Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

I first said this five years ago:

The stories about its origin are indeed varied. Perhaps it began as "Decoration Day." The stories I heard was that families would go out to the cemeteries to honor the dead from the Civil War. Graves would be decorated, picnics would be held. The dead and the living would both be honored. Where it originated, and how, is still subject to debate and conjecture. But this much seems clear: we used to be more mature about such things.

A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we
may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and
from offspring taken soon out of their mother's laps,
And here you are the mother's laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
What do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.--Walt Whitman
"The beautiful uncut hair of graves." We used to put our graves beside our churches, so we knew where our dead were. Now in our sanitary ways, and our sanity, we keep them as far from the beaten path as possible; along with our hospitals, our nursing homes, our "funeral homes." We don't want to be reminded of death, unless it is on TV, and involves the death of "bad people." Or just the unknown faceless ones, the bodies at the crime scenes that always get the stories going.

We used to recall that war had a high price, and yet we too easily forget how easily is it paid when all the bodies are out of sight. It wasn't long after the Civil War, after all, that we were engaged in the glorious adventure of liberating the Philippines. Apparently inspired by that venture, Mark Twain wrote his famous "War Prayer." But even so, we used to honor our dead soldiers.

Perhaps the Gettysburg Address is linked to Memorial Day, too. The eloquence of Lincoln is unimaginable in any living politician. But just try to imagine any of them even addressing the subject of death in this way:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that "all men are created equal"

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow, this ground -- The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.

It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Lincoln praised those who died in a valiant struggle to preserve the union, to keep the nation from ending. "I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,/And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps./ What do you think has become of the young and old men?/What do you think has become of the women and children?" I think: "A wise man who speaks his mind calmly is more to be heeded than a commander shouting orders among fools." I think: "Wisdom is better than weapons of war, and one mistake can undo many things done well." (Ecclesiastes 9:17-18, NEB)

I think it is time to praise famous women and men, and for believers to remember their Creator, and to honor the dead not for what they fought for, but because they, too, were God's children.

Let us now sing the praises of famous men,
all the heroes of our nation's history,
through whom the Lord established his renown,
and revealed his majesty in each succeeding age. Some held sway over kingdoms
and made themselves a name by their exploits.
Others were sage counsellors,
who spoke out with prophetic power.
Some led the people by their counsels
and by their knowledge of the nation's law;
out of their fund of wisdom they gave instruction.
Some were composers of music or writers of poetry.
Others were endowed with wealth and strength,
living peacefully in their homes.
All these won fame in their own generation
and were the pride of their times.
Some there are who have left a name behind them
to be commemorated in story.
There are others who are unremembered;
they are dead, and it is as though they had never existed,
as though they had never been born
or left children to succeed them.
Not so our forefathers; they were men of loyalty,
whose good deeds have never been forgotten.
Their prosperity is handed on to their descendants,
and their inheritance to future generations.
Thanks to them their children are within the covenants-
the whole race of their descendants.
Their line will endure for all time,
and their fame will never be blotted out.
Their bodies are buried in peace,
but their name lives for ever.
Nations will recount their wisdom,
and God's people will sing their praises.

--Ecclesiasticus 44:1-15, NEB
To it I would only add that we are not free because men and women died. We are free because we choose to be. Their deaths secure nothing for us; we have freedom for ourselves. Their deaths were in war, and war is neither the source of our freedom, nor the reason to remember.. "Their bodies are buried in peace, but their names will live forever. Nations will recount their wisdom, and God's people will sing their praises." That is a fitting remembrance. We remember the dead; because they were family.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"We Have Met The Enemy, and He Is Us!"

I find myself lately in the odd position of almost being an apologist for BP and Big Oil. On the one hand, I understand the frustration:
"I think they actually believe that BP has some kind of a good motivation here," he said. "They're naive! BP is trying to save money, save everything they can... They won't tell us anything, and oddly enough, the government seems to be going along with it! Somebody has got to, like shake them and say, 'These people don't wish you well! They're going to take you down!'"
I even think Carville is right, to an extent. On the other hand, there is a fundamental problem here: the well is 1 mile below the surface. The only thing that works down there are robot ships. As for capping the well, we were told from day one that would take 3 months or more. Simple issue of physicality and technology: the only way to stop this well is to plug it, and the only way to plug it is to drill another well and force cement down the hole. And another well can't be drilled in less than 2 months. Period. End of Discussion.

