Guest Post: Frugality Or Fragility?

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by 'Jim in MN',

The hallmark of human nature is adaptability.  Faced with a changing environment, the human spirit and its social manifestations change in response.  But once the human endeavor itself creates the environment, how can such adaptation be a simple exercise in instinct?  Simply put, it cannot.  For better or for worse, the subjective element must dictate the outcome.  This subjective element is often called judgment.  But under today’s circumstances, a better term might be ‘taste’.  The question then becomes: do the powerful have good taste?  The fate of the rest of us hangs on the answer, as the fate of the slave rests upon the master’s whim.

Consider the global financial crisis.  The unfettered power and unrestrained corruption that is the hallmark of today’s society has been allowed to play out with predictable results.  There is no need to document the disaster that has befallen the people around the world, saddled with debt, stuck with stagnant wages if they can find work at all, and subject to worsening standards of living, with civil liberties eroding so quickly that only the authorities seem to know what is left on any given day (and they’re not telling).

Throughout all of this, the global elites have displayed consistently worsening signs of decadence, psychopathic tendencies, and overall detachment from reality.  And who can blame them?  There has been no tap on the shoulder, no knock on the door, no raid on the office to indicate that anything is seriously wrong.  The destruction of a generation’s potential, the removal of trillions from the rest of the population has not been punished.  It has been handsomely, indeed shamelessly, rewarded.

Chrystia Freeland, writing in The Atlantic in early 2011, noted this increasing abstraction from reality, based on her experience trailing and interviewing the global elite:

This plutocratic fantasy is, of course, just that: no matter how smart and innovative and industrious the super-elite may be, they can’t exist without the wider community. Even setting aside the financial bailouts recently supplied by the governments of the world, the rich need the rest of us as workers, clients, and consumers. Yet, as a metaphor, Galt’s Gulch has an ominous ring at a time when the business elite view themselves increasingly as a global community, distinguished by their unique talents and above such parochial concerns as national identity, or devoting “their” taxes to paying down “our” budget deficit. They may not be isolating themselves geographically, as Rand fantasized. But they appear to be isolating themselves ideologically, which in the end may be of greater consequence.

Taste, in the end, may dictate destiny.  If this seems as alarming as it is trite, rest assured that it is.  Just as one’s taste in food can run to fish or fowl, so the taste of the elite can run a different, more critical gamut—from risk aversion to risk seeking.  In a terminally decadent, corrupt society, fantasy runs rampant.  Reality has little consequence, and therefore plays an increasingly removed, abstracted role in setting limits on behavior.  While we gape at the grotesque excesses of a Caligula, our global elites run financial schemes that are no less shocking. 

The filigreed madness and the outright lies embedded in today’s routine financial scams, carefully evaluated for their nearness to the legal line in slide shows crafted from the finest, most velvety color palettes, would put Roman or Babylonian deviants to shame.  The number of lives sacrificed to maintain these delicate minarets of risk would make Genghis Khan blush. 

It would be far more honest, and possibly more aesthetic, for the elite to wear the bones of their victims as trophies stuck through their noses.  But that would require truly colossal noses. 

We have arrived at the end of the line, like Micheal Moorcock’s poignant, omniscient partygoers in ‘The Hollow Lands’, who have endless reserves of power, but little left to do with it (a typical sentiment being something like: "’I enjoyed Flags,’ he said. ‘Particularly when My Lady Charlotina made that delicious one which covered the whole of the western hemisphere.’").

The more the tastes of the elite run to risky business, the more fragile the complex edifice of global finance becomes.  Spectacular failures, mind-boggling crashes, and mighty people instantly reduced to public mockeries through their own perversion or crimes become the norm.  In this madhouse of absolute power, would it be so strange to hear of another Incitatus?  The original, of course, being the favorite horse of the Emperor Caligula:

To prevent Incitatus, his favourite horse, from growing restive he always picketed the neighbour-hood with troops on the day before the races, ordering them to enforce absolute silence. Incitatus owned a marble stable, an ivory stall, and a jewelled collar; also a house, furniture, and slaves - to provide suitable entertainment for guests whom Caligula invited in its name. It is said that he even planned to award Incitatus a consulship.


Suetonius: Caligula 55

Such is the contemporary reality we live in.  People try to live their lives, to avert their eyes, to hide their children from the sight and effect of the monstrous cavorting of the elites.  But they loom above all others on the horizon, intent on their self-aggrandizing excesses, like a constant, living, writhing surrealist mountain range.  And the uncaring fragments of the elites’ collapsing ‘entertainments’ rain down like meteors upon the rest of the population.

