First entry (again)

So it’s been nearly a month since Newtown and we’re actually still having a debate regarding gun laws. It may be the result of the horror of the Newtown massacre in particular or it may be that our current political climate is ripe for such a heated and emotive political fight; it may be the ubiquity of social media and our reflexive tendency to post reductive memes that scratch our pleasure centers and sure make a lot of common sense but once you dig a little deeper… well, you’ve seen the memes too. Whatever it is, it looks like this one might stick.

One of the reductive memes that I’ve seen as of late questions the the “realness” of money, debt, the economy. (I know its not about guns but, stick with me, I’m goin’ somewhere, I promise.) Anyway, as far as I can tell, the meme suggests we should return to the gold standard as a means of making our money “real” or at least not fake. I come from the Krugman School of Economics so I’m baffled by this. Gold is only of value because we collectively agree that its valuable. It’s pretty and shiny and rare I guess but none of those things magically imbue it with value. Our agreement that those things are desirable, on the other hand, well that’s different. The value of gold is a social construction, just like the value of paper currency. It helps to have a massive economy, a semi-functioning political class, and an industrial military complex alongside that paper currency, but it ain’t magic. It’s an agreement. And a very real agreement at that.

Now, for the guns. I can’t put my finger on it entirely but there’s something similar in the thinking of the “out-of-my-cold-dead-hands” bunch and the goldbugs. It’s a longing for something pure. And that purity seems to revolve around a survival-of-the-fittest fantasy world that my boss, a number of co-workers, a few friends, and at one point, the morning driver of the route 39 bus all seem to believe is just around the corner. Any day now. And these guys can’t wait. They can’t wait until the gold that they’ve supposedly amassed  places them in some position of power after the collapse. They can’t wait until the marauders come to take there whatever so they can use their gun(s). Any day now. Seriously, any day.

(This was originally posted on blogger, or blogspot, or blogclog or whatever it’s called on January 11, 2013 but after a mere five day affair, I had to call it quits. What a steaming pile.)

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One thought on “First entry (again)

  1. jmquealy Post author

    DiscomustachioJanuary 11, 2013 at 9:23 AM
    I understand why you would choose the term “pure” in describing what it is that this mentality yearns for. Though, I’d also ask you to consider a subset to your original observation, which is definitely an apt and correct one I think, that there is a major undercurrent of a longing for “power” that goes along with this desire for “purity” that you’ve rightly observed and written well about.

    If you are a bus driver making $15 an hour who’s struggling to pay your bills, doesn’t really have a lot of disposable income, and probably has kids that you’ll never afford to send to college, you have no power in the society you live in. You can’t buy a Congressman. You aren’t going to impress a professor at Harvard and get into a Masters program and end of up as a cable news personality spewing your opinion about the world to millions of like minded viewers. You’re just a bus driver. Everyday. A bus driver.

    But in a world in which society is collapsing and there is no social order, he who has the most guns and controls the food supply makes the rules. Gold based economies vs. non aside for the moment, a bus driver taking people to work every day has no power. An ex-bus driver gunning down people trying to take his shit does. I could go on but there’s no need.

    As for gold, gold is also a representation of power. I agree that gold has no reason to necessarily be the standard for which wealth is measured in a society since so many economies have existed without that distinction. That said, I might assign considerably more value to gold than you may agree with. Mostly, this is because gold is needed in the extraction of raw materials from the earth and mining for minerals in many ways is the basis for our modern industrial economies. Since a collapsed economy would want to return to this type of economy over time gold isn’t as useless a choice as it might seem on the surface. You may have been paying homage to that in your post and I just misunderstood-but, that’s my thoughts on that.

    Nice post. Keep them coming.

    ReplyDelete

    Jake QuealyJanuary 11, 2013 at 3:05 PM
    While writing, I thought the same thing regarding a working person’s lack of power but decided not to address it for two related but separate reasons: (1) I actually thought of it as succeeding the longing for purity and (2) I know and like these guys so when I try to imagine the motives behind their beliefs and the reasons they’ve set up camp in crazytown,I do so – or at least try to do so with the knowledge of who they are outside of their worldview. Most are good, loyal people. They’re involved parents, faithful spouses, and great mechanics. It’s a little romantic I guess but I’m a liberal, what’d you expect? I suppose another way of thinking about it would be that the yearning is less for purity or power and more for a sort of primordial social state in which constructions of reality weren’t do goddamn fixed and concrete, where the family and class that you were born into along with the decisions that you’ve made allowed for at least a little more wiggle room. But money, debt, healthcare, gun laws, and the repercussions of all four are very real – or at least as real any other social construction. And I tend to think that this longing that manifests in the love of guns and gold is merely a way to escape that reality. As for gold, you’re right, I totally dismissed gold’s industrial and technological uses. But I never said it was of no value, just that it’s value emerges from social conditions and that it has no value without them. But another thing is that gold’s industrial uses are exactly what makes it a lesser currency than paper, or better, kapital. It actually has a use other than acting a means of exchange. Why use it as the universal commodity if there is industrial and technological demand for it? So the agreement that paper, something otherwise worthless, is actually of some value as a means of exchange makes it less vulnerable to market shocks than something like gold, which actually has a use.

    ReplyDelete

    Jake QuealyJanuary 11, 2013 at 5:07 PM
    Also, thanks for being the first to reply and for always being reliable in helping me flesh out my thoughts.

    ReplyDelete

    DiscomustachioJanuary 12, 2013 at 10:50 AM
    No problem. As I submitted my post I remember thinking, “I hope he’s looking for, like, a long winded reponse to get a discussion going”. Oh, and as side note, you’ve inspired me to resume my blog as well. Worship the devil…

    ReplyDelete
    Replies

    Jake QuealyJanuary 12, 2013 at 11:06 AM
    Sweet. I continue to go back to yours as they’re still applicable.

    Delete

    DiscomustachioJanuary 12, 2013 at 12:35 PM
    How do you access them? Even after re-establishing my account they say that all of my posts are gone?

    Delete

    Jake QuealyJanuary 12, 2013 at 2:49 PM
    Somehow I’ve still got access to them via my rss app. I can copy and paste them and send them as a word doc if that works for you.

    Delete

    DiscomustachioJanuary 14, 2013 at 8:21 AM
    Please do sir. I have a 4 day weekend coming up so I’d like to read it, get back into the swing, and then launch anew…

    Reply

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