There is no hero to send in, no technology designed just for this purpose that nobody believed in until right now! This is the situation we were told couldn't happen, and hasn't happened before, and didn't happen (yet) with the even deeper below water offshore platform, also leased by BP. There is no technological fix available to the Coast Guard, or the military, or the EPA, or any secret government organization which has just been waiting for its chance to pull that underfunded program off the shelf and launch it 1mile deep and do the job yesterday. The fact is, we can put men on the moon, but we can't put them a mile below the water. Period.

There is, in other words, no solution other than the ones being tried, and the one that may work, if the well can ever be drilled. And I emphasize may work.

From a PR perspective, could Obama do more? Maybe. But that's not what's being asked for; what's being asked for is salvation from our error, rescue from our foolishness, redemption from our hubris. Oil and gas have lived side by side in the Gulf for decades now. Oyster-men and shrimpers didn't much complain, and the platforms provided good employment for people in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama. They still do. But now that may all come to an end, because we didn't appreciate that our reach had exceeded our grasp, and we got not heaven for it, but hell on earth. Welcome to our nightmare.

It does no good to blame Obama, except to say he shouldn't trust BP. He shouldn't, but what else should he do? Send in the Marines? They have more expertise and capping deep water wells? The Navy Seals are trained in diving 1 mile down? No. There is no solution here, that isn't offered by the people who made this mess. They have the expertise. They have the equipment. They even have the management systems in place to get the job done. Talk to anyone familiar with offshore drilling, they'll tell you what's going to happen next. And it isn't going to happen soon; because it simply can't.

Nor is it the result of alien forces sweeping down upon us. The standard joke is you don't want to see how your sausage or your laws are made. Well, we don't want to see where our oil comes from, either. But we don't want to give up our plastics, our computers, our cars, our grocery stores, our food supply, our petro-chemical way of life. Did anybody balk at buying gas because it may have come from Nigeria? I doubt we so much as hesitated at the pump, so much as considered where the plastics for that throw-away coffee cup or drinking straw (who recycles drinking straws, in fact?) came from. Now we are shocked, shocked, to find out oil spills and creates a mess. Nobody was too shocked when it spilled in the fields of East Texas. Nobody was too shocked when it poured over the land in Oklahoma. I've seen the oil fields of America, and they weren't pretty places, and they weren't pristine, and nobody gave a wet snap, because they don't want to know how their sausage gets made, they just want to eat it.

So don't tell me this is a great evil foisted on us by an unholy alliance of powers far beyond those of mortal men. Don't talk like this is Wall Street redux, and the oil business doesn't have everything to do with what we've come to consider is "everyday life." This is plain old economics and enlightened self-interest. We inhabit an industrial world that would grind to a halt in a heartbeat without petroleum products produced in abundance. Don't tell me this is something terrible done to us and we didn't know. We didn't want to know. We just wanted to consume.

I understand the concern with this crisis, I even understand the anxiety it's creating. Perhaps the anxiety is connected to some vague sense that we, too, are guilty, and that's why we secretly think that Bruce Willis could solve this, if we'd just ask him. I understand that, in the movies, we always have a technical fix available, like a giant drill that Hillary Swank can pilot to the center of the earth to solve whatever problem we have foolishly caused, or Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum can fly a virus into the aliens' computer while President Bill Pullman leads the fighters to shoot down the bad guys.

But this ain't the movies, and there isn't some US agency ready, willing and able to make everything okay again. Like New Orleans after Katrina, we are at the limits of our technology again. Like New Orleans after Katrina, this is a screw up of epic proportions. This is the consequence of drilling where we can't fix it when it goes wrong. And Obama can no more swoop in and "take ownership" of this and make it all better, than Bruce Willis or Hillary Swank or Will Smith can.

Get used to it. We fucked up. We get to live with the consequences. This isn't a Jerry Bruckheimer story. It's Cormac McCarthy. It's brute realism, not escapist fantasy.

