Artwork: Ilargi for The Automatic Earth
Oliver Stone's 1987 film Wall Street was as much an answer to as a parody of a mind change that had pervaded the world since Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher came to power in their respective nations.
But in the upper echelons Gordon Gekko's "Greed is Good" was never truly seen as a parody, just as the message of the film was completely lost on the people it was about. And still is. It's too convenient when justifying your behavior to yourself and others, like Ayn Rand is again today. The world is full of people who still today will sing the praises of the Iron Lady and The Great Communicator, of the Falklands and Grenada.
Reagan and Thatcher made it acceptable, nay, hip, to borrow one’s way (back) to wealth, or the illusion thereof, and a little cheating and lying was sort of alright on your way to the top provided you lied and cheated while you were already a mover and a shaker. That mindset has never left us anymore.
The likes of Jon Corzine and Fred Goodwin and Angelo Mozilo owe Thatcher eternal gratitude. As does the entire Bush family, obviously. And the dim non-wits who as we speak plunge Britain into its darker shade of pale. You can too borrow it all, as long as you keep a straight face. You can take away the little man's benefits, and still have him believe he's destined for greatness. Which he too can borrow his way into.
In the greater scheme of things, the western world was at its (non-borrowed) richest sometime in the 1970's. Bold statement, I know, and one we will get back to one day with numbers and all. Then Maggie came and declared that any grown up man who rides public transit is a loser. She went for the easy and obvious choice of dividing her own voters into winners and losers, and she had the smarts to pick who was which.
You could be the most loving family man, caring for the weakest amongst you, you could be a nurse or a social worker, a cop or a fireman with tons of heart dedicated to those around you, but if you couldn't afford to, or simply didn't, drive a car to work, Maggie Thatcher declared you a loser.
That set the tone. That's how bankers got to be the demi-gods they are today. That's also how McFa(s)tFood and WalMart got to stuff their shops full of losers who make a few bucks an hour with no benefits to speak of. The answer to the fact that our summit of wealth had passed in the 1970's, was to start borrowing from our children, throw the weakest among us under the bus and train, and hand over power to the Eton and Harvard educated elites waiting in the wings.
Hey, sure, it's all a matter of choice. If you think putting people down is the way to go, all I can do is hope you will be put down. And of course the British unions weren't all wine and roses, it was a power struggle gone awry. But Margaret Thatcher, also, is the lady who for instance celebrated Augusto Pinochet‘s achievements well after were well known and the Shock Doctrine had long been published. If that isn't enough for you, good luck.
Margaret has finally stood down. The blood on her hands will accompany her in her grave. Here’s The Beat from 1980.
I sometimes wonder if I'll ever get the chance
just to sit with my children in a holiday jam
our lives seem petty in your cold grey hands
would you give a second thought
would you ever give a damn, I doubt it
stand down Margaret, stand down please, stand down Margaret