Lately my thoughts have turned to such cheerful things as the severed heads of eels, still reflexively snapping. Beheaded chickens running into whatever direction they were running. The rumours that when one is decapitated, consciousness is not lost immediately - you remain aware for twenty seconds or so. Twenty seconds - a disquietingly long time.
Andre Brink's description, in An Act of Terror of crayfish, their bodies crushed, helplessly crawling around in their basin. And through that very futile action it curiously defies death. There is a melancholy inertia to life. When the lights finally go out in my particular case, my cells will continue to go about their business for a little while, not knowing I am dead. I have even read somewhere that the brain keeps on aimlessly shooting about neurons for a while - days, even. Death is a process, not an event.
Systems die too. And ideologies die. And for a while the outward workings, the rituals and symbols, keep going on but the spirit is dead.
The past few days, I have been alternatively convinced that market liberalism was dying and that market liberalism joined Communism and Christianity in the group of ideologies that have not to much failed but never been tried. There is the panicked behaviour of governments - or not so much governments which have been all but absent these past days but government bureaucracies which behave with an inconsistency and a substitution of strategy for immediate survival tactics which bespeaks the absence of any ideology. Reminiscent a bit of maybe Guenter Schabowski, the hapless East German functionary misspeaking on the television news and accidentally causing the downfall of the Berlin Wall. Leadership departed and gone, at the helm a fumbling bureaucrat who lost his rulebook and makes it up as he goes along.
Because that's what happening, isn't it? The ship of fools constantly being patched, jerry-rigged, held together by new threads which fall apart as soon as they are put into place - but the truth is, only the shell of an economic system is left. Only the inertia, the reflexive movements. The spirit has departed. I know a dangerous little about economics. But just enough to see that this isn't capitalism, this isn't markets sorting themselves out however painful the process may be. Rather, there is something of a pretense of a market being kept functioning - or pretending to function - by massive government intervention. (And I know just enough to understand that simply printing money and throwing it at the problem isn't a long-term solution, nor is forbidding investors to bet on stocks going down. Just enough to get a quaint sinking feeling).
I wonder where we're heading. In the end, all the big economic systems - feudalism, the various stages of capitalism, Soviet-style socialism, Western European social democracy - are just various ways of constraining and organizing exploitation and rapacity. So I guess is when the system fails, you end up with a rather less constrained and less organized form of exploitation and rapacity.
We'll see. This is going to be an interesting winter.