Welcome to our nightmare.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Watching that movie on cable last night (it's been a long time. Danny DeVito NOT playing "Danny DeVito"? "Introducing" Brad Dourif? Christopher Lloyd? Scatman Crothers? Who wasn't in that movie?), and thinking about this article by Adam Gopnik (on which much more later, I hope), and I realized a central truth of the teachings of Jesus, one Gopnik touches on but doesn't quite put his finger on. That central truth is this:

Ideas don't matter. Things don't matter. People matter.

Nurse Ratched, in the film, is all about the idea of order. The poor inmates of the hospital, all of whom save perhaps the "Chief" and certainly McMurphy, are there voluntarily (and we would today diagnose them as having emotional problems, at worst, and not confine any of them, even if they begged us to), are all about "normal," which they are convinced they are not (as McMurphy tells them, they're no worse off than the average "assh*le" on the street). The Chief is obsessed with the idea of survival (he tells the story of his father, a "big man", and he doesn't mean physical size, who was beaten down because of his "bigness". The Chief will avoid that outcome in his life at all costs.). All of them make the mistake of thinking ideas matter. In this very odd and neo-Fryean sense, McMurphy is the Christ figure, the one who challenges the doctrines of the Pharisees, represented here by Nurse Ratched and her systems of control (to quote The Matrix; and I promise never to do that again. Well, until next time....). If you think I'm wrong, compare Nurse Ratched's shaming of Billy for sleeping with a woman, a shaming that leads directly to his suicide, to the reaction of Jesus to the woman caught in adultery in the Gospel of John. The Christ figure (if not "the Christ") is all about people, not ideas. People matter. Ideas he resolutely tears to shreds.

"Do you see this woman?," he asks Simon the Pharisee. She matters; not Simon's ideas of propriety, purity, cleanliness, or even hospitality (or lack thereof). What about the Prodigal Son? The woman with the lost coin? The unjust steward? The vineyard owner? The pearl of great price? What are those parables except lessons in what matters, and what matters is not ideas of order, or propriety, or honoring parents. What matters is people. Every time, what matters is people. The kingdom of heaven is like the daily loaf of bread, made by a woman's hands, using yeast (a symbol of uncleanness; the unleavened bread isn't unleavened only because the Israelites had to bake in haste. Unleavened bread is "clean".) . The kingdom of heaven is like the shepherd who leaves 99 sheep untended to find the one lost sheep.

People matter. Individuals matter. Lives matter. The community cannot have "life into the ages." Only individuals can. The community can deny the sanctity of beggars, whores, and tax collectors. But the ideas of sanctity espoused by the community don't matter. People matter. So Jesus eats with people. Not with whores or beggars or tax collectors. Those are ideas. Jesus eats with people.

2000 years later, we're still coming to grips with that fact. Or, as in Gopnik's case, in an otherwise fine article, missing the point altogether.

"And O-U-T spells 'out'!"

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Can We Just Change the Subject?

Rebecca Goldstein has published a novel, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God. The novel includes an appendix which details, briefly, 36 actual arguments for the existence of God, complete with Goldstein's critique and rebuttal of each one (and some of them quite novel, including a proof derived from William James' The Variety of Religious Experiences.

I have, somewhere at home, quite a long book detailing all the classical and modern arguments for the existence of God, and pointing out, through rigorous modal logic, their many flaws. The only proof not addressed fully in that book is Charles Hartshorne's modern variant on Anselm's "ontological proof," which Kant didn't dispel nearly as fully as Ms. Goldstein insists he did (it was dispelled, but Kant's analysis of it misses a few salient features. Anselm's proof is, in many ways, the subtlest and most difficult to deal with. And Hartshorne's version of it is so subtle in it's own right, that it requires a separate consideration from any analysis of Anselm's, which is why the book I refer to doesn't include one. Which isn't to say I subscribe to Anselm's or Hartshorne's arguments. It is to say that there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.). Ms. Goldstein's appendix is not meant to be as comprehensive as that book, but it still glosses over some very real issues which continue to make this entire discussion both moot, central only to those who think philosophy is ultimately about chasing epistemic shadows, and a complete waste of time. As Kierkegaard wisely said: if you don't begin by assuming God, no argument will overcome your assumption, and if you do, no argument is needed.

But still the conversation persists....

