Lionel Shriver shoves the cream pie of financial reality into our faces:
The entire world is stuck in a debt trap. Public, personal, and corporate accounts are swimming in red ink. As of July, worldwide debt totalled nearly $250 trillion. I know: a large number, and therefore meaningless. But according to Bloomberg, that’s 315 per cent of worldwide GDP. I calculate that’s about £35,000 for everyone on the planet over the age of 14. Mean something to you now?
That fateful year of 2008, global debt was ‘only’ about $175 trillion, and you’ll recall that it was bad real-estate loans that triggered what came close to the end of money, also known as the end of the world. Now global indebtedness is 40 per cent higher.
No checks or minimal skepticism among people throwing money around like confetti.
“Elizabeth was so committed to making Quintillion successful that she just dreamt all this shit up,” says a former company executive, who, like many sources, spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. “The question is not why Elizabeth did it, but rather, how did she think she’d get away with it?”
The verisimilitude of the tale aside, it does highlight certain aspects of Fascism that are undoubtedly true. Foremost is its phenomenal pettiness. That one of the most senior officials of what was supposed to be a Thousand-Year Reich, destined to stretch across continents and radically change human society forever, decided to take time out of his day to fuss over the cosmetics of a music hall is astonishing. It is one of the reasons Fascist figures, from Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” to South Park’s Eric Cartman, have consistently been considered so bathetic. It is hard not to laugh at the banality of it all. And yet that banality is, as Hannah Arendt so famously pointed out, one of the most chilling things about the totalitarian ideology. To fuss over the identities of a set of sixty-year-old statues is ludicrous, but to do it and then calmly order the slaughter of thousands of human beings is deeply disturbing. It is a tendency that has outlasted the particular incarnation of totalitarianism described above — from the arcane and complex ranks of the Ku Klux Klan to the propensity of dictators to pursue personal vendettas against people of proportionately little importance. Given this focus on minutiae, by equal measures amusing and appalling, it is not surprising that much resistance to Fascism consists of small acts of defiance — the smuggled loaf of bread, the individual refusal to salute, the one life saved. One tiny act of resistance is enough to prove that the totalitarian’s victory is not, in fact, total, that they will never conquer everything.
— Fergus Butler-Gallie, “Priests de la Resistance!: The Loose Canons Who Fought Fascism in the Twentieth Century”
People nowadays have such hopes of America and the political conditions obtaining there….
— Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, 1799
Back in the 1990s, I had the privilege of seeing and hearing this superb artist when she performed in Toronto. You’ll find some other Jessye Norman entries on this blog as tributes to her. It is a day of sorrow. As Auden wrote, “pack up the moon, and dismantle the sun”; she’s gone.