On this day we sincerely give thanks for life, for being alive — an experience unlike any other. Well, we don’t know any other anyway, most of us. The floats and balloons go by a couple of blocks from my house, which sounds glamorous and exciting until you see the crowds and the frantic behavior by both parent and child out there.
My Daddy Says
My mom and dad are visiting. Mom is watching An American in Paris on TV (though she nods off regularly) and dad is devouring my New York Review of Books issues that I save for him.
I hollered out to dad, “Dubai is broke!” but dad (surprisingly) didn’t know about the existence of the tiny desert enclave that, with no real resources, has built up a massive amount of real estate and wealth. It's a self-invented mercantile hub — a nexus of shipping, trading and banking.
Lightning strikes the world’s tallest building in Dubai… often…
It's much like Hong Kong in a way. They went crazy with the tall buildings and the splashy lifestyle, but now the piper’s come a calling and they have built much of it on debt. Debt they can’t repay. Ooops. I recall articles a couple of years ago about Americans living the good life in Dubai, making tons of money quickly, boozing it up in luxury apartments, hanging mainly with other newly rich expats.
I imagine other cities and territories that have no real assets will find themselves in a similar spot quite soon. Detroit is already just about gone — though urban farming is rumored to be a novel use for the vacant acreage; as is Phoenix, though they do have mineral wealth in the surrounding deserts, which is why it was seized from Mexico in the first place. The suburban town my parents live in, Columbia, MD, is in a comparable situation. It is a corporate development that was traded to a Chicago company, which has built lots of new condos and office buildings in recent years, as has been done all over NYC, imagining that the real estate bubble would go on expanding ad infinitum. Meanwhile, the town has no resources and they don’t actually make anything.
It seems to me these systems are all based on faith — faith that is easy to sustain when the money is fast and flows easily, and when there is no end in sight. Faith then seems justified. Those who doubt get laughed at. It’s not a reality-based system — as the Bush administration used to say, “We make the reality.” It’s true, to an extent, that faith certainly does make reality — if enough people believe something to be true, then you can predict that things will occur as if it is… until someone or something pulls the bottom card out. The art market is, and always was, a faith-based system — and so far, many of the believers still feel secure.
My dad pointed out that the country’s banking problems are only the tip of the economic iceberg, but we know so much about them because bankers whine louder than many others, and have connections — so folks hear their whining. But, my daddy says, the unemployed are a huge and growing financial drain, as are the massive number of prisoners in the US — not Gitmo folks, but regular jails are a massive soak… as are health care costs (the US insurance and pharma companies have managed to create the most expensive health care system in the world, though it is not always the best!)… and finally, duh, Afghanistan and Iraq are bleeding trillions out of the US economy and flushing them down the drain in the sense that only a miniscule percentage of those trillions, trillions!, actually creates anything — very, very little of it creates jobs, employment or infrastructure. It’s basically money down the toilet as far as the US economy goes — and now we really can’t afford to throw that kind of money away. Granted, those trillions are supposed to be guaranteeing us some kind of global safety and security — or so we were told — but pretty much the exact opposite has happened, as the brushfires spread to neighboring hills that were previously fairly safe.
The wars (or, more correctly, invasions) in Afghanistan and Iraq are tied, intimately, to the global economy and also the daily lives of every American. A country that threw away trillions on invasions that have not accomplished their objectives (which often were not even clear in the first place) is in no position to deal with the costs of exploding unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, education and economic collapse. The public is beginning to sense this, and as their pockets become increasingly empty they, I sense, feel that maybe now that there has been sufficient “revenge” for 9/11, and maybe the venting has been accomplished — the dubious mission has been accomplished — it’s time to move on.