What's missing from Ms. Goldstein's appendix is not only the barest reference to Hartshorne, but also any reference at all to Kierkegaard (she even ascribes the infamous "leap of faith" to William James). Oddly enough, after 50 years of his Danish texts being widely available in English, he is still dismissed as a "religious thinker" who was neither a philosopher nor a theologian; or he is overlooked entirely. His prediction that his work would be overlooked because he wrote from Denmark continues to come true. Not fully embraced by the Continental school, and dismissed out of hand by the Anglo-American school (which Ms. Goldstein is trained in, if not representative of), he continues to wander in a netherland where his thought adds a great deal of clarity but only, it would seem, for those who choose to believe in him. Odd thing, this subject of belief: we don't subscribe to it at the very moment that we do, without admitting it. It is not, to put it in terms of Toulmin logic, our warrants that really matter, it is the backing for them. And that backing we never truly examine.

Of course, this entire discussion is on the fringes of the fringe. This book as been out since January, and I just now noticed it on a bookstore shelf. I've heard absolutely zero about it, which means it hasn't drawn as much attention as the even more mindless rantings of Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins ("mindless" in this subject, I mean). So perhaps I should just ignore it and go on. But this obsession with the "existence of God" is annoying precisely because it has regained some popularity, and some (atheists and believers alike) think it is valuable turf to fight over.

It isn't.

No one, as James pointed out (and Goldstein ignores in her gloss on James) devotes their life to the conclusion of a proof about the existence of "God." So it's equally stupid to say the defeat of all possible proofs destroys any possible belief in "God." (I'm putting "God" in quotes, because we haven't even defined what or who "God" is.) As I've pointed out before, the very question "Does God exists" commits a category error, and for the very reason that the way phenomenology (which is largely a Continental philosophy) and empiricism (and its children, largely the Anglo-American school) use the same word ("being") in very different ways. Or, as Johannes Climacus so succinctly puts it:

For example, I do not demonstrate that a stone exists but that something which exists is a stone. The court of law does not demonstrate that a criminal exists but that the accused, who indeed does exist, is a criminal. Whether one wants to call existence an accessorium or the eternal prius, it can never be demonstrated.
These are, to put it simply, deeper waters than Dawkins or Hitchens ever imagine, but I don't expect them to fathom such depths. A Ph.D. in philosophy, however, as Goldstein is;'s no slight on her bravely didactic novel, but the appendix leaves much to be desired.

Then again, the whole subject has had all the water wrung out of it long, long ago. It's the pretense that it ever mattered, that I find so annoying.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Wait? What was that?

Robert Reich saves me the trouble of scouring the 'net for articles explaining what happened yesterday on Wall Street:

At this point no one knows why. Some say it was sudden burst of worries about Greece's debt and the increasing possibility of a default that might cause a run by global investors. Others point to a "trading error." Giant high-speed computers generate millions of trades based on instructions embedded in computer programs designed to move fast enough to beat everyone else. So when there's a glitch in one of them it can immediately spread to all the other programs designed to move just as fast. Some say it was an erroneous trade entered by someone at a big Wall Street bank who mistyped an order to sell a large block of stock, and that the big drop in that stock's price (Procter & Gamble?) triggered "sell" orders across the market.
The newest explanation is that the yen did it, which makes as much sense as any other explanation. The truth is, of course, we don't know what happened; and may never know. Jim Cramer was taking credit for the rise in P&G stock even as it "rebounded" yesterday. He might as well. His explanation is as good as anyone else's.

Everyday we are inundated with reports both on the "stock market" (usually the DJIA) and why it is rising or falling. This usually resolves, by the end of the day, into a simple answer: the value of the dollar; the state of the economy in Europe; the latest Fed pronouncement; the latest speech by the President. It's all bollocks, of course, but it's reported as if the market were the Delphic Oracle and financial reporters were its appointed priests. They read the days chicken entrails and report to us on what message the great green God is sending. But no one knows why the market goes up and down, certainly not in real time, and no one knows why the market dropped 900+ points yesterday, or why Sotheby's was, briefly, valued at $100,000 per share (making it, as Rachel pointed out, worth the combined GNP of America and China).

