only problem is that we don’t really have somebody to lead us to where we need to go. We have to find our own way, with some help here and there. Most people will never understand half of what I’ve said in this blog series, nor will they want to understand it. And who can blame them?
After sitting through the first hour of “Inside Job,” it boggles the mind in a bad way. Damn if I can tell you exactly what a derivative is, but sometimes all you need to know is the big picture and things told to you as if you were my cat or something. That was a criticism that critics levied against “Margin Call,” for constant use of this cliche, but sometimes that’s what you need, if you can successfully do it, especially in a situation as complicated as this.
One of the biggest reasons we’re having trouble remembering all this is because it’s all in financial speak. Unless you’re a regular watcher of CNBC, you’re not going to understand their terminology, which gets even harder when talking about the series of terms created for this crisis. As a result, our memories get lost in translation, and it’s up to somebody to decode all this mess for the general public to understand. Hopefully this series of blogs has helped somebody, because it’s certainly helped me understand it better. Now the question is, what do we do about it?
Although quickly forgotten after its release for being a less-than-interesting work by Michael Moore standards, Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story” may have come up with answer that’s worked best so far. Although he doesn’t state the word, “Occupy,” the end of Moore‘s film advocates the act of “Squatting,” and gives positive examples of both workers and home owners who stood up to the banks and authorities in this manner. Now, a full two-years after the documentary’s release, the Occupy Wall Street movement has taken hold, protesting against corporate interests in politics, wall street greed, among other things. I’ve even written about it on several occasions, even joining them at one point. Did I also mention that Moore uses the terminology of the 1% and 99% at one point? That’s right people, Michael Moore kind of predicted the future. Damn it.
“Too Big To Fail” doesn’t really give answers at the end, as much as it gives the ominous fact of, “Ten banks now hold 77 percent of all US bank assets. They have been declared too big to fail.” This of course reminds us of the fact that because of all the bank buyouts and mergers during this period, very few companies now hold a lot of the money. This of course means that if this were ever to happen again, we’d be in deep, deep, and even deeper sh*t. What do we do about it? Well, that’s a conversation we should be having now, before we have to have it when trying to decide whether to save them, again.
“Inside Job” tells us that the only way to fight the control of the financial system on our lives and government is to stand up to them. As the documentary points out, the same people that caused the crisis are somehow still in power, and the financial industry still has as much power as ever to fight regulation of their industry, which the documentary essentially states as the solution in its powerful last lines that it says while showing images of the Statue of Liberty:
“At enormous cost, we’ve avoided disaster and we are recovering. But the men and institutions that caused the crisis are still in power, and that needs to change. They will tell us that we need them and that what they do is too complicated for us to understand. They will tell us it won’t happen again. They will spend billions fighting reform. But some things are worth fighting for.”
Personally, I agree with this sentiment. Throughout my research on this project, it seems to me at least that the root of all this “evil” can be traced back to deregulation. Sure, the idea of it of deregulation might seem fine, and the prospect of regulation can go too far in some cases, as many a person who’ll throw Atlas Shrugged in your face will tell you, but in this case, this idea doesn’t seem to workout too well in practice. Sure, you can ask Wall Street to be more responsible, but this sentiment seems just a tad bit naive. This is money-making we’re talking about here. Give people an easy way to do it, and they’ll do it.
Regulation doesn’t say they can’t make any money, or they can’t make any money without the government’s permission, but Regulation would ask them to do it in a safer manner, where risk isn’t seen as the God that’s going to protect us, and not have a bad day and smite us all.
Whether the government can regulate, or will regulate is a different question, until then, we must take the following actions in order to properly remember the 2008 financial crisis and everything relating to it.
We Need To Simplify The Language Surrounding The Debate: I know it’s hard to explain all of this, or de-explain it as it were, but it’s even harder understanding it. Just repeating the phrase “Subprime Mortgages” doesn’t mean it gets added to our mind dictionary. They’re just loans given to people that shouldn’t have had loans. That’s it. Sure, that makes people in the industry cringe, and it’s longer to write, but the public will understand it better in the end. Sometimes it’s wrong to dumb down our language, and we shouldn’t have to, but this is not one of those times. I mean, what makes the mortgages prime in this case? What makes them subprime? I don’t know. Somebody please tell me. Knowledge is power. Get some.
We Need To Take A Closer Look At The Narratives We’re Creating: History writing isn’t perfect since it’s often written by humans, who are prone to human-nature. We create scapegoats in order to atone for the sins of the many, but push aside their perspective inthe story. If we’re to figure out this reality, we need to live in it. This means using logic, looking at both sides, etc.
We Need To Brush Off Ideology In Favor of Unclouded Judgments: Stop using Atlas Shrugged as a “cautionary tale” for why regulation is bad. Looked at objectively, the work is an act of elongated lunacy. Long-held positions that government is too big or too small need to be put aside in favor of what works, which in the case of regulation, is what works with the financial industry, at least to some degree. That’s right. I’m not saying that Regulation is the be-all-end-all answer. It’s a solution that should to be implemented to some degree in addition to a combination of other acts to be decided by people who know what the hell they’re talking about.
Keep An Open Mind & Figure It Out For Yourself: You know what? Disregard everything I’ve just said as nothing more than a roadmap. To truly remember these events, you must remember them yourself. Don’t trust anything that anybody says. Do the research yourself. Come to your own conclusions. No matter how hard you or I try, not everybody is going to understand it. Even if we take all the above into account. All you can do is pipe up in the conversation when the time comes. Be prepared, because when the time comes, there won’t be any time to be pared. See what I did there with the use of wordplay?
Tags: adele, apocafish, atlas shrugged, bailout, banks, deregulation, economy, financial industry, inside job, john galt, lehman brothers, margin call, memory, merill lynch, michael moore, mortgages, newt gingrich, obama, occupy wall street, public culture, recession, regulation, Remembering The Great Recession While Still Living In It, risk, subprime, subprime mortgages, tarp, the love of money, too big to fail