Archive for May, 2010

Easy Rider

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

I am not a big fan of the movie “Easy Rider”. I don’t like the portrayal of the South as a bunch of ignorant rednecks who shoot people they don’t understand. It may have had more verisimilitude at the time, but it is certainly not the South I have come to know in the 22nd century. I personally know better than the movie’s soft focus idealization of the hippie, communal, back to the land, movement. Dealing cocaine is not my favorite metaphor for the free enterprise system. All that said, the movie, for me, is really about the ongoing decline of courage in America and the rest of Western Civilization.

When I look around, I see frightened people. Afraid to change jobs, afraid to move, afraid to get married or divorced, afraid to associate with people different from themselves, afraid to age, afraid to question whatever orthodoxy they are constrained by, afraid to face reality without prozac. I see the percentages of takers versus makers reaching an unsustainable tipping point.

When I think about my father flying bombers over Germany, and the other young men in Europe in World War II, the Americans in the great depression, the soldiers on both sides of the Civil War, the troops wintering in Valley Forge, the pioneers, I can’t help thinking that there has been a considerable decline in the daring manifested by the desperate pilgrims that first sailed the North Atlantic to the New World.

I sailed the North Atlantic in the winter in a troop ship, the U.S.S. General Harry Taylor, in 1956, from New York to Bremerhaven. It took two weeks. It was no picnic, but my life was never in danger. It is in no way comparable to the death-defying courage of those who sailed back and forth between Europe and America in the age of wooden ships and iron men (and women).

The national character is about to be tested. The global financial system has collapsed. Since the collapse there has been a world-wide attempt to cure the disease of over-borrowing and over-spending, with a massive increase in borrowing and spending. You don’t have to be Ron Paul to have doubts about the efficacy of this homeopathic solution.

The market has come back to some extent. There has been some anemic GDP growth. The pundits are all talking about the “recovery”. This is an illusion, folks!

The collapse has not gone away. It is being postponed, and the longer it is postponed, the worse it will be when postponement is no longer possible. The politicians, pundits, and bankers are all in denial. Ordinary people, many of whom have been living off their home equity loans, are just beginning to wake up to the reality.

The Federal Reserve, and the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, and the Chinese Communist Party, and Wall Street may be able to string it out for another year or two, but when we all completely, flat out, run out of money, the ride will not be easy.