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

So what happened? Your guess is as good as mine; or Jim Cramer's; or the Motley Fool's; or Reuters. Nobody knows. Just as nobody knows why the market matters to any of us, anyway. We think it's because of the Great Depression, but the crash of 1929 was a symptom of a failed economy, not the cause of it. The stock market fell apart then because the mask finally slipped from the face of the economy, and there was nothing underneath it. Why do real estate booms fail? Because buyers lack confidence? Or because the music finally stops, and there aren't enough chairs to go 'round? Were our current problems caused because Wall Street collapsed? Or because it finally became apparent the emperor had no clothes?

The market rebounded quickly this time, once the Fed and the Congress pumped enough money into enough institutions. And yet the unemployment rate remains at nearly 10%. If I'm among the unemployed, what do I care what the market did yesterday? It means literally nothing to me. But what's interesting is how religiously the market is worshiped; how the state of the DJIA is followed, as if it means anything.

It's what I was getting at here. And it puts me in mind of the old saying that "A fool and his money are soon parted." Except that it's not just money that is soon taken from the fool; and money is not the worst thing anyone can lose.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

His Darker Materials

Pullman says he hopes his book will send readers back to one of the other versions of this story: the Bible. He believes they might be surprised by some of the inconsistencies they find there.
First, I want to say: what's the problem with inconsistencies? Why do all atheists (Pullman is a very public atheist, I'm not picking on "non-believers" here) think inconsistencies in the Biblical narratives will suddenly make all believers over into non-believers? Is it because a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds? Is it because all atheists presume all believers are merely dupes and fools and poor, pitiful folk clinging to nonsense and fictions in extremis?

"Think of a sick man wracked with pain and fear. Think of a dying woman terrified by the coming darkness. there will be hands reaching out to comfort them and feed them and warm them."
Which is just so insulting and simplistic and ignorant it should be passed over without further comment. But then Pullman says this, too:

The Jesus who emerges from this story is a real person, a man ... a man of strength and conviction with a gift for story telling ...
"This story," of course, is his novel, one which "he hopes his book will send readers back to one of the other versions of this story: the Bible," wherein they will find those dreadful contradictions that will surely shatter their complacency and religious feelings.

I am first to agree that too many Christians in churches are merely baptized heathens. I remember the church member of my first church who, after three months of my sermons, told me he'd read the Bible in his youth, and knew all he needed to know about it, and didn't need to hear any more from it from the pulpit. So I'm not naive about Biblical illiteracy among "the faithful," and I daresay pointing out the contradictions in the Biblical stories (as I've said before, the nativity stories of Luke and Matthew are literally irreconcilable, yet we reconcile them every Christmas by overlooking the contradictions) will get a pastor in some hot water, at least. But you know, somehow that hasn't made me an atheist, or made any church members I knew or know now, into atheists. And I think if people were to "return to the Bible" they'd see that Jesus is "a real person, a man ... a man of strength and conviction with a gift for story telling." And if the Church is not teaching Jesus that way, then the fault is with the Church, although it's also with the people, who crowd the mega-church of Joel Osteen to hear about how God wants them to be rich (the Church of Meaning and Belonging), and flee the church that requires too much of them (the Church of Sacrifice for Meaning and Belonging) (those two terms being explained here). And that fact makes me a little weary of those who would "reform" believers or even make them over into non-believers by getting them to separate from that "stranger" the Church. It's a voluntary organization, and it is what its members want it to be; and the idea that all it is, is a comforting fiction whispered in the ears of the vulnerable, well....that suggestion is just beyond ridiculous:

"My church comforts the sick and the dying. My church feeds the hungry. What does your church do? Oh, that's right, you don't have a church!"
I guess I'm saying I love these people on the outside looking in who think the exterior view is enough to make them experts on what I can't understand from the inside.


I'd also argue that the inconsistencies are good things! Especially the ones in the parables! But that gets us back to the Church of Meaning and Belonging, v. the Church of Sacrifice for Meaning and Belonging. The distinction between them, though, can't be seen from the outside; and the view from the outside is the only view critics like Pullman have.

In the immortal words of Nigel Molesworth: "He is utterly wet and a weed. I discard him."

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Revelation to...