Perhaps a crazed fad for frugality will break out and suppress the urges of the elites.  In the meantime, hide your valuables as well as you can, and treat your children with the sympathy they deserve.  They are among the chief victims of our era’s unholy orgies of risk and corruption.  Frugality or fragility?  The choice is yours, as well as theirs.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
MsCreant's picture

Awesome work Jim, beautiful writing.

"filigreed madness" 

That is as convoluted as they are, perfection.

I was about to look for the link where this came from so I could send the original to a colleague of mine when I saw it was you.

Ahmeexnal's picture

USSS Hillenkoetter is now over Moscow.

Something is about to hit the fan.

Ballin D's picture

Did you spot it on google sky?

Seriously, what makes you think you know where the US has its supposed space warship parked?

Ballin D's picture

A guy named Gary McKinnon hacked US govt servers and claimed he found evidence of ships called the USSS LeMay and the USSS Hillenkoetter as well as logs identifying non-terrestrial officers.  More recently people have spotted what they think are spaceships in formation on google sky which were later taken down.

JustObserving's picture

Gas was already running out.  When there is nothing left to buy in the stores, why do you need money?  

It will be 50 euros a day next week.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

The elite reside at the pinnacle of Maslov's triangle.  What goes on up there.  Maslov said "self-actualization".  What does that mean?  The Id?

DaddyO's picture

Excellent post, writing and thought process! The metaphor is so spot on as to be prophetic. I enjoyed the wordsmithery very much!

So as we watch this all play out, are you averting your eyes or are you hypnotically transfixed at the trainwreck about to take place?

Living in a hurricane prone region of the country, I believe we are in the 3 day cone of the map!


zorba THE GREEK's picture

"Frugality or Fragility?"

 I think it is obvious by now that we are all going to get FRUGALED.

Ghordius's picture

enronized, corzinized, ...frugalized

DaddyO's picture

How 'bout plain ole garden variety "Vaporized" eh Cap'n


Ghordius's picture

+1 Incitatus for Senate!

disabledvet's picture

"the zero bound rate policy." is it odd to call it frugal? here's the best American version i could find:

brettd's picture

Yes.  Tragically eloquent writing.  Well done.

Jim in MN's picture

Ms. MsCreant,

Thank you.  I never wrote a guest post before.  This one just came out, I guess something snapped.

Always nice to cross paths, observations, and/or Jethro Tull cites with you.

akak's picture

MOAR is always better, the government is protecting us, and it can't happen here!

Now shut up with your doom-and-gloom, bring me a beer and order a jumbo pizza, with extra cheese and toppings ---- the football game is about to start!  Life is good!

akak's picture

I neither care nor pay one iota of attention to the mass insanity and collectivistic, divisive, destractionary "my team/your team" brainwashing that is professional sports, so I may happen to be off on my sports seasons.

It always amuses, and saddens, me to see and read so many (men) who claim to be free of the MSM mind control, and yet who are still drawn like lemmings to the cliffs of professional spectator sports.  Nobody who is a sports fan has a truly free mind.

Ghordius's picture

eh, I understand the sentiment... btw your team stinks, mine smells of roses

YC2's picture

Being able to enjoy sports does not in itself make one brainwashed or have an unfree mind. I'm sure you have some diversion that equally prevents you from sticking it to the man 100% of the time, without which you wouldn't be able to focus on subversion as well with the remainder.

akak's picture

My complaint against professional sports, and team sports in general, is not that they are just a diversion, nor is my complaint even mainly against the fact that they are a UBIQUITOUS and almost all-consuming diversion and distraction from real-world issues for many millions.  No, my primary hatred for team sports lies in the collectivistic and intellectually corrosive false dichotomy of the "my team is better than your team" mentality that they foster and engender, and really MUST engender, as well as the implicit message that they teach, namely "force and aggression are good".

Have you ever wondered why team sports are so popular among members of the military, and in fact are strongly supported and encouraged by all military academies and armed forces?  It is simply to force, and reinforce, impressionable young minds into mindlessly supporting "their" team over all others, while simultaneously inculcating the meme that all others are "the enemy" and must be automatically attacked, and with force.  Team sports are one of the the most fertile breeding grounds for the statist and warmongering mindsets.

