Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Eyjafjallajökull": Icelandic for "write if you get work and hang by your thumbs"

 What's his name erupts

David Seaton's News Links
"Old Unpronounceable", a minor volcano, blew its top in Iceland and the world's transport system practically collapsed.

Compared to the intricate embroidery of  Wall Street's goniffery that brought the world's economic system to collapse, Eyjafjallajökull is a simple thing.

Many people are comparing the two crisis because they clearly illustrate how fragile our world system has become since the stolid days of the Cold War.

I think I would like to re-baptize "globalization" as "for the want of a nail-ization", which I have taken from an ancient poem which goes like this:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
Our lives have become a sped up film of lost nails, horses, riders and kingdoms. The entire world's exposure to the cupidity of far off thieves and the violence of obscure volcanoes is grotesque.

We are doing it all wrong, we've got it all bassackwards. Both the timeless random, brutal, magnificence of Eyjafjallajökull and the obscene greed of Goldman Sachs are useful warnings that we must look for new ways of doing things.

What chaos theory mavens call the "butterfly effect", something that used to be a rather amusing idea with which to tease our neurons, has become the central mechanism of our lives.

Simplifying this system, making it more robust, stepping back and making a cool evaluation of what we really need and what we should be willing to go through to achieve it should be the major serious conversation of our societies. We must bend every effort to discovering the art or even perhaps the science of what the French call "le petit bonheur", the "small happiness", the accumulated pleasure taken in the smallest things, which, as far as life has taught me up till now, is the philosopher's stone of the alchemy of savoir vivre.

As a small example: our new and absurdly cheap communications systems, such as IP to IP telephone and video conferencing, make much of today's business travel absurd.

Air travel, which used to be quite a pleasant experience, has become a purgatorial ordeal of humiliated, belt-less and shoeless penitents staggering fatigued, waterless and electronically naked on their way to the next pea in the pod hotel.

If is possible for an American suburbanite to commute to a nearby office and pilot a drone with which to kill people in Afghanistan and then be back home in time to play a little catch in the backyard with his son before dinner, I ask myself if is it absolutely vital to send another American half way around the world just to negotiate a sale?

Why should the business of business be more killing than the business of killing? DS

1 comment:

forensic economist said...

On globalization where you might not expect it - I was deposed in a case involving a contract signed in San Francisco, about a chemical facility in Oklahoma, with a Louisiana company, to follow Virginia law. The deposition was by videoconference from San Francisco.

I suppose I could have as easily been in Bangalore.