Follow this link, and read this post. Read it all the way through, although I'm already going to tell you, it ends here:

That may be true, but all bubbles do eventually burst, all Ponzi schemes do collapse for good at some point. The only question is when. For those of us not on the verge of retiring, the sooner we have this day of reckoning and get it over with, the better.
Not quite as stirring as "The arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice," but the same optimistic ideal. To which I want to say, without engaging in an argument with the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:


I don't mean to argue that the arc of the universe doesn't bend toward justice, but it does so to the extent we see that possibility, and work to make it so. I actually think the rant in that post is right, and that financial markets run the country and the world, and that the whole thing is a con game. NPR reported this morning that the "Bailout" for Greece by the European Union was substantially increased because the first offer wasn't large enough; the "market" expressed no confidence in it.

INSKEEP:.... And let's talk about Greece, which is at the heart of the matter for now. We mentioned a $145 billion rescue package. There's also austerity measures being called for in Greece. Is this going to be enough, Tom?

GJELTEN: The big question, Steve, is whether private investors will come to the conclusion that the European Union and the International Monetary Fund will spend whatever it takes to help Greece, because the only way that private investors will be reassured is if they have that feeling. We won't know that. We have to look at the reaction in the markets. Now, a couple of weeks ago when we saw the first iteration of this package was only about a third the size. What happened then was that private investors essentially voted it down. They said, This is not enough. We're not convinced.
Investors must be reassured. We have to wait and see the market reactions. It seems Germany has no choice but to do the market's bidding because, presumably, if Greece goes down, Germany will eventually totter on the edge of the abyss. Why? Because the markets say so.

Granted, this "market" is as vague and amorphous as the "Dow" or the "stock market," which were are always assured is "reacting" to some news of the day, even though such reported reactions are rank speculation on the level of divination based on the patterns discerned in chicken entrails. But the method doesn't matter, nor the results: it is the reporting alone that matters. It is the narrative alone anyone puts any "confidence" in. And even if you were to reveal that the US financial markets, or the world financial markets, were a confidence game: what would that change? If everyone believed you, how would they act differently? And is hoping for a reckoning and a collapse and an economic catastrophe on the order of the 1930's really an improvement, and an argument for honesty over hypocrisy?

What keeps mankind alive?

At this point, precisely at this point, Christianity should stand up and make the counter-offer, make the argument of the basiliea tou theou, make the sign of the cross and the symbol of the kingdom of God. At this point Christianity should stand up and say:

"Everything in that rant at the link is true, and that's precisely the problem! But what other option do you have, except to live with it, except to accept it and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain and hope the machine continues to provide you with the comforts and security and black American Express Card even as you have no idea how it works or what is happening, and no one does: because it's all built on "confidence," it's all a Ponzi scheme, and it always was, and it always will be, and the dirty little secret is: the cavalry isn't coming. The Day of Reckoning is not at hand, and never will be. The final comeuppance for all those who deserve is not about to arrive; not now, not ever. That arc of the universe that bends towards justice is bent that way because people bend it, not because the physics of the universe require it. You are living in Omelas, and your only choice is to live there, or to walk away. And where would you walk to? Where would that wondrous and unimaginable place be?

"The basiliea tou theou. That's what it is. And that's where it is. Among you. Here. Now."

That's what Christianity should say. Because that's really the only other answer there is. Accept the price of Omelas; accept the terms of the con game. Or walk away. You can't bring it down, it will just rebuild itself. Omelas is impervious to your assaults on it. You helped make it; but you can't unmake it. Walk away. It's the only option you have.

Start walking. And find the better place only when you do so.

That's what Christianity should say, because ultimately that is what religion is all about. All bubbles burst, except the ones you live by; and on. Those are intractable, and permanent, and impervious to change. Religion is about bursting those bubbles. Religion is about the wondrous father who never stops loving his son and who never stops being wonderful even after his love leads him to act on his son's request, and become as one who is dead. Religion is about a father who takes his only son to the mountain for a sacrifice, and who returns never seeing the world the same again, and that change makes him a blessing to the world, if not to his son. Religion is about suffering care and concern at the hands of your enemy, and not being quite sure what that means. Religion is about visiting the sick and imprisoned, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and never knowing who you were really doing it for. Religion is about the alternative to what you know. Religions is about how everything you know is wrong. Religion is about what keeps mankind alive. And the alternative to the market is, in particular, what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. If you don't believe me, just ask Jesus' mother.