Ghordius's picture

"right or wrong, my team". I mean, country

and yet the question: do you recognize the right of people to form bands, teams, parties, nations and counties - or not?

take Japanese as example - do they have a right of form Japan or not?

akak's picture

Of course, Ghordius, I support the right of any individual, or group of individuals, to voluntarily associate. 

I am NOT saying that team sports should be banned or illegal.  Nor are all group associations in and of themselves corrosively collectivistic.  I, for example, am an officer in a local organization dedicated to maintaining and celebrating our own particular national (European) heritage.  We do NOT, however, in any way malign or attack other ethnicities that are not our own in the process, nor in any manner whatsoever uphold the explicit or implicit understanding that our particular ethnic background is in any way superior to any other.

RockyRacoon's picture

Team sports, especially the "organized" type, is an anachronism from our old tribal era.  Fighting for good hunting or fishing or farming areas.   It is sublimation of those warrior tendencies and keeps us from slaughtering the folks one block over for the better access to the view of the harbor.   It has its place but it has been commercialized to such a degree that it has become (in my mind) objectionable.

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

Akak,I really had a good chuckle over this topic you discuss because it is an ongoing discussion my husband and I have. My husband has no interest in tv or sports in any form. This has become a great hardship for him because he regularly must attend meetings with various companies technical specialists for software upgrades. Working with these people all day is not the problem. Unfortunately in the evening there is often an obligatory dinner his company pays for as a team building event. Shop talk ends and the evening is devoted primarily to sports ( all men are in attendance). My husband abhors these dinners and has nothing to say for hrs. He has been starting to get out of a few saying I'm sick and he must go home. He has used that one too many times and they all think I have a weak constitution. I've suggested he try to fake it but he thinks he'll just look foolish if querried. I have to admit this is never a problem for me in any meeting or professional event I ever attend so I think it's primarily a problem for men. It's to the point he really has little respect for men who fervently follow their teams and rattling off statistics. After one event he came home and accused me of being at fault for the whole situation. Of course my cackles went up ( he does this to get me angry so he'll have fun with a hot engagement rather than a boring tepid response). He then proceeds to espouse the idea men have no where to go to express their manliness and the only things left to them are sports and tv which have been deemed allowable by women. And because women abhor violence and possible injury, men are now only allowed to WATCH sports and not play them as if some voyeuristic encounter would be as good as the real thing. So now they sit frustrated in a box. So therefore I must share the blame for his misery. We had a quite a lengthy exchange on the matter and I did have to admit he had some points. Truly if anyone has an obsession you lose your life to that obsession in some way and obsessive people tend to congregate and reinforce said obsessions. I don't dislike sports as well but it is sad so many men seemed to be so enthralled they have nothing else in their lives to live for.


akak's picture

Great post Miffed!  Your comments are uniformly cogent and insightful.

I too know all too well the discomfort of sitting in silence for long periods while men around me engage in their mindless sportsbabble that I utterly loathe.  I would rather sit through a lecture on the influence of misogyny in ancient Sanskrit poetry on 19th century Amish quilting designs.  No, in fact the latter hypothetical topic would be FAR more interesting to me than the actually negative intellectual content of sportsbabble --- I invariably feel stupid merely for having been tangentially subjected to it.

However, I have learned over the years to "man up" and grab my balls when this kind of thing comes up (which it actually rarely does for me anymore) and simply state "I am not a fan or follower of professional sports".  It is amusing to see how often doing this actually leads to another (infinitely more interesting) topic of conversion.  You might want to suggest to your husband that he try this.  It honestly infuriates me when not just anyone, but almost EVERYONE, assumes that every one else shares their same trivial and fanatical obsession.

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

Thanks for the hysterical laughter! Now that I'm a little more composed and have cleaned off my iPad ( one advantage to the damn things is no keyboard to destroy ) I will make an attempt at a response. My husband has done as you have suggested at his work and those who work closely with him respect his wishes not to talk about sports. He's often purposely uninvited to lunches where they wish to talk sports. I used to be concerned about this because I thought it may hurt him professionally in some way. He took the stand with me if his professional career required an interest in sports, then he'd rather return to dairy farming. I respect him for that, so many other men would knuckle under and become obsequious for a possibility for advancement. Unfortunately the dinners he attends are with groups of people from other companies ( amazon, eBay etc) and there is where he suffers. He has a unique job as a programmer working behind the scenes as well as customer facing. Once he did do as you suggested and said he did not follow sports in any capacity. The whole table was silent. He told me later it was like he had just said he was going to be incarcerated soon for child molestation! Unfortunately it didn't lead to any interesting conversation. They eventually shrugged their shoulders and resumed their innane conversation and my poor husband just tried to keep it together and not bang his head on the wall all evening. I have new empathy for the sportless man.

