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Sorry about the looming recession

The misanthropic musings of an American grandkid

So here we are. Mid-October 2023. I mean 2022. Fatalism makes little distinction. On the weathered deck near a bowl of half-nibbled cat food, the leaves on some plant to which I’ve irresponsibly agreed to tend sulk and weep into the cheap plastic pot beneath them, now from the chill as much as from neglect. I’m tired. Not sleepy. Weary. Defeated. My peripheral vision dims. The world desaturates. It’s an instinctive defensive response to the slow, relentless incursion of misanthropy. But there’s nothing noble about this retrenchment. An opossum, not an armadillo. Not so much impenetrable as apathetic.

We’re post-COVID. Technically. People at the store still mumble beneath fraying cloth gags. Like formerly abused puppies permanently injured by a spoiled man-child. Or self-styled sapiosexuals without the necessary equipment. Bromide fetishists. Black with flowers. Faded navy. Merlot with lint pills. I wonder about the last time these fabric muzzles saw soap. Shut-up and obey, why don’t you? They didn’t want to do it; they had to. For grandma. The grandma who exchanged her grandchildren’s future for a pat on the head. Good girl. Good little bitch. She died anyway, or will soon. There used to be a great Thai restaurant run by a family of immigrants. Jicama salad and lamb larb. You had to call Papi before you arrived so he could open the front door to the rickety house. The family lived upstairs. The local hardware store with the sun-bleached wooden sign in the shape of a hammer closed. Amazon didn’t mind at all. Up 85% for the public good.

In the 1960s grandma put flowers into rifle barrels and smoked pot beneath a curtain shroud in the back of a ruminant guitarist’s VW bus. That’s what I read, anyway. But we’ve moved on according to schedule. When it comes to idealism, sincerity turned out to be inversely proportional to power. The bumper stickers plastered on VW fenders aren’t inspirational nor prophetic; they’re ignorant and seditious. Take authority, for example. Questioning is anti-social. Anti-science. Fascist, even. Also, war is love. Last year we couldn’t find it on a map, but no matter. Grandma says we love Ukrainians now. And love means more rifle barrels. Stingers, Switchblades, and Howitzers, too. There’s a draft to support, after all. Grandma used to carry a little red book. But Ho Chi Minh was no Putin. Putin must be stopped. Everyone on TV says so, and they’re authorities. Also, bumper stickers don’t look as good on Teslas. Contemplating nuclear war makes grandma wet now. It’s the new Bob Dylan song. Good for the defense stocks, too. Especially in this economy. How many billions can you spare?

This economy. Intellectually lazy people ignore even mildly complicated things. They fry the brain pan. Grandma knew this years ago. Perhaps even her grandma knew it. Or someone’s grandma or grandpa knew it so that the rest of us didn’t have to. Whomever knew it—that brilliant vampiric class of underendowed gentlemen folk yearning for compensatory power over their stupidly trusting peers—they built themselves a wonkish, circular web of promises, agreements, rules, treaties, guidelines, responsibilities (with renumeration, of course), jargon, vague intentions, and levers of control all veiled in a fog of banality. This they built in order to replace a relatively simple thing: money. Free money is the key to a free people, and few insecure power vampires truly appreciate a free people. Liberty is unpredictable, and the impotent cower in the face of it. I’ve been watching CNBC lately, so I know what’s what. Here is a distilled public service announcement, straight from the coven. Or at least from their seductive spin doctors and marketing wraiths:

Dear little people,

Trust us; we’re backed by gold. Except not anymore. Now we’re backed by Lockheed Martin. Still the reserve currency, though, aren’t we? Suckers. You’re so cute when you’re mad. Anyway, here’s the dealeo: we recently printed 6 trillion dollars. In case you don’t know, that’s kind of a lot. We spent it on masks and such. No reason to get into details; they’d just bore you. Trust The Science. Issuing debt, buying treasuries, crediting reserve accounts. We also eradicated reserve requirements and threw away the discount rate. Lots of boring money talk; you wouldn’t be interested. Don’t worry your pretty little heads about it. Somehow, though, price inflation has attacked all of us. It came raging and snarling out of the wood like a pack of famished wolves picking us off one by one. Wild, rabid wolves with blood-stained incisors. No one could have suspected. They’re definitely not trained pit bulls. Sometimes pit bulls attack people, you know. But not this time. Anyway, we were just having a party, minding our own business, and now the wolves are here. You were invited, remember? But now with the wolves. Or withdrawal. Whatever. Inevitable, really. But also completely out of the blue. That’s the important thing to remember: force majeure. What can you do? It was a fat party, though, wasn’t it? Did you like the hookers and blow? Grandma sure did. So did Uncle Sam. And the stock market. How was working from home?

But back to you. We can save you! We can save you from the wolves of…well, the wolves of some street or other. Can’t remember the name. We can save you! What we’ll do is go on television and talk about the fed funds rate in earnest, mournful tones. We’ve taken acting classes, so it’s bound to work. Plus, some of us believe it. I know a guy who can wrinkle his forehead in a most empathetic way. It’ll be great. I mean, you’ll have the sweats, of course. Can’t be helped. Methadone doesn’t work on price inflation. Didn’t see that coming! Food, gas, shelter, clothing. This isn’t your grandma’s time, you know. Party’s over. Stop gnawing on your fingernails, please. That won’t help. Anyway, you’ll just have to work a bit harder, that’s all. Less time with the kids. We can probably find a government employee to watch those future voters for you if you need. Just try not to be picky about the hair color. Or pronouns. Or “values,” whatever those are. Ze will have an excellent ESG score, though—we promise. I mean your kid.

Yes, yes. The whole thing is very sad. We’re crying on the inside, really. But look at the market! It’s down like 28% or something. Tough for all of us. You really should try owning a bank next time, or at least some large financial institution so you can get your hands on that freshly printed money before it trickles down, emaciated and worthless, to the plebs and naive foreigners. Fed parties are da bomb, aren’t they? But hangovers will be hangovers. I mean wolves. Totally unexpected, those wild animals. Anyway, in the meantime you should probably go take that second job. If you can find one. Because, of course, we need unemployment up as well. Not sure how that’ll work out. In any case, we recommend holding those financials in your portfolio for a while and then buying some of that cheap tech stock once the price is right. There’s a lot of opportunity there. You’re welcome.

So that’s what the PSA said. Or something like that. The deck is bright with the stinging reflection of the sun now, but the morose plant doesn’t look up to notice. Strangely, my lamentation seems to have placated that lurking emotional stalker, at least for now. Not that she doesn’t haunt me still. Whispering bitter nothings. “They choose security,” she coos, “or worse yet, the illusion of security.” I know she’s right, but only mostly. I cling, desperately, to that infinite space between “mostly” and “completely.” That space is everything. It is my hope. It is the antidote. “Not everyone,” I tell her. It’s time to water that plant.

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