It was fun conversing with you again! I enjoy your posts always. After what happened the other day I feared you wouldn''t talk to me again. I see my guilt was unfounded and the quean's mission wasn't fait accompli. I do owe you an apology for the whole sordid exchange which I am embarrassed.


akak's picture


After what happened the other day I feared you wouldn''t talk to me again. I see my guilt was unfounded and the quean's mission wasn't fait accompli. I do owe you an apology for the whole sordid exchange which I am embarrassed.

Miffed, did something bad happen the other day between us?  I must confess that I don't remember any such occurrence, so please do not feel bad --- you have no cause for doing so.  This is not the first time here that somebody has expressed regret or uneasiness toward me over something which I simply did not or could not remember.  Either I have a thick skin (and/or skull) in certain situations, or incipient Alzheimer's.  Quite possibly all of the above.

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

Phew! If you don't remember then it was of no consequence and I've felt guilty for nothing. My monkey brain hooked my attention and I will now beat it into submission. Its a female thing that is ever so maddening! It was the quean's( I'm assuming you know to who I refer) childish taunt at my asking to exchange emails that really caught me off guard. My 20 and 23 year old daughters wouldn't have stooped so low. She used me to get at you (she has no weapons that can hurt me) and I felt guilt I gave her an opening. That is what I need to apologize. You don't have Alzheimer's, just purity of heart and a clear conscience. I would be so fortunate to get that form of Alzheimer's! A thick skin and skull are necessary requirements for hanging out here for any length of time. I hope I have what it takes to survive long term as you and others. Your kindness has helped me get confidence that a lowly microbiologist can exist on a lofty sophisticated financial site. I am honored to have your respect.


Escapeclaws's picture

Nice discussion! I don't have an interest in team sports either. I think it's a male bonding thing, but it's also to establish your bonafides as a normal male, like rolling up your sleaves even in the dead of winter. An interest in sports is just to prove that you are sufficiently testosteronized, testosterone being the most precious substance in the universe. Not being interested lays you open to suspected homosexuality. Then you have a much greater burden of proof that you are ok. It also has to do with girls interested in girl things and boys interested in boy things and the only thing shared between men and women is in the sexual/romantic sphere. The well-defined roles give a feeling of security and security is really what this role playing is all about. People who are into these rigid role models are basically insecure and are prone to take their cues from their peers like a lot of the kkk types at ZH. Actually, it's more that the whole peer group is fundamentally insecure rather than the individual members per se. Confront these peer groups with something outside their domain and they freak out en masse.

My problem with sports discussions is that I get extremely bored, which is torture. There are so many things that are fascinating to think about and discuss and life is short. What a waste! However, I do like playing sports and feel that the best things in life resemble the kind of mastery you gain when you practice sports. 


Miffed Microbiologist's picture

Escapeclaws, that was absolutely brilliant and beautifully described! What stupid pressures our society and sexes put on one another! We're all trying to fit into this ludicrous idea what a man or women should be and can never be ourselves for fear of ostracization. It's all so pathetic and causes such undue stress. Here is a perfect example. A few days ago I went through my usual " fuck bernank" rant when we went through our expenses to economize. Ive done this for 3 years now and my husband used to just laugh at me having my stupid little tantrum. This time was different, he was dead silent and sad. I asked what was wrong. He told me he hated it when I did that because he felt I was basically calling him a loser. I was stunned. He said it is a definition of a man to be a good provider and please his women at all costs. If he was truly a man he would make enough money so I could live a life of leisure if I so choose. Every day he watches me get up and go to a job I dislike and work with people I dislike and he feels immense guilt for not providing for me as he should. I can't tell you what shock I felt when he told me that, this was NEVER my intent in any shape nor form! Then I blurted out why hadn't he told me this before! He told me to be a man he must suffer in silence and not share his feelings ( gay) and after so many years he couldn't stand it any more and risked opening up. Needless to say I felt horrible but I was very glad he shared it. Men are under extreme pressures but unlike women have no outlet to vent their frustrations. Perhaps this is where the sports obsession comes from. Women verbally vent their issues all the time ( too often I would claim) and therefore can get some relief.

Thanks for the great post. It's good to get the male perspective on all of this. You guys tend to be silent on these issues with good reason I might add. It's often not safe to divulge or risk emasculinization from men as well as from women.


BooMushroom's picture

I have this "who is your team" problem on occasion, too. My favorite response is always, "sorry, I don't follow hockey!" Since nobody ever discusses hockey here in California, it's always wrong :D

I always say it with a huge grin and a sarcastic tone, and it usually gets a couple laughs, and occasionally a choke, spit, or snort. It doesn't always change the subject, but it does often enough that I keep it in my conversational quiver.

akak's picture

Now THAT is fucking funny!

I am going to remember that.   Thanks Boo!

aerojet's picture

It's "hackles" not "cackles."

He's not alone--I don't follow sports, I just tell people the truth about it.  I don't hide it at all.  I enjoy engaging in sports, and I encourage people to play sports rather than watch them.  I usually find something to chat with those kinds of guys about, although not all of them, I guess.  I'd be lost if I had to hang around my company's CEO and higher ups--they all like basketball, or so I hear.  Not interested. Frankly, if that's what it takes to make the really big bucks, I'm simply not going to  bother.  If people want to be rude about it, that's their problem.

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

Actually that was just a typo on my part. I know hackles. My rooster raises them enough at me to never forget. I'm a crappy typist and my iPad comes up with some interesting changes to my words. Part of the fun is to reread what I wrote and laugh. I probably should edit my mistakes. Cackles in that post did have a double entendre!


StychoKiller's picture

So, did you pin'im to the bed to shut him up?

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

hmmmm...not really.....lets just say the makeup sex was great!




U4 eee aaa's picture

....the games are probably all fixed too

RockyRacoon's picture

The "fixing" is in the form of the financing of the sport(s).  See the alumni who want their alma mater to excel and win the various divisions.  Money -- again -- as free speech?  Damn them all.   Scholarship suffers under the lash of the jock.

Escapeclaws's picture

"Scholarship suffers under the lash of the jock." Nice! There was an interesting discussion among the physics professors at Princeton sort of along these lines. If you've studied math and physics at the graduate level, you soon learn that if you meet a fellow white American grad student, chances are that person is actually Russian or eastern European.  The professors were saying that the actual white Americans place at the bottom in math and physics. Higher up are the Asians, who at least do the work. The top students are those whose names tend to end in -sky or -ceau. The American students only care about sports and partying, the Asians want to go into banking, and the Romanians, Hungarians, and Russians want to learn and advance their field. What is it about stereotypes, anyway?


Cathartes Aura's picture

excellent rant there akak, particularly this,

No, my primary hatred for team sports lies in the collectivistic and intellectually corrosive false dichotomy of the "my team is better than your team" mentality that they foster and engender, and really MUST engender, as well as the implicit message that they teach, namely "force and aggression are good".

engender: (critical theory) To endow with gender; to create gender or enhance the importance of gender. [from 20th c.]

sports.  team spirit/bonding, defense of one's chosen team, taking sides, waving flags/banners.

as nationstates are to wars, sports are to men.  mind trance training.

YC2's picture

I think you're going a little fAr there. Life is a competitive sport, and people are tribal. Professional sports at least channels it in a way tht is not (usually) destructive. you cant tell me warfare is a result of competitive sport. in the end, if you are a reasonable person there is little harm in taking sides and having fun watching talented people compete. If you are a tool, you are probably a tool no matter how you spend your time.

Imminent Crucible's picture

The very fact that you see life as a "sport" validates akak's argument.  I wonder how many prior generations would have adopted pro sports as a metaphor for life itself?

Caveman Zug: "Hey Ogg! Did it ever occur to you that life is just one long drawn-out basketball game?"

Caveman Ogg: "Not really, Zug. Survival depends more on co-operation that competition. Now help me get this sabertoothed tiger off my back, will ya?"

brettd's picture

With the pursuit of God verbotten, 

With the pursuit of cells and space requiring the discipline of math and science...

and the lure of "The Other" "The Creator" or "The Unknown" mocked, 

the masses entertain themselves with the easy/petty distractions

of sports/politics/race/sex/(investing).

Alas..."the masses" didn't explore the West in the 1850's, nor did 

they set sail in 1492.  

Why worry about them?

BooMushroom's picture

Because they vote? And because there are lots and lots of them, and they are all nine meals away from mob violence.

DaddyO's picture

Football, are you awake? This is April for God's sake!!